Saturday, June 26, 2021

The 2021 Yasnaya Polyana Award Longlist

Well how about that? Somehow I’d completely forgotten the Yasnaya Polyana Award longlist was on the way… and then there it was, announced, earlier this week. There are 45 books on the list; roughly half are somehow familiar (even very familiar) but the rest are somehow new to me. Which is why I so love longlists, something I seem to say over and over...

First off: seven of the books and authors on the list coincide with the 2021 Big Book Award shortlist (last week’s post): Yury Buida’s Сады Виверны (The Wyvern’s Gardens), Mikhail Gigolashvili’s Кока (Koka), Maya Kucherskaya’s Лесков. Прозёванный гений (Leskov. The Missed Genius (almost in the sense of “the one who got away,” albeit with a sleepy tinge)), Alexei Polyarinov’s Риф (The Reef), Viktor Remizov’s Вечная мерзлота (Permafrost), Marina Stepnova’s Сад (The Garden), and Leonid Yuzefovich’s Филлэлин (The Philhellene). Mikhail Elizarov’s Земля (Earth) (previous post) won the 2020 National Bestseller Award and was a 2020 Big Book finalist.

There are other familiar names on the list – German Sadulaev, Alla Gorbunova, and Shamil Idiatullin are but a few – though I’ve only read two books on the list: the afore-mentioned Earth and Sergei Lebedev’s Дебютант, a very absorbing thriller with parallel plotlines and timelines that’s known in English, in Antonina Bouis’s translation for New Vessel Press, as Untraceable. I’ve read chunks of Stepnova’s book as well as Sergei Samsonov’s Высокая кровь (High Blood); I translated samples from both. On another note: roughly a third of the authors on the list are women. Among them are Vera Bogdanova and Elena Posvyatovskaya, whose Павел Чжан и прочие речные твари (Pavel Zhang and Other River Creatures) and Важенка (Vazhenka), respectively, are already either in my book cart or on order.

So now the especially fun part: a few unfamiliar authors and titles that sound promising and are already available in book form:

  • Keren Klimovski’s Время говорить (Time to Speak?) is set in Israel in the late 1990s and early 2000s, combining genres (detective, family, journey) as it tells of a teenage girl whose parents divorce.
  • Given the dearth of information about it and Google’s habit of bringing up stories about (presumably wooly?) mammoths, I’ll let Evgeny Mamontov’s Музыка в аэропорту (Airport Music) remain a mystery. Particularly since I haven’t been in an airport in ages…
  • Natalia Repina’s Жизнеописание Льва (The Story of Lev’s Life) is on order; it’s a book about a young man who’s a librarian. Set in Moscow and Peredelkino.
  • And, since I can’t find a fourth book that’s utterly unfamiliar as well as appealing, here’s a bit of a cheat that truly does sound good: Olga Medvedkova’s Три персонажа в поисках любви и бессмертия (Three Characters in Search of Love and Immortality), which I have a PDF copy of thanks to Medvedkova’s literary agency, Elkost. No wonder Medvedkova’s name sounded familiar!

Disclaimers and disclosures: The usual. I’ve translated excerpts from several of the books on this list and received books, virtual and print, from their publishers and agents. I’ve also translated books by two of the award’s jurors. 

Up next: Svetlana Kuznetsova’s The Anatomy of the Moon and Alexander Pelevin’s Pokrov-17.


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