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US HISTORIAN ALEXIS PERI WINS 2018 PUSHKIN HOUSE RUSSIAN BOOK PRIZE FOR THE WAR WITHIN

VICTORIA LOMASKO’S GRAPHIC REPORTAGE OTHER RUSSIAS COMMENDED

Alexis Peri, assistant professor of history at Boston University, has won the sixth annual Pushkin House Russian Book Prize for her work The War Within: Diaries from the Siege of Leningrad. Her book, published by Harvard University Press, was selected by a panel of five distinguished judges from a shortlist of six strong and varied contenders covering history, biography, international relations and graphic reportage.

The Rt. Hon. Sir Nick Clegg, chair of the jury, said: "The War Within is a remarkable book. To have unearthed such searing, and hitherto unpublished, testimonies of the agony of the Leningrad siege is achievement enough. But the spotlight that Alexis Peri casts on the way in which families, individual identity and time itself are warped by such extreme suffering is both unflinching and disturbing. The fact that these heart-breaking diaries were initially encouraged by the authorities, and then brushed under the carpet after the war because they didn't conform to the "heroic" official rendition of the Leningrad siege, only makes them more poignant. The book offers a genuinely new way of looking at, and understanding, a pivotal moment of Russian modern history."

The prize, run by Pushkin House, an independent cultural centre in central London, showcases, promotes and encourages the best accessible non-fiction writing in English about Russia and the Russian-speaking world. This year’s shortlist included works translated from Russian and French.

The panel of judges for 2018 comprised The Rt. Hon. Sir Nick Clegg (chair), Deputy Prime Minister in Britain’s Coalition Government 2010-15; Rosalind Blakesley, Head of the department of the history of art at Cambridge University, and winner of last year’s prize; Oleg Budnitsky, Professor at the National Research University Higher School of Economics; Dervla Murphy, Irish author; and John Thornhill, innovation editor of the Financial Times.

The judges also singled out for commendation Other Russias (Penguin) by Victoria Lomasko and translated by Thomas Campbell, as the best book in translation, which receives a subsidiary award of £2,000.

Sir Nick said: "One of the key qualities this year's judges of the Pushkin Prize were looking for in the books we selected was accessibility. Other Russias is not only a strikingly original, irreverent and brave work by Victoria Lomasko, but it is also one of the most accessible books to have been published about life in modern Russia in years. Lomasko's powerful use of words and sketches provides an unvarnished insight into the life of ordinary Russians living in such an extraordinary country."

Douglas Smith and Stephanie Ellis-Smith, co-funders of the prize, said: “We’re thrilled to congratulate Alexis Peri on her moving, revelatory, and path-breaking book, as well as Victoria Lomasko for her singularly brilliant Other Russias and Thomas Campbell for his masterful translation.”

Marc Polonsky, trustee of The Polonsky Foundation, which also funds the prize, said: "Once again, the Pushkin House Book Prize has demonstrated the calibre and variety of contemporary writing about Russia. Congratulations to the worthy winners selected from such a competitive field."

The 2018 shortlisted titles were (click on each for more information):  

∙  Armageddon and Paranoia: The Nuclear Confrontation. Rodric Braithwaite (Profile Books)

∙  Other Russias. Victoria Lomasko. (Penguin), translated from the Russian by Thomas Campbell (first published by n+1)

∙  The War Within: Diaries From the Siege of Leningrad. Alexis Peri. (Harvard University Press)

∙  Stalin’s Meteorologist: One Man’s Untold Story of Love, Life, and Death. Olivier Rolin. (Penguin) translated from the French by Ros Schwartz

∙  The House of Government: A Saga of the Russian Revolution. Yuri Slezkine. (Princeton University Press)

∙  Gorbachev: His Life and Times. William Taubman. (Simon & Schuster)

About the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize

The annual prize of £5,000 is awarded to the author of the best book about Russia or the Russian-speaking world accessible to the general reader, and published in English for the first time during the previous calendar year. Translations from other languages are eligible and actively sought.

The award is made possible thanks to generous contributions from Douglas Smith and Stephanie Ellis-Smith, and The Polonsky Foundation.

Previous winners are: Douglas Smith for Former People: the Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy (Macmillan); Catherine Merridale for Red Fortress: The Secret Heart of Russia’s History (Allen Lane); Serhii Plokhii for The Last Empire: The Final Days of the Soviet Union (Oneworld); Dominic Lieven for Towards the Flame (Penguin); and Rosalind Blakesley for The Russian Canvass (Yale).

 

The advisory board for the Pushkin House Russian Book Prize comprises:

·  Sir Rodric Braithwaite, former British ambassador to Moscow and author of Afgantsy

·  Andrew Jack (chair), chairman emeritus, Pushkin House, and journalist at the Financial Times

·  Bridget Kendall, Master of Peterhouse, Cambridge University

·  Andrew Nurnberg, managing director, Andrew Nurnberg Associates literary agency

·  Marc Polonsky, trustee, The Polonsky Foundation

·  Douglas Smith, historian, translator, author and winner of the 2013 Pushkin House Russian book prize

The information partners are Colta.ru, the Moscow Times and Orbita.

For further press information, author and jacket images, and interview requests please contact Rebecca Ostrovksy at rebecca.ostrovksy@pushkinhouse.org.uk  +44 20 7269 9770.