On June 7 the sixth annual Pushkin House Book Prize was announced at a standing-room-only awards ceremony in London.
The £5,000 prize for the best English-language non-fiction book published in 2017 about Russia was given to “The War Within: Diaries from the Siege of Leningrad” (Harvard University Press) by Alexis Peri, assistant professor of history at Boston University.
A second book, “Other Russias,” (Penguin) written and illustrated by Victoria Lomasko and translated by Thomas Campbell, was given a special commendation and an award of £2,000.
The prizes were awarded by a jury of five distinguished readers and writers — by tradition four native English speakers and one English-speaking Russian citizen. This year the panel of judges was chaired by The Rt. Hon. Sir Nick Clegg (chair), former deputy prime minister, and included 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 in Moscow; Dervla Murphy, celebrated author of travel books; and John Thornhill, innovation editor of the Financial Times.
In the spring the jury narrowed down the first list of more than 70 books to six volumes. That was a diverse set of books varying in length from under 200 pages to more than 1,100, and in genre from a classic biography to a collection of letters and drawings sent from the Gulag.
On behalf of the jury and Pushkin House, The Rt. Hon. Sir Nick Clegg, chair of the jury, called “The War Within” a “remarkable book. To have unearthed such searing, and hitherto unpublished, testimonies of the agony of the Leningrad siege is achievement enough…The book offers a genuinely new way of looking at, and understanding, a pivotal moment of Russian modern history.”