Turkey’s Orhan Pamuk Leads Russian Yasnaya Polyana Literary Prize Winners

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Orhan Pamuk’s literary tribute to Istanbul wins the 1-million-ruble Yasnaya Polyana Literary Prize, based at Leo Tolstoy’s estate.
Near Yasnaya Polyana in Tula. Image - iStockphoto: Valery Boyarsky

Near Tolstoy’s Yasnaya Polyana in Tula. Image – iStockphoto: Valery Boyarsky

By Dennis Abrams | @DennisAbrams2

Samsung and the Tolstoy Estate
Reporting for Russia Behind the Headlines, Alexandra Guzeva writes, “Turkish writer and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk has become one of the winners of the 2016 Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award, one of Russia’s leading prizes in the field of literature.

Orhan Pamuk. Image: Columbia University 2006 / Photo: Eileen Barroso / Nobel site

Orhan Pamuk. Image: Columbia University 2006 / Photo: Eileen Barroso / Nobel site

“Pamuk’s novel A Strangeness in My Mind, translated into Russian in 2016, won in the Foreign Literature category, which aims to support both the traditions of classical literature and new trends in contemporary writing.”

At Wednesday’s (November 2) ceremony, jury member and writer Alexi Varlamov, said of Pamuk’s book, “This is a novel with many faces and stories that is unlikely to be read in one sitting. This is a declaration of love for his native city–Istanbul.”

Pamuk, currently lecturing on world literature at Columbia University in New York, sent a video thanking the jury both for himself and for his novel’s hero, Mevylut, For his win, Pamuk is invited to visit the Yaynaya Polyana Museum Estate of Count Tolstoy in February, where he’ll be awarded his prize of 1 million rubles (aUS$15,715).

The Russian translator of Pamuk’s novel, Apollinaria Avrutina, receives a prize of 200,000 rubles (US$3,143), and notes that the book is “based on the epigraph” for the second part of Russian writer Mikhail Leermontov’s A Hero of Our Time: “Asians…once let them feast and drink their fill of boza at a wedding or a funeral, and out will come their knives.” She said that Pamuk sees Tolstoy as his “main literary teacher.”

A cash prize of two million rubles (US$31,432) and the award in the 21st Century category, will be shared between two authors, Narine Abgaryan and Alexander Grigorenko.

Abgaeryan’s novel, Three Apples Fell from the Sky, is set in a remote mountain village in Armenia. Along with its jury’s choice recognition, the book was also selected for the Readers’ Choice Award.

Giorgenko’s story, A Blind Man Lost his Flute, “tells the story of a disabled man with a strong will to live who dies despite being surrounded with the love of those close to him, simply because this is the nature of being human.” Jury member Vladislav Otroshenko is quoted saying that the story reminded him of Leo Tolstoy’s classic The Death of Ivan Ilyich.

The award for the Childhood, Boyhood, Youth Categor—which refers to Tolstoy’s autobiographical trilog—was given to Maria Nefedova for her book,. The Forester and His Nymph, which tells the story of a girl who sings in a pedestrian underpass to spite her parents, living life on the edges of society. She meets a young man “who dreams of becoming a forester and is severely ill with cancer.” Nefedova receives a prize of 500,000 rubles (US$7,800).

And finally, in the category of Modern Classics, Vladimir Makanin won for his story “Where The Sky Meets the Hill” (1984). Jury member and writer Eugene Vodolazkin is quoted saying of it, “This is a story about the tragic element of memories and interpretations, which although they may be beautiful are never the original, which is dead.”

Publishing Perspectives looked at the Yasnaya Polyana prizes’ interenational shortlist earlier this year.

The Yasnaya Polyana Literary Prize was founded in 2003 by Samsung Electronics and the museum and estate of Leo Tolstoy in Tula.

The prize fund is 7 million rubles (US$109,892). According to the jury chairman Vladimir Tolstoy, Leo Tolstoy’s great grandson and cultural advisor to the Russian president, the award is meant to help readers find their way in the world of Russia’s literature and international contemporary books—a universal reply to the question “What to read?”

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.

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