A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING, winner of the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award for Foreign Literature

Ruth Ozeki, Vladimir Tolstoy, Fekla Tolstoya

Ruth Ozeki, Vladimir Tolstoy, Fekla Tolstoya


Moscow, October 30, 2015 — The Yasnaya Polyana Award for the best foreign novel of the 21st century has been awarded to A Tale for the Time Being by Japanese-American author Ruth Ozeki. The award ceremony for the 13th annual Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award, which was founded by the Leo Tolstoy Museum & Estate and Samsung Electronics, took place on October 28, 2015, at the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Russia. For the first time, the award included a category for Foreign Literature, making Yasnaya Polyana Russia’s first international literary award, and Ozeki the first international recipient. Ozeki and the novel’s Russian translator, Yekaterina Ilyina, will be awarded 1,000,000 and 200,000 rubles, respectively. A Tale for the Time Being, is published in Russia by AST, by Viking Penguin Books in the US, and by Canongate in the UK.

During the award ceremony, Vladimir Tolstoy, great-great-grandson of the writer Leo Tolstoy and chairman of the Yasnaya Polyana prize committee, introduced the new Foreign Literature Award, saying,

“The long list for Foreign Literature consisted of outstanding books, which represent modern world literature. There were books by very famous authors who have won the biggest literary awards, including Eco, Coetzee, Pynchon, Houellebecq, and Barnes. There were very popular novels which are being widely read at the moment by authors Tartt, Franzen, Nothomb, Atwood, Foer.”

Tolstoy then introduced the winner, comparing A Tale for the Time Being to the novels by his great-great-grandfather, Leo Tolstoy:

“A Tale for the Time Being fascinated me with its humanity, very calm confidential tone and profound significance. The book is a dialogue between two continents, between two different civilizations, and everything in this book naturally merges into one story filled with compassion, personal involvement in others’ lives/destinies, the very humane attitude which connects Ruth Ozeki to Leo Tolstoy. Unconditional humanism is characteristic both of A Tale for the Time Being and of Leo Tolstoy’s works.”

In her acceptance speech, Ruth Ozeki said,

“To receive this award, given by the Tolstoy estate, is an unimaginable honor, and I am deeply grateful. We writers like to take credit for connecting people with our stories, but actually human beings are already deeply and fundamentally connected, and our stories are simply an expression of this.  Literature affirms our connection with each other. Literature works because people enjoy this sense of basic human interconnectedness and find it inspiring.”

Experts in the Foreign Literature category who nominated titles for the award included translators, foreign book publishers, journalists and literary critics; they recommended books they considered to be the most significant foreign works of literature, and the jury members selected the laureate. The long list for this category comprised 33 titles by international authors.

Tolstoy spoke about the award’s widening its scope to include the recognition of foreign authors:

“On the one hand this is my personal nostalgia for the days when we were absorbed by world literature,” said Tolstoy. “We did not have a fully fledged beacon of world literature in those days, and I hope that the nominees for the Foreign Literature category can become such a beacon. The first winner of the prize is extremely important, as he or she will establish a trend.”

Here you can find more information on the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award, the nominees for the Foreign Literature category, and the winners in other categories.

More about the Award:

The annual literary award Yasnaya Polyana, founded in 2003 by Samsung Electronics and the L.N. Tolstoy Museum-Estate, is one of the most prestigious and famous literary awards in Russia. The award supports the traditions of classical literature and the relevant trends in contemporary literature. The jury, which is headed by great-great-grandson of the writer Leo Tolstoy, includes famous Russian writers, literary critics and public figures. Winners of the award across different nomination categories have included Anton Utkin, Alexey Ivanov, Zakhar Prilepin, Vasily Golovanov, Mikhail Tarkovsky, Elena Katishonok, Yevgeniy Vodolazkin, Roman Sechin, Fazil Iskander, Valentin Rasputin and Yuri Bondarev.

The Yasnaya Polyana literary award is presented to the best fictional work in the traditional format in the following nomination categories: “Contemporary Classic,” “21st Century” and “Childhood, Boyhood, Youth.” In 2015, for the first time, the award included the new nomination categories “Foreign Literature” and the special Samsung nomination category “Readers’ Choice.”

"Despite the economic crisis in the country, the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award did not slowdown, but the opposite, we broadened the nominations and increased the prize fund. We are grateful to our long-term partner Samsung Electronics. This makes our award the biggest literature award in the country," says Vladimir Tolstoy, the jury chairman of Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award, adviser on culture of the President of Russian Federation.

