Sunday, September 26, 2021

The 2021 NOS(E) Award Longlist

The NOS(E) Award’s 2021 longlist was announced last week. There are twenty books on the list and, as per custom, I’ll list them all. I wonder why I do this every year but, well, I just keep doing it. The shortlist will be announced in November. Some of these books sound mysterious, largely, I suppose, because there isn’t a lot of information about them. Perhaps most interesting this year is that many candidates weren’t published by what I’d consider traditional publishing houses. I’m disappointed that only seven of the twenty books were written by women but, to end on a positive note (and get on with the book list!), quite a few of the books sound interesting.

  • Ksenia Burzhskaya’s Мой белый (My [Beloved Color] White, perhaps since white covers the whole spectrum?) is in my book cart and sounds hard to pin down quickly other than to say it’s about a high school girl, happiness, and all kinds of love. This publisher description tells more.
  • Oksana Vasyakina’s Рана (The Wound) is one of two books on the list that I’ve already read. Vasyakina’s account of traveling with her mother’s ashes, while considering her relationship with her mother, her own sexuality, and her own writing, is touching and almost suspenseful. Rightfully a Big Book finalist.
  • Maksim Gureev’s Синдром Капгра (The Capgras Syndrome) sounds interesting simply for the fact of its title. I don’t even want to know more; I just want to try it. Rarely do I get to link to medical information but here we go.
  • Sergei Zakharov’s И восстанет мгла (And the Gloom Rises? I have no idea what to do with this title) sounds like a novel about the eighties in the USSR, looking at individuals and society. (The title also makes me wonder if it’s playing on Alexander Chudakov’s Ложится мгла на старые ступени, which the Elkost literary agency lists as A Gloom Descends Upon the Ancient Steps. Different decades but even so…)
  • Kirill Kutalov’s Антитела (Antibodies) apparently fits its title: there’s an epidemic, albeit in an alternative future where Russia is ruled by a bot.
  • Tatyana Leontyeva’s Суп без фрикаделек (Soup Without Meatballs) is a short story collection.
  • Lera Manovich’s Прощай, Анна К. (Farewell, Anna K.) is also a short story collection.
  • I’m now reading Olga Medvedkova’s Три персонажа в поисках любви и бессмертия (Three Characters/Personages in Search of Love and Immortality) and am still learning about the first personage, a very young medieval princess who seems to be just waiting to bust out of her sheltered life.
  • Evgenia Nekrasova’s Кожа (Skin) is written in serial form; it’s about two women: a Black slave and a white serf.
  • Dmitry Petrov’s Мутный (Murky?) sounds especially mysterious because I’m getting a lot of interference on searches but: something about (moral) choices in life, family, and other big questions.
  • I have Valery Pecheikin’s Злой мальчик (Mean/Nasty/Evil Boy – cover art is a snake) in my book cart but haven’t yet read it. It’s slender, with large print and brief vignettes/stories, and it looks very readable, like I’ll enjoy it… but I think I’ve been (subconsciously) saving it for when I really need something easy to read in very small chunks. Pecheikin works at Gogol Center.
  • Alexei Polyarinov’s Риф (The Reef) is the second book on this list that I’ve read in full; it’s also a Big Book finalist. Polyarinov offers up three plot lines that come together as he tells of a cult.
  • Ketevan Sapovich’s Письма маме. Истории большого города (Letters to Mama. Stories from the Big City) appears to be letters the author wrote to her mother after losing both her parents within one week.
  • The protagonist of Vladimir Sedov’s Зеленое пальто (The Green Coat) goes through life with a green coat in a book that focuses on the 1990s, including, apparently, its adventurous side. [Description edited thanks to much-appreciated intervention!]
  • In its briefest description, Artyom Serebryakov’s Фистула (Fistula) sounds like a novel about “forbidden love” between siblings but a more detailed account on Прочтение discusses literary heritage, which sounds far more complex.
  • Andrei Tomilov’s Тайга далекая (The Distant Taiga) is a collection of short stories.
  • Islam Khanipaev’s Типа я (The first-person narrator constantly uses “типа,” which is like “like,” so maybe Like, Me or something similar, though this title makes my head ache!) is the diary of an eight-year-old boy trying to figure out the world.
  • Ivan Shipnigov’s Стрим. (Stream) was a 2021 NatsBest finalist, so I’ll recycle that description: [Stream] sounds like a polyphonic, “verbatim” book about life among young (Russian) adults. Given that Shipnigov is a screenwriter, this may be a book where the verbatim approach actually works.
  • I included Roman Shmarakov’s Алкиной (Alcinous, I think) in my Big Book longlist post so will recycle that description, too. The book is set in the fourth century, in the late Roman Empire. Although it’s apparently often described as a “philological novel,” Artyom Roganov’s review for Gorky Media says it’s more. (And even cites humor! We enjoy humor!)
  • Vladimir Shpakov’s Пленники амальгамы (Prisoners of Amalgam… it opens mentioning a mirror) is another one that sounds mysterious, with nightmares becoming reality.
Up Next: The Dyachenkos’ Ritual, which I was going to post about last weekend before we went to retrieve this pile of (very heavy oak, not all of which is pictured) wood that will soon be stacked in a fourth round pile. Vasyakina’s The Wound, Polyarinov’s The Reef, and a forthcoming novel by Dmitry Danilov. And the Dyachenko’s sequel to Vita Nostra (previous post), which I enjoyed so much last summer. That “Fun With Genres” post that includes the Dyachenkos also covers Evgeny Vodolazkin’s Island, a 2021 Big Book finalist I’ve been meaning to write about again.


