Sunday, January 8, 2017
Saturday, December 31, 2016
Favorite novel about translation: I made up this new category because I keep thinking about Idra Novey’s Ways to Disappear (and the hair brush!), which I enjoyed so much (previous post). Novey has said she wrote it as a love letter to translation and that truly comes out.
Sunday, December 11, 2016
I’ve already read Sasha Filipenko’s Hounding (previous post), the first volume of Boris Minaev’s Soft Fabric and part of the second (they’re good but I’m a bit indifferent…), attempted Sergei Soloukh’s Stories About Animals (previous post), put Oleg Nesterov’s Heavenly Stockholm in limbo (it’s simultaneously and oddly dull yet absorbing), and used Morkovkin’s quirkily helpful Big Universal Russian Dictionary, (I had to translate that title because I love it so much), which you can glimpse here, many times. (One of our cats likes it, too, as a chew toy.) I’m amazed that I really did translate pieces about contemporary art some years ago for the book that says State Tretyakov Gallery on the spine. And my final literary act in Moscow was to buy the Strugatsky book at the airport with my last rubles: it’s Beetle in the Anthill and I’m reading it now. I think I finally may have found a Strugatsky novel that I truly enjoy.
Tuesday, December 6, 2016
-Maya Kucherskaya's summary on Vedomosti. After mentioning that Aleksei Ivanov didn't win anything for his Nenast'e Kucherskaya suggests that a special prize could be given so that all deserving books win something. I'd expected that Ivanov's book would win something (my prediction was that he, not Ulitskaya, would be in the top three and I wasn't far off, Ivanov's point total was very, very close to Ulitskaya's) but special prizes like that would be impractical for an award like Big Book, where the jury is large and members have the option of voting remotely, making that sort of prize logistically difficult. Not to mention contentious! Beyond that, it seems to me that awarding three jury prizes and three reader's choice prizes is already very generous.
-Anna Narinskaya's commentary on Kommersant is far more interesting. I, too, wish books like Sergei Kuznetsov's and Dmitry Danilov's had been Big Book finalists this year: they're both on my shelf but even without having read them yet, I have a strong suspicion that they would have been far better choices than, for (safe) starters, the book about reptiles, which was very, very weak. I couldn't agree more with Narinskaya that books like Danilov's spice up Big Book shortlists: they help readers discover writers and there's a lot to be said for diluting the mainstream. This is a minor point (and I'm probably splitting hairs here) but I can't say that I fit her perception that members of the jury want to read books that reflect on and connect Russian history and the Russian present: my personal bias is just for books that are interesting/compelling and hold together structurally. This time around--and last year, too, with Guzel Yakhina's Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes--those happened to be books that involved Russian history. And of course I love Laurus and The Women of Lazarus. And lots of other novels that somehow blend history and the present. But I'm open to anything. Like Danilov's books, which are generally very much in the present... and which I always enjoy so much.
-Two pieces by people I know and thus particularly enjoy reading: Mikhail Vizel on the Год литературы site notes, among other things, that Yuzefovich said that Ivanov should have won. (He also notes that only two points separated the Ulitskaya and Ivanov books, almost nothing, given the totals.) Konstantin Milchin, for TASS, places particular focus on the lack of new names.
-Klarisa Pulson for Novaya Gazeta (here), who says the results were too predictable. Something I agree with... but a jury has to vote on a set list of books.
Thursday, December 1, 2016
Pyotr Aleshkovsky won the 2016 Russian Booker Prize today for
his novel Крепость (The Citadel).
Aleshkovsky has been a Booker finalist in the past—in 1994 for Жизнеописание Хорька (Skunk: A Life), in 1996 for Владимир Чигринцев (Vladimir Chigrintsev), and in 2006 for Рыба (Fish)—so I wasn’t surprised to see The Citadel win. The Citadel, which I began but did/could not finish, is also a finalist
for the Big Book Award; Big Book Award winners will be announced next week.
-The Booker has yet to post a story about the awards but TASS did: here.
-TASS also posted a piece by Konstantin Milchin (an acquaintance of mine) about the award, in which he discusses his dissatisfaction with the Booker jury's decision, which, in effect, says The Citadel is the best novel of the year--that's the Booker's stated goal, after all. The piece is here and, as so often happens, I agree with Kostya's points, which get at some of the reasons I didn't/couldn't finish the book. I was also interested to see that he mentioned, as I did in my post, the fact that Aleshkovsky was thrice a Booker finalist before The Citadel. (I have to think that fact and being able to point to the novel's positive hero were deciding factors for the jury.) The quotes that Kostya included seem to have inspired readers to dig up other awkward passages that, hmm (repurposing Kostya's words a bit), show a lack of compassion for the reader, see, for example, Meduza, here.
-I'll add more links when/if I find them!
-Here's another one, very favorable to Aleshkovsky's win, by Maya Kucherskaya: link.