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.