Sunday, January 27, 2013

Notable New Translations: The 2013 Edition

January seems like as good a time as any to start a list of translations scheduled for release in 2013… And “start” is the operative word: this alphabetical (by author surname) list truly is just a start since I still need to check in with a few translators and publishers. I’m placing a link to the list in the “Other Reading Ideas” section of the blog’s sidebar so it’s easy to find... it’s just below the freshly updated list for 2012.

A few caveats. Release dates and titles are subject to change. Wherever possible, I’ve linked to publisher pages (on the publisher’s name) and Amazon pages (on the book title). A few books on the list are reissues. This is a global list. If you have a book you’d like me to list (or, horrors, find an error that needs correction!), please send me a note. I already have a few titles for 2014, so I’ll be happy to take more of those, too.

Edit, January 28: Oops, yesterday I forgot to include a link to Daniel Kalder’s Publishing Perspectives interview with Peter Mayer of Overlook Press about the Russian Library project... the project will apparently go on for a decade or so. Here it is!
Enjoy the list: there’s a lot of variety!

Aleshkovskii, Petr: Stargorod, translated by Nina Shevchuk-Murray; Russian Life, February 2013.

Babiashkina, Anna: Before I Croak, translated by Muireann Maguire; Glas, August 12, 2013.

Dostoevsky, Fyodor: The Crocodile, translated by S.D. Cioran; reissue, The Overlook Press/Ardis, out now.

Dovlatov, Sergei: Pushkin Hills, translated by Katherine Dovlatov; Alma Classics (UK), Counterpoint (North America).

Eldin, Mikail: The Sky Wept Fire: My Life as a Chechen Freedom Fighter, translated by Anna Gunin; Portobello Books, November 7, 2013.

Frei, Max: The Stranger's Shadow: The Labyrinths of Echo, translated by Polly Gannon and Ast A. Moore; The Overlook Press, May 16, 2013.

Gazdanov, Gaito, The Spectre of Alexander Wolf, translated by Bryan Karetnyk; Pushkin Press, June 2013.

Gelasimov, Andrei, The Lying Year, translated by Marian Schwartz; AmazonCrossing, out now. (I’ve read several of Gelasimov’s books: this is my favorite.)

Gelasimov, Andrei: Gods of the Steppe, translated by Marian Schwartz, AmazonCrossing, September 3, 2013.

Grossman, Vasily: An Armenian Sketchbook, translated by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler; New York Review Books, February 19, 2013. (I’ll be writing about this book relatively soon…)

Kharms, Daniil: "I Am a Phenomenon Quite Out of the Ordinary": The Notebooks, Diaries, and Letters of Daniil Kharms, selected, translated and edited by Anthony Anemone and Peter Scotto; Academic Studies Press, February 2013.

Khodasevich, Vladislav: Selected Poems, translated by Peter Daniels; Angel Classics, September 2013, and The Overlook Press, January 2014.

Kozorezenko, Peter: Viktor Popkov: A Russian Painter of Genius, translated by Arch Tait; Unicorn Press, June 2013.

Krzhizhanovsky, Sigizmund: Autobiography of a Corpse, translated by Joanne Turnbull; New York Review Books, October 2013.

Kurkov, Andrey: a translation of Садовник из Очакова (literally, The Gardener from Ochakov, though the book may be titled differently), translated by Amanda Love Darragh; Harvill Secker, August 2013.

Leskov, Nikolai: The Enchanted Wanderer: and Other Stories, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky; Knopf, March 26, 2013. (Over 600 pages of Leskov, wow!)

Lorchenkov,Vladimir: The Good Life Elsewhere, translated by Ross Ufberg; New Vessel Press, November 2013.

Marshak, Samuil: The Circus and Other Stories, translated by Stephen Capus; Tate Publishing, June 2013.

Martinovich, Victor: Paranoia, translated by Diane Nemec Ignashev; Northwestern, March 31, 2013.

Mayakovsky, Vladimir: Selected Poems, translated by James H. McGavran III; Northwestern, June 2013.

