Wednesday, December 31, 2014
Saturday, December 6, 2014
More Miscellany: Booker Goes to Sharov… AATSEEL Awards… Russian Literature Week… Two Translations...
1. The Russian Booker Prize was
awarded yesterday to Vladimir Sharov for Возвращение в Египет (Return to Egypt).
Sharov won third prize from the Big
Book Award jury last week, too, so he’s had a busy award season. In other
Booker news, Учительская газета reported, in a newsy article, that Natalya Gromova’s Ключ. Последняя
Москва (The Key. The Last/Final Moscow)
won the Booker’s grant award, which covers the book’s translation into English.
Return to Egypt has not (yet) been translated into English, Sharov’s До и во время does exist in English, in the form of Oliver Ready’s translation, Before & During. I’m not even sure where or how to begin describing Before & During: this complex novel’s frame story involves a man checking himself into a psychiatric hospital, where he begins compiling stories for a Memorial Book. The novel’s primary character, though, turns out to be Madame de Staël, who seems to give birth to just about everyone, including herself. I’ve seen the word “phantasmagoria” used to describe the book more than once, and it’s more than appropriate for Sharov’s quirky combination of religion, Russian history, and culture… Stalin, Lenin, Scriabin, and Tolstoy are among the real-life figures who put in appearances, making for alternative history at its most peculiar. Before & During has a peculiar charm, too: I don’t usually have much patience for monologues but something about the book’s wackiness and, I’m sure, Oliver’s lucid translation, mesmerized me and I finished, even though I’m not exactly sure what I read. This is (yet another!) book it would be fun to research while rereading. For detailed descriptions of Before & During, see Anna Aslanyan’s review for The Independent and Russian Dinosaur’s detailed account. Caryl Emerson’s review in the April 11, 2014, issue of The Times Literary Supplement (which I happened to buy) contains a summary of the scandal at the journal Novyi mir when Before & During was first published in the nineties.
Sunday, November 30, 2014
|I had never thought much about the Russian sable...|
Up Next: Some other book? Perhaps Marina Stepnova’s Безбожный переулок (Italian Lessons)? Or Evgeny Vodolazkin’s Solovyov and Larionov? Or maybe even a trip report about the 1.5 days I’m about to spend in New York, thanks to Read Russia’s first-annual Russian Literature Week, a celebration of Russian literature and translation? I’m sure I’ll see some of you at events on Monday and Tuesday!
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
Just a very quick post with this year’s Big Book Award
winners. There weren’t any real surprises here. I would have loved to have seen
Evgeny Chizhov win something—anything!—for his Translation from a Literal Translation, (previous
post), which I liked so much but, well…
- The top prize was awarded to Zakhar Prilepin’s Обитель (The Cloister). A novel about the Solovetsky Islands in the 1920s. The Cloister already won the Book of the Year award and is also a finalist for the Russian Booker. I’ve been reading The Cloister for a while and it will take me another while to finish: it’s very long and rather detailed.
- Vladimir Sorokin took second place for Теллурия (Tellurium). On my NatsBest long list post, I wrote: A polyphonic novel in 50 highly varying chapters. I read about 150 pages before setting Tellurium aside: Sorokin’s use of a futuristic medieval setting, tiny and huge people, kinky stuff, sociopolitical observations, and a novel (ha!) psychotropic agent all felt way too familiar after Day of the Oprichnik, The Blizzard, and The Sugar Kremlin. Shortlisted for this year’s National Bestseller.
- Vladimir Sharov won third place for Возвращение в Египет (Return to Egypt). In which one Kolya Gogol (a distant relative of familiar old Nikolai Gogol) finishes writing Dead Souls. An epistolary novel. Shortlisted for this year’s National Bestseller and Russian Booker.
- Svetlana Aleksievich was the favorite in readers’ voting, for her Время секонд хэнд (See Second-Hand Time for a detailed description and a list of translations). Nonfiction about Russia’s post-Soviet history.
- Zakhar Prilepin won second place from readers for Обитель (The Cloister). A novel about the Solovetsky Islands in the 1920s.
- Third prize went to Aleksei Makushinskii’s Пароход в Аргентину (Steamship to Argentina), a novel about émigré life and Proustian searches.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
The most exciting item to report from the 2014 American
Literary Translators Association conference is that a translation from the
Vvedensky’s An Invitation for Me to
Think, translated by Eugene
Ostashevsky and Matvei
Yankelevich, and published by New York Review Books—won the National Translation Award (NTA).
Yankelevich accepted the award, saying he and Ostashevsky were “grateful on our
authors’ behalf.” Yankelevich read several poems from the book as well as a
statement from Ostashevsky, who selected poems for the collection and wrote its
introduction but couldn’t come to Milwaukee. NYRB sent me a copy of An Invitation for Me to Think when the
book was released last year, I’ve
heard Yankelevich read from it twice now, and I’ve picked up the book several
times to read poems, Ostashevsky’s introduction, and even the notes in the back.
But I seem to lack the vocabulary to write about my thoughts and/or feelings
about the poems—not surprising, perhaps, since the topics of бессмыслица
(meaninglessness/absurdity/nonsense to borrow from Ostashevsky’s introduction)
and “How do you write in a language that is false?” came up in Yankelevich and
Ostashevsky’s comments at ALTA—so will simply recommend them (the poems, that
is, not my thoughts and/or feelings) and, of course, this compactly complete
book, by saying that these translations are starkly and strangely beautiful and
Hydrangea,” which Yankelevich translated, particularly gets me. The Lucien
Stryk Prize, which recognizes translations of Asian poetry or Zen Buddhism into
English, went to Jonathan Chaves for Every Rock a Universe—The Yellow
Mountains and Chinese Travel Writing, (Floating
World Editions, 2013), which features works by Wang Hongdu.
|The Annunciation, c. 1490-95|
Sandro Botticelli (with assistance?)
P.P.S. I spent this afternoon at my local library for a screening of the documentary Russia’s Open Book: Writing in the Age of Putin, with the film’s co-directors, Sarah Wallis and Paul Mitchell. You can watch it, too, on YouTube. Even if you won’t be able to ask the directors questions, you’ll still get Stephen Fry’s readings of excerpts from several novels—set to wonderful animated segments—as well as interviews with writers including Zakhar Prilepin and Lyudmila Ulitskaya. The very last minute or two, with Vladimir Sorokin, jolted me yet again, even on my third or fourth viewing.
Other pieces about the conference:
Tanya Paperny about Politics and Transaltion, on Words Without Borders
Susan Bernofsky/Translationista on What I Learned at ALTA 2014