Monday, December 31, 2012
Posted by Lisa Hayden Espenschade at 5:25 PM
Saturday, December 29, 2012
Where to start? A murder. A stabbing that hits the heart. May
18, 1952. Klara Tsetkin Street, Chernigov, Ukraine. The victim is Lilia Vorobeichik.
The man sent to investigate the case is Mikhail Tsupkoi. Case closed early, murder
solved, pinned on Roman Moiseenko, who’d been romantically involved with
Vorobeichik. Moiseenko is dead, suicide.
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
There’s a certain category of books—including today’s
subject, Serhij Zhadan’s
Voroshilovgrad—that are nigh on scary
to write about. Voroshilovgrad, which
I read in Russian, in Zaven Babloyan’s translation from the original Ukrainian,
isn’t just a novel: it’s a wonderfully mind-occupying and mind-bending experience in the
form of a first-person narrative from a man, German Korolev, who returns to his
childhood places after his brother, proprietor of a service station, goes
Voroshilovgrad crosses, with tremendous grace, back and forth between lyrical dreaminess and brutal nightmarishness, and Zhadan works in lots of absurdity… it’s absurdity of the sort that feels normal in books set in the Former Soviet Union, making everything in Voroshilovgrad feel paradoxically both real and bizarre. There are cornfields, grabby criminals, members of the Штунда/Stunda sect, a bus driver asleep at the wheel, a refugee camp inhabited by nomads wanting to head west, and the most bizarre soccer game I’ve ever read.
Тому, кто никогда не жил на Востоке Украины, многие сцены должны казаться совершенной фантасмагорией -- а они этнографически точны. Из локального, ностальгического и мистического Жадану, мне кажется, удалось сложить нечто, выражающее уникальные и универсальные чувства -- чувства, какими всегда пропитаны великие истории.
In my not-so-graceful [but with dumb error corrected!] translation:
Many scenes probably seem absolutely phantasmagorical to someone who’s never lived in Eastern Ukraine, but they’re ethnographically accurate. I think Zhadan managed, using the local, the nostalgic, and the mystical, to create something that expresses unique and universal feelings, the sorts of feelings that always permeate great stories/histories.
|Postcard-like photo of Kliment |
Voroshilov monument in Lugansk:
it (kinda sorta) gets a mention in the novel.
Sunday, December 9, 2012
It was, put mildly, a supremely pleasant surprise to spend
last week in Moscow: how could I refuse an invitation from the Institute of
Translation to spend three days in workshops on publishing and translation,
plus excursions to the Non/fiction book fair? I added a few days to the
beginning and end of my trip so I could see friends, go the Big Book award
ceremony, and buy books, making for perfect business-with-pleasure travel. A
|Non/fiction with drizzle.|
|Things I carried home: |
books... plus German throat lozenges I wish
I could buy in the U.S. and a ticket to Non/fiction
Tuesday, December 4, 2012
Addition 1: An article from RIANovosti with comments about the award. (NB: They got Stepnova's first name wrong at the top: she's Marina!) I'm posting this because I agree with writer and critic Alisa Ganieva's comment that Dmitriev's book was a safe choice; Ganieva said she would have chosen a winner from the Stepnova, Slavnikova, or Terekhov books. This article also includes a comment from Booker committee chair Igor Shaitanov expressing his pleasure with the choice because the Booker's goal is to try to make serious Russian literature competitive; another article, on Gazeta.ru, has Shaitanov hinting that Dmitriev's book was noted by the prize's English partners and may be translated into English.
Addition 2: A thorough piece from Izvestia by critic Liza Novikova, who (as always!) fits a lot into a brief article. Among other things, Liza calls Dmitriev's novel a continuation of the Soviet-era "village prose" tradition, noting that Dmitriev manages to create a positive character in Paniukov, a rarity in contemporary literature. I agree and think it's one of the book's best aspects. Liza also includes some interesting quotes from finalists Slavnikova and Terekhov, with Slavnikova discussing how her book might have been different if written now and Terekhov saying that if readers see his Germans as social satire, then it must be social satire.
