Summertime and The Russian Prize
So my guest blogger gig at Bookninja is over as of tonight, since George is back. It was a lot of fun, and I hope that everyone who followed me there will keep checking it out on a regular basis. It's a really good joint. My fellow bloggers were awesome too -- they put me to shame, honestly, with all their energy. I see they all kept up with their personal blogs just fine. But hey, we all do what we can do and anyway, I have a few tricks left up my sleeve. Stay tuned.
Earlier this evening I was reading various newsworthy items and got myself worked up into a whole bloggy lather with one of my usual rants, which is how I dearly wish to see the farthest corners of world literature spread around to all readerly consciousnesses -- seriously, it should be as accessible and unscary as world music has gotten, and available in Starbucks as well -- and I came upon Margarita Meklina's account at The Quarterly Conversation of her trip back to Russia after winning the Russkaya Premia literary prize.
It's a good story, dark and touching. The other finalists she mentions, though, just stopped me in my tracks. Not so much the creepy wanking Ossetian, but Boris Khazanov, hoping to be handed a literary prize from the same state that jailed him for six years in the 50s for anti-Soviet propaganda. How in the world could that feel? Literally, how in the world -- a Google search of his name turned up some Russian language books and a Boris Khazanov who lives in New Hampshire and gave money to Obama's campaign. The one I want is a German expat, whose speech focused on "language, which becomes frozen in immigration as though in a fridge."
Or Andrei Nazarov, whose family was killed in the Revolution and who said the award should go to Nabokov and Bunin, who never received such a prize from their own government. The backstorie seems as far from the American literary prize machine as you can get, and I'm hungry to know more. Nazarov shares his name with a pro hockey player, and while I realize it's fully possible to both play hockey and write -- hey, I can -- I doubt they're the same person.
So for all my grand ideas of world literature for the people and how it would make us better citizens of the universe, I end up only being as good as my search engine, and I end up feeling very solidly American. But Meklina's essay is a really wonderful window into a whole different room, and I appreciate that. It's a big internet, and I like it that way.
Did I mention that it's hot? The dog is hot, the cats are hot. We've gotten off easy so far, but I guess summer's here now.