Nekrasov, Vsevolod: I Live I See: Selected Poems, translated by Ainsley Morse and Bela Shayevich; Ugly Duckling Presse, June 1, 2013.

Nikitin, Alexei: Istemi, translated by Anne Marie Jackson; publisher Peter Owen, May 1, 2013.

Pavlov, Oleg: Captain of the Steppe, translated by Ian Appleby; And Other Stories, April 16, 2013.

Pavlov, Oleg: Asystole, translated by anonymous; Glagloslav, December 1, 2013.

Petrushevskaya, Ludmilla: There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself: Love Stories, translated by Anna Summers; Penguin, out now.

Pilnyak, Boris: The Naked Year, translated by A.R. Tulloch; reissue, The Overlook Press/Ardis, June 25, 2013. (A grad school favorite…)

Polonskaya, Anzhelina: Paul Klee's Boat, translated by Andrew Wachtel; Zephyr Press. 

Prokhorova, Irina, ed: 1990: Russians Remember a Turning Point, translated by Arch Tait; Quercus, March 28, 2013.

Sadulaev, German: Maya Pill, translated by Carol Apollonio; Dalkey Archive Press, November 2013.

Saltykov(-Shchedrin), Mikhail: The Golovlyov Family, translated by S.D. Cioran; reissue, The Overlook Press/Ardis, out now. (A dysfunctional family before we knew the term… almost scarily claustrophobic, very good.)

Savelyev, Igor: Mission to Mars, translated by Amanda Love Darragh; Glas, summer 2013. (I brought this book back from Moscow and plan to read it soon…)

Sen-Senkov, Andrei: Anatomical Theater, translated by Ainsley Morse and Peter Golub; Zephyr Press, December 2013. A bilingual edition.

Shargunov, Sergei: A Book Without Photographs, translated by anonymous; Glagoslav, May 27, 2013.

Sharov, Vladimir: Before and During, translated by Oliver Ready; Dedalus, June/July 2013. (This sounds like an interesting book... and I just have to add that Dedalus also has an anthology of Lithuanian literature coming out as well as The Dedalus Book of Vodka, by Geoffrey Elborn.)

Shishkin, Mikhail: The Light and the Dark, translated by Andrew Bromfield; Quercus, February 28, 2013. (A more literal translated title would be Letter-Book.)

Shklovsky, Viktor: A Hunt for Optimism, translated by Shushan Avagyan; Dalkey Archive Press.

Snegirev, Alexander: Petroleum Venus, translated by Arch Tait; Glas, out now.

Sologub, Fyodor: The Little Demon, translated by Ronald Wilks; Penguin Classics, July 2013. (This appears to be a rerelease with a new introduction rather than a new translation but I love this book so much that I'm going to include it anyway!)

Tsypkin, Leonid: The Bridge Over the Neroch: And Other Works, translated by Jamey Gambrell; New Directions, February 13, 2013.

Vachedin, Dmitry: Snow Germans, translated by Arch Tait; Glas, April 16, 2013.

Vishnevetsky, Igor: Leningrad, translated by Andrew Bromfield; Dalkey Archive Press, October 3, 2013.

Vvedensky, Alexander: An Invitation For Me To Think, edited and translated by Eugene Ostashevsky, with additional translation by Matvei Yankelevich; New York Review Books, April 2, 2013.

Yuzefovich, Leonid: Harlequin’s Costume, translated by Marian Schwartz; publisher Glagoslav, the ides of March.

Various: Red Spectres, short stories translated by Muireann Maguire; The Overlook Press, April 18, 2013, though already out in the UK. (Muireann selected and translated eleven stories from writers including Valery Bryusov, Mikhail Bulgakov, Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, and Aleksandr Chayanov... I’m looking forward to this one!)

Various: Relocations: Three Contemporary Russian Women Poets, poetry by Polina Barskova, Anna Glazova, and Maria Stepanova, translated by Catherine Ciepiela, Anna Khasin, and Sibelan Forrester; Zephyr Press, August 13, 2013. (This book is in a series called In the Grip of Strange Thoughts... it is apparently a bilingual edition.)

