Saturday, June 6, 2009

Happy Birthday to “Наше всё" & Newish Translations

A.S. Pushkin. Today marks 210 years since the birth of Aleksandr Pushkin, the Russian writer also known as “наше всё” (“our everything” or “our all”). (Thanks to Josefina of Russian Blog for the Pushkin birthday reminder.)

The “our everything” tag originated in 1859 with critic Apollon Grigor’ev’s article “Взгляд на русскую литературу со смерти Пушкина” (“A Look at Russian Literature Since the Death of Pushkin”) (a brief Russian piece on the subject or the entire Russian-language Grigor’ev article). The label stuck. I particularly like Pushkin’s Повести Белкина (Belkin Tales), which became the source of my predilection for the Belkin brand of computer cables.

New Translations. I spent a few hours at BookExpo America last week, where I was reminded of several relatively new translations of Russian books. It was nice to see them on display!

Seven Stories Press released Marian Schwartz’s translation of Ivan Goncharov’s Обломов (Oblomov) last December. Schwartz translated the L.S. Geiro version of the original, which Seven Stories calls “definitive.” It was published in 1987.

New York Review of Books introduced a new translation of Andrei Platonov’s Котлован (The Foundation Pit) in April 2009. This translation, too, is based on an edition of the manuscript now considered definitive. I think the most interesting aspect of this translation is that it is the work of Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, and Olga Meerson… making it Robert Chandler’s second translation of the book. R. Chandler provides background in this comment. (Previous post on The Foundation Pit)

Finally, Ardis Publishing is now part of the Overlook Press, the house that offers Today I Wrote Nothing, Matvei Yankelevich’s translation of selected works by Daniil Kharms (2007). A paperback version will be out at the end of this month. Ardis offers a smallish but varied list of Russian books in translation, including two of my favorites, Vladimir Makanin’s Лаз (Escape Hatch) and Долог наш путь (The Long Road Ahead), plus yet another version of The Foundation Pit, this one translated by Thomas P. Whitney. (Previous post on Makanin’s novellas)

One more “finally”… If you’re looking for Russian books in new English translation and missed last week’s post on the 2009 Academia Rossica prize, here’s a direct link to the PDF of the Rossica Prize brochure. It includes a list of all nominees plus excerpts from the finalists, in Russian and English, making it a particularly fun piece for bilingual reading.

Pushkin on Amazon

The Foundation Pit on Amazon

Marian Schwartz's translation of Oblomov

Baby Pushkin portrait by Xavier de Maistre, 1800-1802


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