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Co-Authors Oleg Lekmanov, Mikhail Sverdlov and Ilya Simanovsky Win First Place in Big Book Award

Ilya Simanovsky, Oleg Lekmanov, Mikhail Sverdlov

Ilya Simanovsky, Oleg Lekmanov, Mikhail Sverdlov

Big Book, one of Russia’s most prestigious literary prizes, has been awarded in Moscow, and the biographical book Venedikt Yerofeev: a Stranger has taken the first prize. The book was co-authored by Oleg Lekmanov (Professor in the HSE Faculty of Humanities), Mikhail Sverdlov (Associate Professor in the HSE School of Literary History and Theory) and Ilya Simanovsky.

In their interview with Izvestia, Lekmanov and Sverdlov spoke about how the three of them worked on Venedikt Yerofeev’s biography. Lekmanov said that while he authored the core of the text, Sverdlov wrote all the analysis of the Moscow-Petushki poem, and Simanovsky conducted the research.

‘This book includes a lot of materials, such as interviews, letters, and memoirs, some of which have been published for the first time. This is what we did together with Ilya: mostly, it was done by Ilya, while I coordinated the process,’ he said.

Lekmanov said that their team did not ‘completely work from scratch’; rather, they used ‘a brilliant issue of Teatr journal prepared by Dina Goder with interviews and memoirs about Yerofeev’, as well as the collection of memoirs About Venichka and Valery Berlin’s Chronicles of Venedikt Yerofeev’s Life and Creation.

‘These sources are very valuable and include a lot of information,’ he said. ‘We took some of the names from there.’

The authors were lucky in that a doctor who treated Simanovsky used to treat Yerofeev at one point in time. ‘He was the one who provided some of the most valuable materials,’ Lekmanov said.

Social networks, traditionally blamed by everyone,  were very useful in this case

The authors contacted a variety of people. ‘Some of them said, “to talk to this person,” so we contacted them.’

According to Sverdlov, a second edition of the book is now being prepared for publication.

‘The new edition will be bigger since we are continuing our investigation and are uncovering new things,’ he said. ‘This is largely thanks to Ilya Simanovsky’s outstanding research effort.’

The authors draw readers’ attention to Venedikt Yerofeev’s distinctive talent. Sverdlov says that the book they authored is a ‘biography of a very interesting, unique person.’

Sverdlov believes that ‘Venedikt Yerofeev is largely underestimated.’

‘Yes, he is popular, and isn’t our book’s success another sign that he is still loved?’ he asks rhetorically. ‘But there is no limit to admiration and discoveries.’

Big Book, a national literary award, was founded 14 years ago by the Center for the Support of Domestic Literature. First prize winners receive 3,000,000 roubles, second prize winners – 1,500,000 roubles, and third prize winners – 1,000,000 roubles. In previous years, the Big Book has been won by Dmitry Bykov, Viktoria Tokareva, Lev Danilkin, and Evgeny Vodolazkin. This year, second place was taken by Savely’s Days by Grigory Sluzhitel. Third prize winner is Guzel Yakhina with My Children (her other book, Zuleikha, won the first prize four years ago).

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