Various: Moscow Tales, short stories translated by Sasha Dugdale and edited by Helen Constantine; Oxford University Press, October 2013. This collection contains new translations of old classics, including Nikolai Karamzin's "Poor Liza," plus contemporary stories that have never been translated. I'm looking forward to it!

Various: New Russian Plays, translated by Noah Birksted-Breen; Sputnik, April 2013.

Disclaimers: The usual, with too many specifics to list: I’ve met, worked on paid projects, discussed translation and specific projects, chatted and shared meals with, and/or otherwise been in contact with numerous individuals and entities mentioned in this post. I received review copies of some books listed. Amazon links are affiliate links.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Popov’s Dance to Death

Valerii Popov’s Плясать до смерти (Dance to Death or To Dance to Death or Dance to the Death), a 2012 Big Book finalist, had a stronger and stranger effect on me than I thought it did when I was reading: if I were a publicist or merchandiser choosing a clichéd one-adjective description, I’d pick something like “searing.” A warning: it’s awkward to describe the book without revealing its topic, which I’ll do without providing too many details, though the term “spoiler” sounds frivolous in the context of Dance to Death.

Fiction & Non. Dance to Death is a novel based on the life and death of the real Valerii Popov’s real daughter Nastya. The book’s narrator, Valerii Popov, begins by seeing his wife Nonna off to the birth house; he and a friend celebrate with a drift along the Neva and some vodka. The first notion of trouble for Nastya comes at birth: the doctor mentions trauma. Nastya’s whole life, which ends early because of alcohol, is filled with emotional and physical traumas. Timewise, the novel’s setting coincides with the geopolitical trauma of the demise of the USSR. Though Dance to Death reads to me like something in between creative nonfiction and a documentary novel—publisher AST’s blurb on even refers to it as a confessional novel—and Popov includes lots of unpleasant details, I wouldn’t quite categorize the book as heavily naturalistic or voyeuristic. That may, however, be because I’d expected more naturalism than Popov provides.

Goya's Burial of the Sardine
is perfect for the cover
Theme & Language/Stylistics. Which means Dance to Death feels unusual, too, because Popov doesn’t focus exclusively on trauma. Though he mentions that a pet bird pecked Nastya’s cheek when she was small, he seethes when an old friend slights her in her short adulthood, and there is plenty of other assorted madness, the book is often relentlessly, almost surrealistically, upbeat, filled with exclamation points, optimism, and, less surprising, love. In a brief review for, critic Lev Danilkin says that if Dance to Death weren’t based on a true story, it might be described as a “literary experiment,” an attempt at a happy narrative about something horrible. I think Popov’s stylistics do feel like an experiment, though, as if he’s trying to find an appropriate, adequate language for mourning his daughter—his language allows him to combine positive and negative. The exclamation points and short sentences often irritated me, particularly early on, but I think Popov found a decent balance that fits his topic and perspective.

Indifference. Toward the end of the novel, the narrator blames Nastya’s death on genetics rather than Nastya, who had always been willful. He has also mentioned, in passing, Nonna’s drinking, about which he wrote separately, in Третье дыхание (A Third Wind). Citing genetics squares well, I think, with the narrator’s reaction to an exchange with Nastya toward the end of the book, in which Nastya tells him he’s indifferent to everything. The next lines, which are a bit awkward pulled out of their environment, are written for the reader, not spoken to Nastya: “Да. Теперь – безралично. Ниаче – пропадешь.” (“Yes. Now I’m indifferent. Otherwise you’re lost.”)

The Effect. I think that one word—indifference—is why the book stuck with me. It’s not that I think the narrator was, literally, indifferent to his daughter’s death: I saw his indifference as a layer of protection, a Chekhovian case of sorts that’s a survival mechanism. The blogger known as Заметил просто writes about this from a different angle, noting that the narrator’s father has a fighter’s character, something the narrator tells Nastya she has, too. But Заметил просто writes that, by keeping a distance and seeming indecisive, the narrator doesn’t seem to be much of a fighter, leading ЗП to wonder if he has the correct impression of the narrator. I wondered about that, too, and that’s what still eats at me, several weeks after finishing the book.

