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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Novelist Captures First Booker Prize

Mark Kharitonov, a Moscow novelist, on Tuesday night won the first Booker Russian Novel Prize, an award established this year by the sponsors of Britain's most prestigious literary honor.


In a ceremony at Moscow's elegant Union of Architects, Kharitonov received an award of 10, 000 pounds.


"I feel here our common spiritual task, and I hope that this will have its effect on our cultural atmosphere", he said at the ceremony, which was broadcast nationwide after the Channel 1 evening news.


An international panel chose Kharitonov on Tuesday for his novel "Lines of Fate, or Milashevich's Trunk", from a list of six finalists. About 50 works, all published this year, were originally nominated for the award.


The prize, to be awarded annually for the year's best novel in Russian, is the only one of its kind in Russia and promises to draw the public's attention to the country's top contemporary literary works.


The State Lenin Prize, the former Soviet Union's top artistic honor, has been discontinued.


It is the second such award to be established by Booker PLC, which founded the Booker Prize in England in 1968 for the best English-language novel published that year in the British Commonwealth.


"We had for years wondered if we could, do the Booker Prize somewhere else", Sir Michael Caine, director of the Booker Prize, said before Tuesday's ceremony. "The political changes here opened a possibility for us. This prize is a gesture of our respect for the novel tradition here".


Announced earlier in the year, the Booker Russian Novel Prize is co-sponsored by Tetra Pak International, and administered in Moscow by the British Council.


Other finalists for the prize included Ludmila Petrushevskaya, one of the most well known of today's women writers; Vladimir Makanin, whom some have labeled a modern-day Dostoyevsky; Friedrich Gorenstein, a psychological writer who has lived in Germany since the late 1970s; Alexander Ivanchenko, a young writer from the Urals; and Vladimir Sorokin, known better in the West than at home for his avant-garde prose.


Kharitonov's novel traces the life and fate of Milashevich, a major, though forgotten writer from Russia's past. His life is seen through the belongings in his trunk, which is discovered by a present-day scholar.


Although critics often accuse contemporary literature of failing to match the Russian tradition's difficult standards, judges for this prize said that they were impressed with the final selections.


"The good stuff was good by any standards", said Ellendea Proffer, an American publisher of Russian literature who was a member of the jury. "It is much better than what was considered good in the Brezhnev era. It is art for art's sake, a reaction to a century of lying".