Shine and poverty of literary awards

Shine and poverty of literary awards

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Writer Roman Senchin — about the importance of awards for writers


Photo: RIA NOVOSTI/Vladimir Vyatkin

Recently it became known winners of the Big literary prize of Russia and finalists of the award “national bestseller”. At the same time, one of the oldest independent awards in the country — “Russian Booker” — continues to sound the alarm: it is not excluded that this year the “Booker” will suspend its operations and possibly cease to exist. Seeing the news, readers are probably asking: how do premium important and necessary to the literary process?

In Russia today, many dozens of literary awards. On this made chuckle. But the vast majority of them regional, with very little prize money or no. Of course, any prize, even just a diploma, a bouquet of flowers in General is important to the author. This is a sign that his novel or the short story, novel, play, essay noticed, at least someone read. Most importantly, read.

But… Without the proverbial “but” is not enough. But the status of the award is still determined by the amount that goes to the winner. This is not going anywhere. Exceptions, of course — for example, the award of Andrei Bely, where the winners are given a ruble, an Apple and a bottle of vodka, but this is an exception. Exceptions should not be a lot.

Yes, in a world ruled by money (and do not argue: money can not buy the book, with the money replenished library), the financial obesity of the literary prize is crucial. But (again inevitable “but”) it goes to an extreme. Prize and then compete, whose prize Fund is larger. And as a result, many do not stand up and be bent.

On the eve of almost every literary award season, the public hears that a particular prize is on the brink of death without finding a sponsor. Often this occurs. Killed such important institutions as “Antibuker”, Apollon Grigoriev prize, of a name of Yury Kazakova for the best story, “devoted sons of Russia”; suspended prize Ivan Petrovich Belkin for the best story, the prize “Debut”…

Especially sorry for the “Newbie”, who for fifteen years has discovered most of the current young and conventionally young authors. Young in age, but not to influence the literary process in modern Russia. Look at the biographies of famous writers a little over thirty and about thirty — almost every winner or finalist of the “Debut”.

To replace this prize seems to be can the newly established “Lyceum”, a member of the jury of which I have the honour to be. Although replace “Debut” is very difficult. In contrast to the “Lyceum”, in which only two categories — prose and poetry — there were also essays, fiction, and drama (which as a genre somehow a few decades ago were excluded from Russian literature and became a sort of producer of blanks for the performances, and not independent works of literature). “Debut” was publishing, translation activities; conducted creative workshops. And all this can be lost.

Once again the threat of closure hanging over the “Russian Booker” award, designed to celebrate the best examples of contemporary Russian novel. A few years ago the “Russian Booker” has been interrupted for a year, and it is a significant damage to the movement of our literature.

Here the reader may smile: how much damage? The award is one thing and literature is another. Will try to explain.

The award ceremony is only the tip of the iceberg of any award, from the “Big book” to any district contest. The main thing — reception of works, the publication of the long list, short list, voting, media attention, discussion, debate, even scandals… the “Russian Booker” has been holding conferences in the framework of the award “the Big book” the winners and finalists travel the country, meet readers, and thanks to the “Yasnaya Polyana” literary meetings held at the home of Leo Tolstoy, which everyone can enjoy; the Grand jury of the award “national bestseller” should write reviews of the books they have read.

In addition, every award demonstrates his long-leaf and short-leaf trends, and from the fact that “Russian Booker” in a certain year this trend was not demonstrated, showed us two dozen fresh novels not discussed them, the first to suffer those readers for whom this award is the lighthouse. For someone with a lighthouse serves as a “Gold Delwig” for someone — “the Big book”, “national bestseller”, “Nonconformism”…

In a time when criticism is in a state of slumber, in many respects, awards are a tool to attract people to literature, though some landmarks in the sea of publishing products… the Organizers almost all premiums blamed for the fact that the number of finalists often the same authors, new names appear small, but if the premiums did not, people would know at all only five to ten media. In addition to prizes, other advertising modern Russian writers are almost there. And as you know, not what the media say — that does not exist.

The ceremony, usually held with glitter. However, this brilliance is often the looming threat of poverty, sponsors come with a lot of money, but mostly for five years, and then for a year, and the threat of closure of the award is always relevant.

I know from experience that to get a lump sum — and very pleasant and helpful. For most of the bonus money is a possibility a year or two to work on the next thing without fear that tomorrow will not be able to feed himself and his family. To write after the change from grinder (I remembered the film “Beware of the car”) turns out not all.

But, it may be worth the premiums to create a sort of stabilization Fund, cutting the monetary reward to the winners, making the ceremony more modest? Surely the sponsors of this idea is not like every sponsor wants to look at least one season the coolest, but nevertheless dare to say it. Importantly, prize, these, non-state, in fact, a Guild — existed.

Awards writers and the state is the State prize, is the prize of the government that, of course, fine. But, as they say, is another story.

The author is a writer, critic, laureate of the national literary prize “Big book”, “Yasnaya Polyana”

The opinion of the author may not coincide with the position of the editorial Board

See also:

Announced a short list of contenders for the award “Azbest-2017”

Guess writer on the unusual facts of his life. Interaktiv