Monday, January 7, 2008

Dina Rubina and "Apples from Shlitzbutter's Garden"

“A story by an Uzbek author in Russian on a Jewish theme.”
“Apples from Shlitzbutter’s Garden,” Dina Rubina

It’s too bad so little of Dina Rubina’s fiction has been translated into English. Rubina, who lives in Israel, is a popular and critically acclaimed writer in Russia, and I’ve noticed that a significant number of visitors to my blog want information about Rubina’s translated works.

Two pieces of Rubina’s fiction are readily available in English. Вот идёт Мессия! (Here Comes the Messiah), a postmodern novel about émigré life in Israel, is easy to find and has some wonderful passages with good humor and observations, though I don’t particularly enjoy reading books with such sliced up narratives.

I liked Rubina’s short story “Яболки из сада Шлицбутера” (“Apples from Shlitzbutter’s Garden”) much more, thanks to a straightforward, friendly narrative voice. The story is included in the collection With Signs & Wonders: An International Anthology of Jewish Fabulist Fiction.

Rubina’s autobiographical short story is a first-person narrative of a woman’s visit to an editor, carrying “a story by an Uzbek author in Russian on a Jewish theme” that the narrator has promised to hand-deliver from Tashkent to Moscow. Including an Uzbek writer who addresses Jewish themes in Russian texts is just one element of Rubina’s examination of nationality, identity, and language.

I particularly admired Rubina’s skill at combining humor with tragedy, and her judicious use of mysticism chops nicely through the everyday Soviet reality on the surface of “Apples.” I won’t say more because I don’t want to spoil anything… a short story is, after all, a story that isn’t very long!

My only regret about reading “Apples from Shlitzbutter’s Garden” is that I could almost smell the apples. Raw apples are literally a forbidden fruit for me because of allergies.

Edit: Rubina's novella На Верхней Масловке (On Upper Maslovka) is available as an ebook translated by Marian Schwartz.

Books on Amazon:

Dina Rubina's Here Comes the Messiah!

With Signs & Wonders: An International Anthology of Jewish Fabulist Fiction


  1. Hi Lisa -- I've linked to you from the Russian Reading Challenge (currently bogged down in Solzhenitsyn's August 1914, gah!). I'm interested in the fact that you've said this author isn't much translated -- I'm a translator, and I've been looking for another author to work on. Are there any particular pieces you'd suggest I look at po-russki? I'm going to follow your links right now.

  2. Hi, Andrea!

    And thanks for leaving your comment. I remember you from the RRC because of the Solzhenitsyn -- I always heard that book was a tough slog -- good luck with it. I started the RRC with Gogol's "Dikanka" stories, which aren't easy for me, either, because of the dialect, though they seem to be getting a little easier.

    As for translation... I'm not sure if you're interested in Rubina in particular or finding "some" new writer to work on. I'm only getting started with Rubina myself so don't have much in the way of specific recommendations right now, though she's on my near-term reading shelf because I like her writing... despite my lack of excitement about finishing "Messiah."

    If you're specifically interested in Rubina, I'd suggest buying one of her books published by Eksmo -- the one I have, "В России надо жить долго," contains "Messiah" plus a promising-looking novella ("Камера наезжает!..") and stories of various lengths. Another collection listed on includes "На верхней Масловке" and "На солнечной стороне улицы," which seem to be two of her best-known novel(la)s.

    In case you didn't see it in my previous posting, Rubina's agent's site is here:

    If you're making a broader search for a current writer to translate, I'd probably suggest checking Booker Prize nominee lists as well as thick journals on
    One other thought: I enjoy critic Andrei Nemzer's year-end pieces about fiction:

    Feel free to e-mail me with more details -- it might give me ideas!