Saturday, June 4, 2022

The 2022 Big Book Award’s Short Finalist List

The Big Book Award released its list of finalists last week: ten books made the list. The list is a bit short for a Big Book finalist list, which maxes out at fifteen, according to rules and regulations. The list leaves me scratching my head a bit more than Big Book lists from recent years past. I’m very happy for the authors and publishers who made the list – the books by Danilov, Mamedov, and Sinitskaya particularly appeal to me – but I’m very sorry it doesn’t include a few more new author names or small publishers. I’m especially sorry that (yes, here I go again!) only three of the ten books were written by women.

Of course it’s an annual ritual to complain about award lists and winners, particularly for the Big Book since, well, it’s so big and publicized. But this year’s list feels sadder and safer than most, particularly because so many of the finalists are repeaters and five finalist slots went unused. Vera Bogdanova’s Season of Poisoned Fruits, which I think is very, very good, deserved recognition and I thought Natalia Repina’s Lev: A Life (previous post) was very good, too. Bogdanova’s Season and Tatyana Zamirovskaya’s Смерти.net (her literary agency calls it The Deadnet), which I have not yet read, have both been mentioned in a few of the social media posts I’ve seen that ask, “How could they not have included…?” In any case, rather than complain even more about a list that I can’t change, I’ll just add the Mamedov and Sinitskaya books to my personal wish list.

And so…

  • Pavel Basinsky’s Подлинная история Анны Карениной (The True Story of Anna Karenina) is, as I wrote on the NatsBest end-of-season post, apparently just what it purports to be.
  • Sergei Belyakov’s Парижские мальчики в сталинской Москве (Parisian Boys in Stalinist Moscow) is also apparently just what it purports to be: nonfiction about Parisian men (including Marina Tsvetaeva’s son, Georgy Yefron) and their life and times in Stalinist Moscow.
  • Alexei Varlamov’s Имя Розанова (The Name of Rozanov) is a biography of Vasily Rozanov.
  • Dmitry Danilov’s Саша, привет! (Hey, Sasha!) (text) is the only book on the list that I’ve read in full. Danilov is a friend and a perennial favorite author, and Саша, привет! is one of my favorite Danilov books. Hey, Sasha! concerns a man who’s committed a moral crime and is being punished in an odd way. Everything about the book hit me just right: form, content, and absurdity. And it just keeps feeling truer and truer…
  • Oleg Yermakov’s Родник Олафа (The Olaf Spring or Olaf’s Spring? (in the sense of a source of water)) (the beginning) is the first novel of a trilogy set in the distant past (the description mentions “ancient” Russia), apparently encompassing a journey (literal and figurative, I suspect) and childrearing as a boy, his father, and friends go to sell oak lumber (and fur?).
  • Ruslan Kozlov’s Stabat Mater (chapters) is set in a world where a pandemic kills only children.
  • It’s enough for me to know that Afanasy Mamedov’s Пароход Бабелон (The Steamship Babelon) (excerpt) is set in Baku in 1936. And that it blends genres. I thoroughly enjoyed Mamedov’s Frau Scar (previous post) so am looking forward to this one.
  • Anna Matveevas Каждые сто лет. Роман с дневником (Every Hundred Years. A Novel with a Diary) sounds like it blends two temporal and geographical settings in stories told by two women.
  • Sofia Sinitskaya’s Хроника Горбатого (I’m still guessing The Hunchback’s Chronicle here…) seems to combine history and fiction; it’s apparently set in Vyborg, a place I’ve ridden through on trains once or twice.
  • Guzel Yakhina’s Эшелон на Самарканд (Train to Samarkand) is summed up very well on the Elkost literary agency’s Web site, here.

Disclaimers and Disclosures: I’m taking time off (a year or two or three or forever, I haven’t yet decided) from serving on the Big Book Award’s jury. I know several of the authors on the list. And I’ve translated samples of Vera Bogdanova’s work as well as a Guzel Yakhina’s novel Zuleikha.

Up Next: The afore-mentioned Sasha, Privet!, Kirill Ryabov’s 777, Julia Kisina’s Bubush, Vera Bogdanova’s Season of Poisoned Fruits… and a couple others. There’s quite a pile here on the bookshelf…


  1. Thanks for another incredibly useful post! I'm looking forward to your reports on your reading...

    1. You're welcome, Languagehat, I'm glad it's useful for you, too! I really do need to get to those other posts, particularly since there are more books than I listed. (As well you know!)

  2. I have only chance to read one from this list, The Name of Rozanov by Alexei Varlamov. I will admit that it was pretty intresting one.