Addition 3: Anna Narinskaia's piece for Kommersant. Among other things, Narinskaia mentions the Booker's apparent trend of moderation (after those scandalous (!) Elizarov and Koliadina wins...), 2012 jury chair Samuil Lur'e's comment that Russian literature died back around, uhm, 1949 sending readers to foreign detective novels, and (writer and jury member) Roman Senchin's response that, essentially, all is not lost. Phew.
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
The Big Book awards are scheduled for November 27, when I'll be in Moscow... and plan to go to the Big Book award ceremony. Since I'm traveling light, at least electronically speaking, I'm scheduling this piece to post automatically -- I'll tap in a comment, as Anonymous, late that day/night with the winners. I'll try to remember to take pictures to post later in my trip report!
For everyone's reference, here's the list of finalists:
- Maria Galina: Медведки (Mole-Crickets)
- Daniil Granin: Мой лейтенант… (My Lieutenant…)
- Aleksandr Grigorenko: Мэбэт. История человека тайги(Mebet. The Story of a Person from the Taiga)
- Vladimir Gubailovsky: Учитель цинизма (The Teacher of Cynicism)
- Andrei Dmitriev: Крестьянин и тинейджер (The Peasant and the Teenager)
- Aleksandr Kabakov, Evgenii Popov: Аксёнов (Aksyonov)
- Vladimir Makanin: Две сестры и Кандинский (Two Sisters and Kandinsky)
- Sergei Nosov: Франсуаза, или Путь к леднику (Françoise, Or the Way to the Glacier)
- Valerii Popov: Плясать досмерти (To Dance to Death)
- Zakhar Prilepin: Чёрная обезьяна (The Black Monkey)
- Andrei Rubanov: Стыдные подвиги (Shameful Feats/Exploits)
- Marina Stepnova: Женщины Лазаря (The Women of Lazarus/Lazarus’s Women)
- Archimandrite Tikhon (Shevkunov): «Несвятые святые» и другие рассказы (“Unsaintly Saints” and Other Stories)
- Lena Eltang: Другие барабаны (Other Drums)
Posted by Lisa Hayden Espenschade at 1:37 PM
Friday, November 23, 2012
Reading Dmitrii Danilov’s latest book, Описание города (Description of a City) was a big, huge literary relief: after enjoying his spare but detailed Horizontal Position and “Black
and Green” very much, I’d wondered what he would (or possibly could!) do next. My hope—selfish, of
course—was that he would continue writing prose that is impersonal and I-less,
but deeply personal... and, somehow, expand into another dimension. Which is
exactly what Danilov does, in Description of a City, a book that is both very touching and quietly
funny, a book that describes—and, really, defines—a city he visits once a month
for a year. Beginning in January.
- описаемый город –city being described
- гостиница, название которой совпадает с названием одного из областных центров Украины – hotel the name of which coincides with the name of one of the regional centers of Ukraine
- улица, названная в честь одного из месяцев – street named in honor of one of the months
- площадь имени одного из величайших злодеев в мировой истории – [city] square named for one of the greatest villains in world history
|The train station known as |
City Being Described-1.
Sunday, November 11, 2012
Andrei Dmitriev’s Крестьянин и тинейджер (The Peasant and the
Teenager), which won the “Childhood, Adolescence, Youth” Yasnaya Polyana
award last month and is also on the short lists for this year’s Big Book and Russian
Booker prizes, is a novel composed of two intersecting character sketches. Dmitriev
draws his two title characters in great detail: middle-aged Paniukov, an Afghan
war veteran who lives in a Russian village, and teen aged Gera, a Muscovite who
comes to stay with Paniukov to avoid military service. They are brought
together by Vova, an old friend and former farming partner of Paniukov’s who
now lives in Moscow.
Sunday, November 4, 2012
- Elizaveta Aleksandrova-Zorina: Маленький человек (A Little Man), “a social novel with a detective [novel] plot,” according to the publisher’s description on Ozon.ru. Update on November 17, 2012: This book was also shortlisted for the 2012 Debut Prize for long fiction.
