Book Prize Winners for 2011

Best Contribution to Language Pedagogy

Wade, Terence. Using Russian Vocabulary.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Terence Wade’s Using Russian Vocabulary occupies a singular place in the library of pedagogical materials and reference books for teaching Russian. While the field has many Russian grammars and dictionaries, Wade’s text offers an original, well-organized and thoughtfully explicated tour of Russian’s core vocabulary. An ambitious project, the book combines word lists with etymological information, discussions of word formation, strategies for memorizing words, and varied exercises for practicing word meanings and forms. Every page of Wade’s work reveals the author’s deep philological knowledge, and his book’s elegant structure is inspired by his fine-tuned pedagogical intuition. This work not only acquaints students with Russian words, but also lets them in on the secret of the language’s cultural mapping of the world.

Best Contribution to Slavic Linguistics

Babby, Leonard H. The Syntax of Argument Structure.

Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Leonard Babby's The Syntax of Argument Structure is a major contribution to Slavic as well as theoretical linguistics, in which an intimate and sophisticated knowledge of Slavic morphosyntax is brought to bear on important theoretical questions in syntax for language in general. The book reaches well beyond Slavic, using Russian as a test case for specific proposals about argument structure, rather than simply using argument structure and generative grammar models as a way of looking at Russian. Babby shows how the argument structure of a verb determines the nature of the syntactic projection in a host of languages in addition to Russian, a view that contradicts the traditional syntax-based approach to the problem. A model of meticulous argumentation and clarity of vision, the book brings together strong and nuanced empirical evidence in favor of a position that Babby has argued for throughout much of his work, and through its accessibility to non-Slavic as well as Slavic linguists, it should initiate much-needed dialogue between Slavists and general linguists on the nature of argument structure.

Best Book in Literary/Cultural Studies

Oushakine, Serguei Alex. The Patriotism of Despair: Nation, War, and Loss in Russia.

Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2009.

With The Patriotism of Despair, Sergei Oushakine has given us an ambitious and nuanced analysis of post-Soviet culture shock, addressing the question “How did ordinary Russians create workable subjectivities in the face of total social collapse?” Working as an ethnographer impressively conversant in literary and cultural theory, he clarifies patterns of symbolic meaning in the array of material culture he has archived. Oushakine contends that Russian citizens rebuilt social bonds around a narrative of loss that replaced state affiliation with ethnic and kinship relations – a dynamic that has had enduring political reverberations. As a native of Barnaul, Altai, the main site where he conducted his investigations, he speaks from both inside and outside, as both native son and trained scholar, yielding an angle on his subject that is simultaneously clear-eyed and compassionate. He has written a sophisticated, moving and consequential account of the sometimes dismaying, sometimes inspiring strivings of people in crisis, an achievement for which he has richly earned the AATSEEL prize for Best Book of Literary/Cultural Criticism.

Best Literary Translation into English

Šteger, Aleš. The Book of Things: Poems.

Rochester, NY: BOA Editions, 2010. Translated from the Slovenian and with an introduction by Brian Henry.

Slovene poet Ales Steger, born in 1973, is not as well-known in this country as he should be. In this volume, Brian Henry has made an outstanding translation of Steger’s fourth book of poems, Knjiga reči. The things represented in the poems are quite various – ranging from foods to pets to body parts and gadgets – but each poem moves from its point of origin to unexpected, sometimes disturbing conclusions. Brian Henry creates a voice for Steger’s poems that is at once down-to-earth and expansive, conveying the surprises of the originals and Steger’s deadpan humor. Congratulations are also due to BOA Editions, which has published the work with a handsome, quirky design well suited to its contents.

Best Scholarly Translation into English

Efron, Ariadna. No Love Without Poetry: The Memoirs of Marina Tsvetaeva's Daughter.

Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2009. Edited and translated from the Russian by Diane Nemec Ignashev.

Diane Nemec Ignashev’s translation of Ariadna Efron’s memoirs gives a varied selection of writings in a rendering that is both punctilious and lyrical. The book is not only a rich and valuable source on the life and work of Tsvetaeva, as its subtitle advertises, but proof that Ariadna Efron was herself a wonderful writer. The book will attract not only fans of Tsvetaeva, but anyone with an interest in Russia in the early twentieth century or Russian emigre life of the 1920s and 30s. Along with her admirable translation, Nemec Ignashev provides useful apparatus of notes and a biographical glossary of the individuals mentioned in the text. We recommend this beautiful and useful book to everyone.