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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sergeyev Leaves Judging of 'Album' to Critics

Andrei Sergeyev was composed and quietly pleased Tuesday as he greeted the press one day after he was awarded the 1996 Russian Booker prize for the best work of fiction in the Russian language.

Sergeyev, 63, who until recently was better known as a literary translator than as a writer, refused to give any opinion about his prize-winning work, "The Stamp Album."

"Let the others judge my works, my analytical abilities differ from those of literary critics," he told reporters.

The novel describes Soviet life in the 1930s, piecing together what many specialists claim to be the truest picture of life at the time, when the Soviet system had total control over the lives of its subjects. But despite the terror, most Russians just went about their daily lives.

Sergeyev said he had never actually been in conflict with the system. "I never went into politics, never was a dissident, never had anything in common with them or even knew them. I just sat home and minded my own business," he said.

He began work on the book in 1973, he said, finishing it some 20 years later.

"I understood, at the time, that in the whole of Soviet literature there was no attempt to reflect reality. There were either fairy tales or if there was some reality, it was rationed. But the truth is either there, or not there."

According to the judges, the fifth annual Russian Booker Prize was awarded without a great deal of disagreement. Although not all of the judges had a clear preference for Sergeyev's candidacy over the other five titles of the short list, they said the choice was fair and reasonable.

"After long discussion we have decided that the novel by Andrei Sergeyev seemed to be the most deserving of the award," said Irina Prokhorova, founder and editor-in-chief of the Novoye Literaturnoye Obozrenie magazine and head of the five-member jury.

Another judge was more expansive. "He doesn't go into describing what is called Soviet man, neither does he describe anti-Soviet man ... he just writes about those who used to be called 'Soviet philistines' or 'the barefoot intelligentsia.' From this book I understood why communists did not manage to get rid of all the people in their land," said writer Yevgeny Popov. "When I read 'The Gulag Archipelago' I could not understand where a person like Solzhenitsyn could have come from, but he came from this particular environment."