- Lora Beloivan: Карбид и амброзия (Carbide and Ambrosia), a short story collection.
- Sergei Gandlevskii: Бездумное былое (something like Feckless Bygone Days, though I almost missed the д and made this into Insane Bygone Days, an easier title to deal with, really…), a memoir about everything from family history to political protest in 2011.
- Mikhail Gigolashvili: Захват Московии (The Capture of Muscovy), a novel that a couple friends have enjoyed, though one said it’s not nearly as good as The Devil’s Wheel… then again, Gigolashvili set ridiculously high standards for himself with The Devil’s Wheel and The Interpreter.
- Georgii Davydov: Крысолов (The Rat Catcher), a novel that’s also on this year’s Booker short list.
- Nikolai Kononov: Бог без машины. История 20 сумасшедших, сделавших в России бизнес с нуля (God Without a Machine [or, heaven forbid, God Without a Car?]. The History of 20 Crazy People Starting Businesses in Russia from Nothing), nonfiction where the second part of the title seems to explain a lot more than the first. At least to me.
- Aleksei Motorov: Юные годы медбрата Паровозова (Male Nurse Parovozov’s Young Years), an autobiographical novel that Ozon readers have loved. This one sounds like very decent mainstream.
- Oleg Rashidov: Сколково. Принуждение к чуду (Skolkovo. Necessity for a Miracle), another business-themed book, this one about the Skolkovo Innovation Centre.
- Lev Rubinshtein: Знаки внимания (Signs of Attention), a collection of columns from various publications and various years.
Sunday, October 28, 2012
Trip Report! American Literary Translators Association Conference, Early October 2012, Rochester, NY
Thanks to Hurricane Sandy, which looks ready to windily, rainily
slither around us nearly all week (!), I’m so distracted today that I’m glad I
wrote up my summary of the American Literary Translators Association conference
a couple weeks ago. This was my second ALTA conference: ALTA has quickly become
a favorite element in my fall calendar thanks to the ever-welcome combination of
приятное с полезным/business
with pleasure. Here are some highlights:
I started off ALTA 2012 with “Translation Challenges in Modern Russian Prose,” in which John Givens spoke of translating Vasily Shukshin with Laura (Michael) Givens and addressed the vexing question “Do Russian Peasants say ‘Ain’t’?” as he discussed “deformed Soviet speech,” something that seems to hold inordinate power over me, too. Will Evans then talked about potential uses of intertextuality and interactivity for/with/in his translation of Oleg Kashin’s Роисся вперде (Fardwor, Ruissa!) and Carol Apollonio looked at some particularly difficult passages and words in German Sadulaev’s Таблетка (The Mayan Pill), a book she said includes invented language and a demonic possession theme. The session highlighted one of my favorite aspects of ALTA: panelists’ candor about their projects and Difficult Moments in Translation.
- The program for the conference is online, in PDF format, here.
- Jamie Olson blogged about ALTA on The Flaxen Wave here.
- Susan Bernofsky has posts about ALTA on Translationista here and here; the second post was written by translator Bill Martin.
- I’ll add more links later, when they’re available: Open Letter recorded many sessions that will be posted online.
Disclaimers: The usual.
Sunday, October 21, 2012
Marina Stepnova’s Женщины Лазаря
(Lazar’s Women) is one of
“those” books: in this case, “those” books are the ones that compel me just a
touch more than they repel me. Oddly, for this reader, “those” books have a
tendency to be novels where form and content are absolutely inseparable (a big plus) and books that inexplicably leave me with painfully unforgettable scenes
and atmospheres (an even bigger plus).
