Sunday, January 23, 2011

Notable New Translations: What Happened in 2010 and What's Coming in 2011

I’ve finally compiled – with lots of help from Chad Post’s databases of new translations – a list of Russian-English translations published in 2010 and scheduled for publication in 2011. As always, I wish the list were longer but I was glad to see a fair bit of variety in 2010. I’m sure I’m missing books planned for 2011, so please let me know, through a comment or e-mail note, about books to add. Like Chad, I’m focusing on new translations, not retranslations of classics.

Note: I’ve used publishers’ release dates, when possible; in their absence, I’ve used Amazon’s. Some 2011 titles seem a bit fluid right now, too.

Here you go…

The Chukchi Bible, written by Yuri Rytkheu, translated by Ilona Yazhbin, and published by Archipelago Books, will be out in February. The publisher describes it as “a collection of the myths and tales of Yuri Rytkheu’s own shaman father.” An excerpt and review are available online, on the Archipelago site.

Vladimir Sorokin is having a big year in English translation. The Ice Trilogy, translated by Jamey Gambrell and published by New York Review Books, comes out on the ides of March, as does Day of the Oprichnik, also translated by Gambrell, and published by FSG. I thought Oprichnik was interesting (previous post), but the only early review I’ve seen of the translation, from Complete Review, was middling, a B-. Orthofer’s conclusion sums up my own feelings about much of Sorokin’s writing: “Too much in the novel – from Komiaga onwards – is merely representative; too little actually conveys Sorokin’s vision with any art.” Oddly, though, Sorokin’s approach started to work for me when I read Oprichnik, and I’m even looking forward to the next Ice Trilogy book, Путь Бро, known in translation as Bro. I wonder if Sorokin’s books have a cumulative effect…

Overlook will release two Russian translations in 2011. Daniel Stein, Interpreter, by Ludmila Ulitskaya and translated by Arch Tait, comes out March 31. Daniel Stein is one of my favorite books from recent years (past post), and I’ve received quite a few messages from readers inquiring about an English version. Also from Overlook: a second book in Max Frei’s Labyrinths of Echo series, translated by Polly Gannon and Astamur Moore, on June 9, 2011; the book follows up on Frei’s The Stranger, from 2009. I read a few of the first novellas in this series and thought they were okay, albeit with some fun passages. Frei’s books sell very well in Russia but the genre isn’t my thing: I’d recommend Frei most to readers who enjoy cozy fantasy-science fiction reading with an edge. Another fantasy-science fiction book coming this year is Alexey Pehov’s Shadow Chaser, due on April 21, 2011, from Tor Books, a division of Macmillan; WorldCat lists Andrew Bromfield as translator.

Andrei Kurkov is also having a big year: Melville House will publish Kurkov’s Death and the Penguin and Penguin Lost, both translated by George Bird, in June, and Harvill Secker will release The Milkman in the Night, Amanda Love Darragh’s translation of Kurkov’s Ночной молочник, in August. Kurkov seems quite popular in Europe… but I’ve never read any of his books.

I’ll recap 2010 translations, too, since I missed a couple last year. I’ve mentioned some of these books in the past… Olga Slavnikova’s 2017, translated by Marian Schwartz and published by Overlook (previous post); Moscow Noir, a very good collection of very dark stories, translated by “various” and published by Akashic (previous post); Squaring the Circle, a collection of young Debut prizewinners’ stories, translated by “various” (including me) and published by Glas; Dmitrii Bykov’s ЖД (Living Souls), translated and shortened by Cathy Porter and published by Alma (previous post); German Sadulaev’s Я – Чеченец! (I Am a Chechen!), translated by Anna Gunin and published by Harvill Secker; and Petr Aleshkovskii’s Рыба (Fish), translated by Nina Murray and published by Russian Life (previous post).

I know little about two others: Alexey Pehov’s Крадущийся в тени (Shadow Prowler), translated by Andrew Bromfield and published by Tor, which one Amazon reviewer calls “epic fantasy adventure,” and Sherlock Holmes in Russia, with stories from P. Orlovetz and P. Nikitin, translated by Alex Auswaks and published by Robert Hale.

