Sunday, November 7, 2021

Awards Galore: Yasnaya Polyana Winners & NOS(E) Finalists

Well, I sure have a lot of catching up to do in November! So I’ll start the month with a combipost listing this year’s Yasnaya Polyana Award winners and the finalists for the 2021-22 NOS(E) season. And so…

German Sadulaev won the Yasnaya Polyana jury’s contemporary Russian prose award for his Готские письма (literally Goth Letters/Writings), which has been described as a “conceptual collection” (“концептуальный сборник”) and sounds like it does, indeed, contain stories, historical essays (he writes about ancient Goths), and other materials. Meanwhile, Marina Stepnova won the reader’s choice prize for her Сад (The Garden). I’ve read a large chunk and translated a (much smaller) chunk. This excellent piece by Yevgenia Lisitsyna for Gorky Media explains, beautifully, what it feels like to read the book. Finally, Julian Barnes’s Nothing To Be Frightened Of, in a translation by Dmitry Simanovsky and Sergei Polotovsky, won the foreign literature award.

As for the 2021-22 NOS(E) Award, here’s the ten-book shortlist. I didn’t find anything very surprising here and was pleased to see a couple familiar books make the finals. Winners will be announced in early 2022.

  • Oksana Vasyakina’s Рана (The Wound) is one of the two books on the list that I’ve already read in full. 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 interesting, touching, satisfying, and almost suspenseful. Rightfully a finalist for both NOS(E) and Big Book.
  • I’m now reading Olga Medvedkova’s Три персонажа в поисках любви и бессмертия (Three Characters/Personages in Search of Love and Immortality), though, well, I’m really only sort of reading since I set it aside after enjoying the first personage’s story – the account of a medieval princess is serenely chilling – so much that I didn’t want to disturb the mood. That said, I’m eager to meet the next two personages.
  • Evgenia Nekrasova’s Кожа (Skin) is written in serial form; it’s about two women: a Black slave and a white serf.
  • 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 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. I have mixed feelings about this page-turner, though it did keep me reading.
  • 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 (no surprise here!) 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 Shipnigֶóv’s Стрим (Stream) was a 2021 NatsBest finalist, so I’ll recycle, yet again, 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 again, 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!)

Up next: Another combipost – about Vasyakina’s The Wound and Polyarinov’s The Reef – that I’m ashamed to admit I already wrote but have yet to finalize and post. (That’s what October was like!) A forthcoming novel by Dmitry Danilov. And maybe a bit on the Dyachenkos’ sequel to Vita Nostra (previous post).

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 came from publisher Inspiria.


  1. Looking it up, I see «Кожа» is an "аудиосериал"; does this mean it doesn't exist in written form?

    1. Good question, Languagehat, it's available in written form on Bookmate.

  2. On titles: Злой мальчик seems to be a reference to the Chekhov story, so maybe "A Naughty Boy" (which is the standard translation of the Chekhov)? And I was wondering whether Фистула meant 'fistula' or 'falsetto,' but the review you link to says both are applicable! I don't envy the translator who has to decide which to choose...

    1. Thank you, as always, for your questions about titles, Languagehat... you know me and titles! I wonder if reading Злой мальчик will offer a clear answer to the question... Only a reading will tell. (I suspect you're right, though.)

      As for Фистула, I always love this sort of ambiguity. Though especially where translating titles is concerned!