Tuesday, October 16, 2012
|One of these years I'll bake |
Posted by Lisa Hayden Espenschade at 4:39 PM
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
The Yasnaya Polyana Award announced 2012 winners today: Evgenii
Kasimov won the “XXI Century” award for his story collection Назовите меня Христофором (Call Me Christopher) and Andrei Dmitriev
received the first-ever “Childhood, Adolescence, Youth” award for Крестьянин и тинейджер (The
Peasant and the Teenager), a book that’s also on the Booker and Big Book short
lists. Valentin Rasputin won the “Contemporary Classic” award. I listed Yasnaya
Polyana finalists in
this previous post.
|The other Rasputin:|
I’ve heard mixed reactions to Dmitriev’s book—inevitable, too, of course, for a book on so many short lists—which I’m looking forward to starting soon. Finally, I’ve read very, very little of Rasputin’s writing, though I’ve had one or two of his books on my shelves for years. Several English-language translations are available, including Farewell to Matyora and Live and Remember, both translated by Antonina W. Bouis, and Siberia, Siberia and Siberia on Fire, translated by Gerald Mikkelson and Margaret Winchell.
Wednesday, October 3, 2012
The 2012 Russian Booker finalists were announced today. Six books made the list:
- Marina Akhmedova: Дневник смертницы. Хадижа (Khadija, Notes of a Death Girl)
- Andrei Dmitriev: Крестьянин и тинейджер (The Peasant and the Teenager)
- Evgenii Popov: Арбайт, или Широкое полотно (Arbeit, Or A Wide Canvas)
- Olga Slavnikova: Легкая голова (Light Head)—previous post
- Marina Stepnova: Женщины Лазаря (Lazar(us)’s Women)
- Aleksandr Terekhov: Немцы ([The?] Germans)
Sunday, September 30, 2012
Two items this week: quick thoughts on Ergali Ger’s novella Koma (Coma) and then an abridged version of the NOSE award’s 2012 long
Monday, September 24, 2012
In early September I spent a short week in Moscow thanks to
the Institute of Translation, which invited me to the second International
Congress of Literary Translators, where I spoke and served as co-moderator,
with Natasha Perova of Glas, during sections categorized as “Translation of Contemporary Literature.” I went to Moscow a few days early so I could work down my jetlag
before the Congress (mixed results), go to the Moscow International Book Fair (success), and visit friends, colleagues, and favorite sites (success). A few jumbled highlights:
|What I brought back. I started with|
Voroshilovgrad and will soon work through the
pile of 2012 Big Book finalists on the right.
Sunday, September 16, 2012
Last week the Yasnaya Polyana Award named finalists
for 2012 prizes. The finalists are:
- Iurii Buida’s Синяя Кровь (Blue Blood), which I read and enjoyed very much; it was third-prize winner among 2011’s Big Book “regular” reader voters.
- Evgenii Kasimov’s Назовите меня Христофором (Call Me Christopher), which I’d never heard of. (This is what I like so much about award lists…)
- Oleg Pavlov’s Дневник больничного охранника (Diary of a Hospital Guard), which has been on my reader since Pavlov sent me the text ages ago… it looks promising.
- Iurii Petkevich’s С птицей на голове (With a Bird on the Head), another new (and intriguing) title for me.
- Marina Stepnova’s Женщины Лазаря (Lazarus’s Women) a 2012 Big Book finalist I’m reading now.
- Andrei Stoliarov’s Мы, народ (We, the People), another book I’d never heard of.
- Marina Aromshtam’s Когда отдыхают ангелы (When (the?) Angels Rest), which I’d heard of through a friend who knows Aromshtam.
- Andrei Dmitriev’s Крестьянин и тинейджер (The Peasant and the Teenager), a 2012 Big Book finalist that I just brought back from Moscow.
- Andrei Zhvalevskii and Evgenii Pasternak’s Время всегда хорошее (The Time Is Always Good), another mysterious title for me.
- Víctor Gallego Ballesteros for his Spanish translation of Lev Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina (19th century classical literature)
- John Elsworth for his English translation of Andrei Bely’s Petersburg (20th century works written before 1990). Elsworth also won the Rossica prize for Petersburg in May 2012.
- Hélène Henri-Safier for her French translation of Dmitrii Bykov’s Pasternak (contemporary works written after 1990)
- Alessandro Niero for his Italian translation of Dmitrii Prigov’s Thirty Three Texts (poetry)