Thursday, December 8, 2011

Andrei Bely Prize Award Winners & Some Links

I’m about a week late and a ruble short on this one but want to mention winners of the Andrei Bely prize. Nikolai Baitov won the prose award for Думай, что говоришь (Think When You Speak or maybe Think Before You Speak), a collection of short stories. The poetry award went to Andrei Poliakov’s Китайский десант (Parenthetical information edited: please see comments... I’ll call this Chinese Landing Force, though an online bookstore calls it Chinese Descent. This title is (of course!) complicated since десант is usually a military landing or the troops who make them. I’m equally uninformed about these terms in English and Russian so suggestions are welcome.). Information on other Bely awards is available here. Just one of my rubles would endow this prize: that’s the value of the entire fund.

Bonus! Baitov is also a poet; some of his poems are available online in Jim Kates’s translations (Cardinal Points) (Jacket).

I learned about another award winner just before posting: John Woodsworth and Arkadi Klioutchanski won the Modern Language Association’s Lois Roth Award for a Translation of a Literary Work for their translation of Sofia Tolstaya’s My Life, published by the University of Ottawa Press. Woodsworth and Klioutchanski are both affiliated with the University of Ottawa. (press release) Thanks to the American Literary Translators Association for mentioning the award on Facebook.

I’ve run across a wealth of articles about Russian literature lately. Here are links to a few:

I always enjoy reading Russian Dinosaur’s blog but the two most recent posts were particularly engaging: the Dinosaur’s thoughts about The Collaborators, John Hodge’s new play about Mikhail Bulgakov, and a wonderful piece on a talk that Oliver Ready gave about translation. Oliver offered examples from Crime and Punishment, which he is translating, and the Dinosaur included one of the sentences, in the original and four translations. The blog called XIX век then followed with two related posts (here) and (here). XIX век is, by the way, written in English.

Last week Stephen Dodson, perhaps better known as Languagehat, opened the “A Year in Reading” series for The Millions with a post about Life and Fate. Life and Fate received more attention this week, through a review by Adam Kirsch on The New Republic’s site; the piece first appeared in Tablet. Also: The Quarterly Conversation published Malcolm Forbes’s essay about Andrei Bely’s Petersburg (in David McDuff’s translation); I still need to print this piece out so I can read it properly. (I also need to push Petersburg forward on my bookshelf… I’ve been intending to reread it for years.) Finally, Scott Esposito’s review of Victor Pelevin’s The Hall of Singing Caryatids, translated by Andrew Bromfield and recently released by New Directions, appeared on The National’s site.

Up Next: Trip notes about the American Literary Translators Association conference in Kansas City and Vsevolod Benigsen’s Раяд (Rayad), a novel about nationalism that feels a little formulaic... A year-end post with 2011 favorites is also on the schedule, and I’m planning to compile a list of new and upcoming translations. The latter will likely coincide with a presentation I’ll be giving at the Scarborough Public Library in late January—I’m excited to talk about some of the new titles at my town library!

It’s been an extraordinarily hectic fall—in lots of very, very good ways—but things seem to be settling back into a real routine, which means I’m getting back to my usual reading and writing habits. Thank goodness!

Disclosures: The usual.


  1. Thanks for the mention, and I look forward to your response to Петербург. (Have you read Серебрянный голубь, by the way?)

  2. Oh, and I wouldn't pay any attention to that site's English "translation," since the previous title, Безопасность Oracle глазами аудитора, is rendered "Security Oracle eyes auditor." Десант is exclusively a military term and means 'landing' (as a military operation) or 'landing force.' In this case, I'd use the latter for clarity (since "landing," unlike десант, is ambiguous): "Chinese Landing Force."

  3. You're welcome, Languagehat. I enjoyed Петербург quite a bit when I read it, in translation, years ago so expect to find lots more to enjoy in the original. And no, I still haven't read Серебрянный голубь... that's another book that keeps getting pushed around on the shelf. (And then there's Белая гвардия...)

    And thank you for your note on десант; I edited and added Chinese Landing Force to the post. I've always known десант to be as you describe it (I think of десантники...) and originally used some title that's similar to yours. But of course military terms are Big Trouble for me in both languages and I don't know if десант is intended literally or metaphorically in this case, so I Googled to see what title(s) might already be in use... oddly, I first found the version with "descent" on a UVA page. By the way, I love that Oracle title!

  4. [Okay, clearly I'm a putz. Below is the message I was trying to post originally.]

    Wow, I didn't expect to discover two new poetry connections here. I'll have to investigate them, perhaps starting with Jim Kates' translations of Baitov. And the title "Китайский десант" is enough on its own to catch my interest.

    Neither of us has written about ALTA yet, though I've been meaning to, and you've been meaning to... Who will get to it first?

  5. It's nice to hear from you, Jamie. You are not a putz! It's unfortunate there's no way to edit comments.

    I'm glad the Bely award gave you some new poetry to explore! I'll be interested to hear/read what you think, and I'm particularly curious about that title...

    It's funny you mention ALTA posts because I've been wondering the same thing. I drafted a post but decided to rework it; I'm planning (hoping?) to post in the first half of next week.

  6. Думай, что говоришь = Mind What You Say?

  7. Thank you for the kind mention of my posts, Liza, and I'm delighted you enjoyed them. I am looking forward very much to your and Jamie's ALTA reviews... conference stories are always fun! My next acronym is AATSEEL, in Seattle in the New Year.

  8. @Alex: Yes, that's a nice one. Your suggestion made me think of a couple other possibilities: Watch What You Say or even Mind Your Words, which I've always liked for some reason. I'm starting to get more curious about the book, if only to see what title would fit best!

    @Russian Dinosaur: The Oliver Ready/fibbing horse post was so much fun that I sent it to a colleague and we e-mailed back and forth a bit about translation. You and Oliver managed to hit a lot of the Big Issues of literary translation in very little space.

    It's funny that you mention AATSEEL: I was looking, wistfully, at the program a couple days ago -- I wish so much that I could go! Have a great time.