November 16, 2010

Polina Barskova nominated for Andrei Bely Prize in Poetry


Polina Barskova

Polina Barskova

In 1978, in Soviet-era Russia, the organizers of the underground samizdat literary journal Watches founded the first literary prize free from the control of The Communist Party. The writer Boris Ostanin suggested using a bottle of fine French Cognac as the prize, but his fellow writer, Boris Ivanov, asked “And what happens when we finish this bottle? Where will we get another bottle next year?” So it was decided that the prize would consist of one ruble per prizewinner, one shared apple as an appetizer, and a bottle of vodka–items that would be, hopefully, always be available in Russia. The prize was named after Andrei Bely due to the universality of his writing and because he wrote in all three forms the prize honored: poetry, philosophy, and prose. Since its humble beginnings, and long after the fall of the Soviet Union and the Watches journal, the Andrei Bely Prize has become one of the greatest honors in Russian literature.

We are very pleased to announce that the poet Polina Barskova (author of the forthcoming poetry collection, The Zoo in Winter) has been nominated for the 2010 Andrei Bely prize in poetry. Barskova is the only woman nominated and decades younger than most of the nominees. It is a tremendous honor, and regardless of the outcome, here at Melville House we’ll be drinking vodka in Barskova‘s honor.

(You can read more about the prize’s history in this St. Petersburg Times article written by David Stromberg, one of the translators of The Zoo in Winter.)