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.


  1. I look forward to what you have to say when you get to Leskov!

    1. I do, too! I'm looking forward to it and may start when I finish Рана. Which will be soon. (I've already started reading Вечная мерзлота since it's so long and the book has such small print... I'm glad it moves right along!)