Saturday, May 7, 2022

The 2022 Big Book Longlist

The Big Book Award’s 2022 longlist was released about two weeks ago but I’m still sluggish so here we (finally) are! This year’s list truly is long: 48 books. I’ve read three in full, have one in the cart, and am very interested in a bunch more. Only four authors are totally unknown to me, which is a bit of a disappointment since I’m always looking for new authors to read. Even more of a disappointment is that not even quite a third of the longlisted titles are written by women.

The shortlist should be announced by mid-June. For now, here’s a sliver of the longlist.

I’ll start with three books I read and enjoyed very much:

  • Vera Bogdanova’s Сезон отравленных плодов (The Season of Poisoned Fruits) explores the lives of three characters – three cousins whose parents hover in the background – as well as societal norms and events (notably terrorism) that formed their (millennial) generation. I particularly liked Bogdanova’s use of a dacha setting. I’ll be posting about this book soon.
  • A dacha settlement also figures prominently in Natalia Repina’s Жизнеописание Льва (Lev: A Life) (previous post), which was shortlisted for the 2021 Yasnaya Polyana Award.
  • Dmitry Danilov is a friend and a perennial favorite author. His Саша, привет! (I still hear this title more as Hey, Sasha! than Hi, Sasha!) concerns a man who’s committed a moral crime and is being punished in an odd way. Everything about Hey, Sasha! hit me just right: form, content, and absurdity. And it just keeps feeling truer and truer…
  • I’ll note that there’s one book on the list that I blogged about but didn’t finish: Timur Valitov’s Угловая комната (The Corner Room) (previous post). To keep the chain going: that post also describes a book by Sasha Filipenko who’s on the 2022 Big Book longlist for Кремулятор (The Cremulator), a novel that’s available online here and here.

What else? How about two slightly familiar titles that sound promising?

  • I have Ivan Shipnigֶóv’s Стрим (Stream), a 2021 NatsBest finalist, in the book cart. It sounds like a promising polyphonic novel.
  • Sofia Sinitskaya’s Хроника горбатого (The Hunchback’s Chronicle) combines history and fiction. Languagehat reported in a comment to my 2022 NatsBest shortlist post that “apparently the novel features the descendants of the crusader Thomas the Hunchback and the pagan weaver Ursula, for what that’s worth.”

Among the unknowns are:

  • Sergei Dmitrenko’s Салтыков (Щедрин) (Saltykov (Shchedrin)), a biography of none other than Mikhail Saltykov-Shchedrin, whose absolutely crushing The Golovlyov Family I’d recommend to just about anyone.
  • All I need to know about Katerina Kozhevina’s Лучшие люди города (The City’s Best People, in the sense of “elite” though I’m not sure what would fit the novel’s tone) is that the geographical setting is Sakhalin Island, a favorite place, and the temporal setting is vague.

Finally, here’s something a bit unusual that I hope comes into being:

  • The book listed as “Manuscript No. 296” is На небе никого (There’s Nobody in the Sky, I guess?), which you can read about on this crowdfunding page. It’s described as “a book about people at war” and it combines photographs from Artur Bondar’s collection with texts by Ksenia Buksha that are based on diaries and recollections. I hope it receives funding.

There are plenty of other books on the list that sound promising, including several that I’ve read in part (some await my return…) but I’ll leave further explorations to you!

Disclaimers and Disclosures: The usual. I served on the Big Book jury for seven seasons; I left the Literary Academy this year, though, something I’d been contemplating for a year or two. On another note, the Big Book longlist isn’t the award’s only news: Georgy Urushadze, who headed up the organization that ran the award and is also the person who invited me to join the jury, recently left his job. I’m very grateful to him for the opportunity to become part of Big Book.

Up Next: I truly do plan to write more about books I’ve read! I’ve promised posts about several, among them Danilov’s Sasha, Kirill Ryabov’s 777, and Bogdanova’s Season… and there are a few more. I swear I’ll get to them soon.