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The Booker/Open Russia is the most desirable literary award in this country
Six books and authors have been short-listed in this year's race, as announced today. We are pleased to offer the list. Vassili Aksyonov. The Voltairians: Ladies and Gentlemen. A novel Anatoli Kurchatkin. The Sun Was Shining. A novel Martha Petrova. Schilkloper's French Horn. A novel Ludmilla Petrushevskaya. Number One, or, In the Gardens of Other Opportunities. A novel Alexei Slapovsky, Quality of Life. A novel Oleg Zaionchkovsky. Sergeyev and the Tiny Town. A novel Kurchatkin's and Slapovsky's books appeared in print in the Znamya, widely-read literary magazine. Russia has been awarding the Booker prize since 1992. The award offers $15,000. Each of the other finalists is entitled to a thousand dollars. The jury consists of literary critics. Fiction authors appear on it rather rarely, though a major author usually comes as jury president. Leading this year's jury is Vladimir Voinovich, celebrated freethinking prose writer, known for his brilliant and caustic humour. The jury comprises fiction author Andrei Dmitriev, literary critics Nikita Yeliseyev of St. Petersburg and Leonid Bykov of Yekaterinburg, and Harry Bardin, cartoon director. The finalist books are all excellent, and the jury has to choose the best out of the fine, Mr. Voinovich said to a news conference after the short list was announced. He had every reason to say so. The books really satisfy the most finicky reader. Russian literary patriarch Vassili Aksyonov's refined novel takes us back into the era of Catherine the Great, with flashes of contemporaneity. Ludmilla Petrushevskaya is true to her grim self, with a sinister narration of tormented flesh and warped psyche. Anatoli Kurchatkin's novel is an impassioned alloy of mysticism and down-to-earth everydays, of homily andsatire, of realism and daydreaming. So much for modern classics. Martha Petrova and Oleg Zaionchkovsky might be rather obscure for now but they are no less gifted than the celebrities. Books carried by the Znamya have won the Booker or, at least, appeared on the short lists year in, year out to compliment its editorial staff on fine taste. The long list had made an impressive 39 items-and none of the novels made a profound impression, Leonid Bykov complained to the summing-up news conference. Let us leave that on the sophisticated critic's conscience. Readers-at-large are of a contrasting opinion-the books are selling like hot cakes. Sales in Moscow's biggest bookshops show public demand for latter-day writing catching up with classics, loved as ever. Reading has become all the fashion again with us Russians-another proof of this country regaining stability.
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