Reading Mikhail Zolotonosov’s review of A Third Wind in Moskovskie novosti helped me understand why. Zolotonosov concludes his piece (I’ll summarize) by citing Popov as an example of a problem he sees in contemporary Russian literature: too much case history and naturalism, not enough focus on moral problems and choices, leading to a lack of artistry. He also wonders about the wisdom of writing about the sufferings of one’s family. Much of Zolotonosov’s criticism could apply to Dance to Death: though Dance to Death wasn’t my favorite type of book—I like laconic but this is an extreme example, plus the balance between truth and fiction felt a bit too uneasy—it certainly got to me, so I have to say it works on some level, if I accept it on its own terms. But Zolotonosov’s review got me thinking… about moral drift, which got me thinking back to the narrator’s float on the Neva at the beginning of the book, which got me thinking about moral decisions, which got me thinking about the absurdity of horrible choices we all have to make in life before we die, which got me thinking that Dance to Death’s open-endedness might inspire, intentionally or not, more thinking about moral decisions than a stance on how to handle a difficult child like Nastya or the complex and intractable problem of alcoholism.

Up next. Translations coming out in 2013: send me a note if you’re a translator or publisher with a new translation scheduled for this year. Then maybe Elena Katishonok’s family saga Once There Lived an Old Man and an Old Woman. “Indifference” sums up my feelings about that one: I don’t think it’s ever a good sign when I think of reading a book and then think, Hmm, I have some blouses to iron… More likely: Mikhail Butov’s Freedom

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Money, Money, Money: Slapovskii’s Day for Money

Once upon a time there was a writer named Aleksei Slapovskii who wrote a book called День денег, which we might call Money’s Day or A Day for Money in English. Mr. Slapovskii wrote this novel a long, long time ago, during the nasty 1990s, after the Soviet Union fell apart. The book might not have fulfilled all Mr. Slapovskii’s wildest dreams but it landed him on the Russian Booker Prize shortlist for 2000, a genie-worthy wish for many Russian writers.

A Day for Money takes place in Saratov, a kingdom that’s far, far away from Moscow, and it’s a story about three silly local men: an unemployed guy named Snake, a writer called Writer, and a bureaucrat known as Parfyon. One day, when they’re all a little bored or broke or maybe hungover, they meet up and find a whole lot of money on the street! They immediately do what any men who are bored, broke, or maybe hungover would do: they buy some vodka, cigarettes, and snacks.

But poor Snake, Writer, and Parfyon don’t know what to do with all that money. Spending or investing it would be too easy and real-life for a book that’s written rather like a combination of faux folktale and picaresque so they look at options like giving money (a.k.a. granting wishes, or so they think) to people with difficult lives. If only it were that easy to wave a magic wand and give away thousands of dollars! During the course of Mr. Slapovskii’s story, our trio comes face to face with gritty perils like poverty and alcoholism—not to mention prostitutes, cab drivers, and fellow bureaucrats—but they just can’t seem to make wishes come true with money. Maybe money doesn’t buy happiness after all?

Luckily for Snake, Writer, Parfyon, and this reader, someone rides up in a big steed of a car to save them and take the money off their hands so the book can end after 179.5 pages. And just in time! It’s not that A Day for Money is horribly awful—other than trying too horribly, awfully hard to be funny—it’s just that I feel like I’ve been there, done that with other books (including, alas, others by Slapovskii…) and A Day for Money feels a little too much like a time machine, thanks to its mythology—perceived grotesqueries—of the nineties. It feels to me like a fanciful period piece where the meaning of life is at the dump, there’s nobody to admire, and everything comes with a cost. Like finding money on the street, it feels a little too easy. Alas, so do references to Venedikt Yerofeev’s Москва-Петушки, a whole other type of folktale that’s often known as Moscow to the End of the Line in English. All kinds of fictional people seem to pay homage to Yerofeev through their tendency to drink quickly, an action rooted in the phrase “И немедленно выпил.

Up next. After the disappointment of A Day for Money, I found far more readerly satisfaction in Valerii Popov’s painfully sad Dance to the Death, where absolutely nobody lives happily ever after.

Image credit: “cash money notes 1” from user darrendean, via