Jury members:

  • Lev Anninsky, Soviet and Russian literary critic, writer, essayist, literature expert
  • Pavel Basinsky, journalist, writer, literary critic
  • Aleksey Varlamov, novelist, scholar of 20th century Russian literature
  • Evgeniy Vodolazkin, Russian literary critic and writer, winner of the Yasnaya Polyana literary award
  • Valentin Kurbatov, writer, essayist, literary critic
  • Vladislav Otroshenko, Russian writer and essayist, winner of the Yasnaya Polyana literary award
  • Vladimir Tolstoy, chairman of the jury, advisor to the President of the Russian Federation on cultural matters, journalist.

Samsung Electronics has been working in Russia for over 20 years. The company actively participates in the country's social and cultural life. The company is a long-time sponsor of the Bolshoi Theatre (since 1991) and a partner of the State Hermitage Museum (since 1997). In July 2003, Leo Tolstoy Museum & Estate and Samsung Electronics founded the Yasnaya Polyana Book Award. Samsung also actively supports modern art exhibitions.

The Yasnaya Polyana Museum is a unique place that commemorates Leo Tolstoy. It includes the writer’s house and big estate with parks, forests and orchards. Yasnaya Polyana is a major cultural center that hosts international writers’ conferences, translators’ seminars, summer festivals and many other literary and art events. The museum was the initiator of large-scale projects such as “Karenina Live”.

For more information about Yasnaya Polyana or the award, please contact:

Yulia Vronskaya | Yasnaya Polyana
8 (915) 680 43 08 |  youlya.vronskaya@yandex.ru

Ruth Ozeki, Vladimir Tolstoy

Ruth Ozeki, Vladimir Tolstoy

2015 Longlist for The International IMPAC Dublin Award

A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING has made the 2015 longlist for The International IMPAC Dublin Award.

This award is presented annually for a novel written in English or translated into English. The Award is sponsored by Dublin City Council, the municipal government of Dublin, and administered by Dublin City Public Libraries. The Award aims to promote excellence in world literature. Nominations are submitted by library systems in major cities throughout the world. 

Medici Book Club Prize

A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING has won the 2014 Medici Book Club Prize.

The mission of the Medici Book Club Prize is to recognize a distinguished work of fiction that has inspired thoughtful conversation and contributed to a deeper understanding of the human experience. The $5,000 award is the first annual national prize given to acknowledge the tremendous impact that book club selections have on readers. The Medici Book Club Prize is awarded each year at the Beverly Hills Literary Escape.

The Medici Book Club Prize nominees are selected by an advisory council which includes nationally celebrated book group coordinator and founder of the Beverly Hills Literary Escape, Julie Robinson; three judges annually who have written and published respected works of literature; and the Medici Founding Patrons.

Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic

A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING has won the 2014 Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic.

The Sunburst Award for Excellence in Canadian Literature of the Fantastic is a juried award which recognizes exceptional writing in three categories: adult, young adult and short story. The awards are presented each fall to the best Canadian speculative fiction novel, book-length collection, or short story published any time during the previous calendar year.

Named after the first novel by Phyllis Gotlieb (1926–2009), one of the first celebrated writers of contemporary Canadian science fiction, the award is a cash prize of $1,000 for each of the Adult and Young Adult categories, and of $500 for the short story category. All three awards are presented with the distinctive Sunburst medallion. 


I don’t see a way of separating comedy from tragedy. They are, as the ancients knew, two faces of the same coin. I was really happy when Jane Smiley, in a review for the Chicago Tribune, described [my work as] “comical-satirical-farcical-epical-tragical-romantical.” That pretty much describes everything you need to know about my aspirations as a novelist!
— Ruth Ozeki

September 16, 2014
Los Angeles Review of Books
Where We Are for the Time Being with Ruth Ozeki
David Palumbo-Liu


A Tale for the Time Being plays with this notion of self or selves, which in Buddhism is called no-self, or anatman. Buddhism teaches that because everything is impermanent, there is no fixed self that remains unchanged in time. And Buddhism also teaches that there is not an independent self, that can exist separate from others. Thich Nhat Hanh calls this interbeing. So what we experience as the self is more like a collection of fluid, interpenetrating, interdependencies that change and flow through time.
— Ruth Ozeki

September 21, 2014
This Dish
The Buddhist as Novelist
Andrew Sullivan

The Guardian: Ruth Ozeki beats Thomas Pynchon to top Kitschie award

Ozeki won the Kitschies Red Tentacle prize on Wednesday night for her story weaving together the lives of a schoolgirl, a writer, and a zen-anarchist nun. The prize is for novels containing "elements of the speculative and fantastic", with Ozeki seeing off competition from Thomas Pynchon, Anne Carson, Patrick Ness and James Smythe to win.


February 13, 2014
Ruth Ozeki beats Thomas Pynchon to top Kitschie award
The Guardian
February 13, 2014