Disclaimers and Disclosures: The usual. I received PDF’s of The Wound and The Reef from Big Book and a PDF of Three Personages from the author’s literary agency but have been doing my reading with print books I purchased. My print copy of the Pecheikin book, though, came from Inspiria.

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

The 2021 Yasnaya Polyana Award Shortlist

I was planning to blog today about a book (a book I actually read!) but then I saw that the Yasnaya Polyana Award announced their 2021 shortlist. All the better for the last day of an extra-long holiday weekend. Yasnaya Polyana will announce this year’s winners in late October.

Here’s the list. Three of YP’s seven finalists overlap with the Big Book Award’s 2021 finalists:

  • Maksim Gureev’s Любовь Куприна (Lyubov Kuprina) is apparently a long story/novella about writer Alexander Kuprin and his mother.
  • Maya Kucherskayas Лесков. Прозеванный гений (Leskov. The Missed/Overlooked Genius – I almost want to say something like “slept through” or “yawning” to capture the sense of sleeping!) is a big (656 pages, 668 grams) book about Nikolai Leskov. My life is embarrassingly under-Leskoved but, inspired by factors including Languagehat’s posts about Leskov and, subsequently, some personalized reading recommendations plus my own impressions after reading “Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk” back in my first youth, I’m looking forward to letting Kucherskaya, a kind person and a good reader, guide me to and through more Leskov.
  • Dmitrii Likhanov’s Звезда и крест (Star and Cross) apparently has two temporal settings: ancient Antioch and the Soviet-Afghan War.
  • Natalia Repina’s Жизнеописание Льва (Lev: A Life) is the only book on the list that I’ve read in full (previous post) thus far. It still tugs at me.
  • German Sadulaev’s Готские письма (literally Goth Letters/Writings) is described as a “conceptual collection” (“концептуальный сборник”) and sounds like it includes stories, historical essays (he writes about ancient Goths), and other materials.
  • Marina Stepnova’s Сад (The Garden) is also on the Big Book shortlist. I’ve read a large chunk and translated a (much smaller) chunk. I’m looking forward to reading it on paper: this is the sort of book that doesn’t really work for me on an ereader, thanks to either the nineteenth-century setting or the stylized language. Or (more probably) both.
  • Leonid Yuzefovich’s Филэллин (The Philhellene) is on the Big Book shortlist, too. This novel’s characters converse through journals, letters, and mental conversations. Yuzefovich’s own back-cover description refers to the novel as being closer to “variations on historical themes than a traditional historical novel.” This is one of those books where I’ve purposely avoided learning too much before reading.

Disclaimers and disclosures: The usual. Two of my authors are on the YP jury. I’ve translated two of Stepnova’s novels (plus an excerpt from The Garden) and know several other writers on this list.

Up Next: The Dyachenkos’ The Ritual, Alexei Polyarinov’s The Reef, and Oksana Vasyakina’s The Wound.