A very funny and interesting piece by Edward Docx about a visit to Tolstoy’s estate for the awarding of the Yasnaya Polyana literary prizes; I’ll quote the bit where he makes the mistake of mentioning that the chair of the judges for the Man Booker “is Dame Stella Rimington and that she is an ex-head of the security services in Britain”:
And—bam!—that’s it: now everyone is laughing. Oh, the west, they guffaw. Oh, England, they chortle. Oh, hypocrisy. Oh, MI5. Oh, MI6. Even the FSB would not dare! You mean, they splutter, that the winner of your most famous literary prize is judged by the security services? It seems I could not have told them a more perfect Anglo-Russian joke if I tried.
I try to explain that they are mistaken, that Dame Rimington is retired and is a now an author herself. Yes, someone cackles, like Putin is retired from the KGB!
The Yasnaya Polyana prizes are not tied to the year they are awarded; one is for a novel written in the 20th century, and the second is for “the most significant book written after 2000.” An interesting set-up. (Thanks, Paul!)