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.