Professor Gary Shteyngart Shortlisted for the 2022 Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize

Jessie Shohfi
November 15, 2022

Our Country Friends, by Associate Professor Gary Shteyngart, is among the titles shortlisted for this year’s Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction. 

Established in 2000, the award is the UK’s longest running prize for comic fiction. The winner of the prize takes home a jeroboam of Bollinger, as well as a set of the Everyman Wodehouse collection. Finally, in the spirit of Wodehouse, a local pig is named after the winning novel. Shteyngart, recognized for Super Sad True Love Story in 2011, was the first American winner of the prize.

The Prize has announced the 2022 shortlist of 12 titles, selected from 63 submissions. This list, up from the usual five or six, was extended in recognition of the exceptionally strong list of submissions this year. The shortlist is composed of the funniest novels of the year which continue the Wodehouse tradition of witty characters and perfectly-timed comic phrases.

Chair of the Judges, Peter Florence, commented, “What a feast of wonderfully entertaining writing and a delightful spectrum of comedy, wit, satire and knockabout farce. There are great books here, and authors who mine the darker seams of life with humour and humanity.”

Our Country Friends was released in November of last year from Random House to commercial and critical acclaim. It was a New York Times bestseller, and was named one of the best books of the year by various sources, including The New York Times Book Review, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and more.  

The New York Times recognized the novel as an Editors’ Choice, saying, “A perfect novel for these times and all times, the single textual artifact from the pandemic era I would place in a time capsule as a representation of all that is good and true and beautiful about literature.”

Set in March 2020, the novel follows a small group of friends who decide to wait out the pandemic together, gathering in a house in the country. Over the next six months, the group undergoes various ups and downs, including the blossoming of new romances, the finding of unexpected friendships, and the reemergence of latent betrayals. This eccentric group includes “a Russian-born novelist, his Russian-born psychiatrist wife, their precocious child obsessed with K-pop, a struggling Indian American writer, a wildly successful Korean American app developer, a global dandy with three passports, a Southern flamethrower of an essayist, and a movie star.” As the world outside continues to be threatened by the pandemic, these isolated characters must each reevaluate their choices and decide what truly matters to them.

The winner of this year’s Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize for Comic Fiction will be announced at a reception on Tuesday, November 22 at the Bollinger Burlington Bar in London. Our Country Friends is available for purchase here

Gary Shteyngart was born in Leningrad in 1972, and came to the United States seven years later. His memoir, Little Failure (2014) was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and was selected as one of the best books of the year by over 45 news magazines and journals around the world. Shteyngart is also the author of the novels Lake Success (2018), Super Sad True Love Story (2010), Absurdistan (2006) and The Russian Debutante’s Handbook (2002). His work has been translated into 29 languages. Super Sad True Love Story won the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize and was selected as one of the best books of the year by over 40 news journals and magazines around the world. Absurdistan was chosen as one of the 10 best books of the year by The New York Times Book Review and Time. The Russian Debutante’s Handbook won the Stephen Crane Award for First Fiction and the National Jewish Book Award for Fiction. His fiction and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Esquire, GQ, The New York Times Magazine, and many other publications.