That’s it… Enjoy!

Up Next: A few of Fazil’ Iskander’s wonderful stories about a boy named Chik, then Belarusian writer Viktor Martinovich’s Паранойя (Paranoia), which Timothy Snyder wrote about (here) in The New York Review of Books in October 2010.

Disclaimer/Disclosure Corner: I received copies, electronic or paper, of several of the translated books listed above: Living Souls, Fish, 2017, Moscow Noir, and Squaring the Circle. I’ve discussed various aspects of publishing and translation with a number of people and publishers mentioned in this post. I’ve written a blanket disclaimer/disclosure statement that’s available here.


  1. Thanks for this list, Lisa - we are fellow contributors to Squaring the Circle , it seems. May I add to your list my own collection of Russian twentieth-century supernatural fiction in translation, Red Spectres , which is forthcoming with Angel Classics in 2011? (American publication details tbc). Not just for lovers of a good ghost story, my collection includes nine previously untranslated stories by the likes of Aleksandr Grin, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, and Mikhail Bulgakov - besides some less well-known authors like Aleksandr Chayanov and Georgy Peskov. I'll pass on more details when they're confirmed...

  2. Thank you for the addition, Russian Dinosaur. This sounds like an interesting book -- I'll watch for those additional details!

  3. I hope I get to read some of these translations.

  4. I really liked Kurkov's Death and the Penguin and am looking forward to reading his other works. It's weird stuff, but pretty fantastic.

    Speaking of fantastic, it's really cool that some sci-fi and fantasy books are getting translated. These are almost exclusively Anglo-centric genres... great to see some other countries breaking in.

    Looks like there's a lot to look forward to in 2011!

  5. Thanks for the tip on Kurkov, Biblibio! I've looked for his books on and off but haven't, so far, had any success finding the first of the penguin books. Maybe next time!

    A tremendous amount of contemporary Russian fiction has elements of fantasy, sci fi, or mysticism so it's definitely fitting that so many of the translations fall within those categories, if only loosely. I hope you find something to enjoy in this year's bunch.

    Thank you, by the way, for writing about Meir Shalev on your blog. I first saw his name on a Russian book site and have wondered about him... but not done any research!

  6. These are almost exclusively Anglo-centric genres... great to see some other countries breaking in.

    If you mean that other countries are only now starting to write and publish sf, that's simply not true. There's a huge quantity of sf in other languages going back well over a century, which The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction does a decent job of covering. Alexander Veltman, for example, was writing sf in the 1830s, including what is perhaps the first novel to use time travel, Predki Kalimerosa: Aleksandr Filippovich Makedonskii (The forebears of Kalimeros: Alexander, son of Philip of Macedon) (1836).

  7. Thank you for your comment about the history of Russian science fiction, Languagehat... I know this is a favorite topic for you. A question for you: How popular was science fiction in the 19th century? My knowledge of Russian sf and fantasy writing is pretty anecdotal and/or tied to classics -- We, A. Tolstoy, Bulgakov, etc. -- until the post-Soviet period.

  8. Not very. Jeffrey Brooks, the expert on 19th-century popular Russian reading, says (When Russia Learned to Read: Literacy and Popular Literature, 1861-1917, pp. 264-65): "Despite the interest in technology shown in the stories, there is an absence of the literature of science fiction and tinkering that was so well developed at that time for popular American audiences... Nor was there a Russian Jules Verne or an H. G. Wells. The works of these writers circulated in Russia in translation but were not adapted for the lowest level of the reading public, perhaps because of a more limited experience with new technology by both writers and readers. There was also little evidence of popular interest in electricity in the Russian fiction, probably for the same reason."

    This may well have to do with the nature of the readership; as he says in his Epilogue, "What was extraordinary about Russian popular commercial literature in contrast to Western European and American was its peasant character. Written for peasants and former peasants by people who were close to their world and concerns, it served these often first-generation readers with information and ideas they could readily absorb as they sought to make sense of the changing world around them."

  9. Thank you, Languagehat. The mention of electricity is particularly interesting!

  10. Nice your helps all the men which make translation.