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Bykov wins national literary prize

Published: June 16, 2006 (Issue # 1178)


The National Bestseller Award the only respected nationwide literary prize that has its award ceremony in St. Petersburg this year went to Dmitry Bykovs expertly written biography of the poet and novelist Boris Pasternak.

The award was founded in 2001. Over the contests brief history, its winners and finalists have included some of the countrys bestselling and most controversial writers, including Viktor Pelevin, Vladimir Sorokin, Alexander Prokhanov, Pavel Krusanov and Irina Denezhkina.

Bykov, who had been unsuccessfully nominated for the prize four times before, did not attend the award ceremony at the Astoria hotel on last Friday. The writer was on a trip to Paris, and left a soft toy of a bullfrog to serve as a stand-in. The toy, which wittly resembles the author, was introduced to the audience by Bykovs nominator, local critic Nikita Yeliseyev.

At this years ceremony politics was in the air. Controversial writer and National Bolshevik leader Eduard Limonov presided over the six-member Small Jury (that happened to include his girlfriend, the actress Yekaterina Volkova), and politics featured prominently in critics speeches, almost to the exclusion of literary commentary.

The Small Jury makes the final verdict, while the Grand Jury, comprised of 19 writers, journalists, critics, publishers and cultural luminaries, chooses the six finalists from several dozen candidates.

As the ceremonys co-presenter, journalist Artyom Troitsky put it, in the first years of the prizes history, historic novels and glam fiction dominated the offers but today the shortlist features three books about politics, a book about jail, a book about the hard life of a poet under the Soviet regime and only one book that makes an enjoyable read.

Troitsky attributes this trend to the lethargic state of Russias current political life, leading to politics seeking refuge in literature. When politics is in comatose condition, more and more people open up to the written form as a substitution for political standoffs, battles and controversy, he said.

Activists from pro-Kremlin youth movements gathered outside the Astoria to protest against Limonovs presence on the jury, holding posters bearing offensive, aggressive and threatening slogans such as Limonov, bastard, Petrograd will punish you.

Very few events involving National Bolsheviks have been fortunate enough to escape a violent clash among protestors, so there was a certain anticipation in the air.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Sunday, Aug. 31


The Neva Delta International Blues Festival wraps up this afternoon on Vasilevsky Island with a concert featuring not only some of Russias best blues bands but international stars as well. Admission is free for all three days of the festival, which begins on Aug. 29, and the shows starting at 5 p.m. each day.



Monday, Sept. 1


Today marks the beginning of Lermontov-Fest, a fall festival celebrating the life of one of Russias most remarkable poets who, in a fate eerily similar to Pushkins, was killed in a duel at the age of 26. Organized by the Lermontov Library System, the next several months will see art exhibitions, concerts and public lectures focusing on the Lermontovs short yet prolific career. Check the Lermontov Library Systems website for more details.



Tuesday, Sept. 2


Join expats and practice your Russian during the Russian Clubs weekly meetings every Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. The club is free to participate in although you need to be a registered member of Couchsurfing.



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