Sunday, September 29, 2013

Yet More Award News: NOSE Goes Long, Enlighten Me, and GQ Pelevin (?!)

Oh my, how quickly last week went by! I meant to finish a post last week about Oleg Zaionchkovskii’s Petrovich but then got sidetracked by lots and lots of work… and then saw the NOSE shortlist, which means I’ll post today about awards and finish writing about Petrovich next weekend.

First off, the NOSE award, a program of the Mikhail Prokhorov Foundation, named its longlist, which, with 25 items, is long for a list but short for a longlist. The shortlist will be along on October 31, perfect for literary tricks and treats. Here’s a longlist excerpt, for which I can rely largely on cut-and-paste technology since many listings repeat from previous award shortlists and longlists.

Three books I’ve already read and enjoyed:
  • Evgeny Vodolazkin: Лавр (Laurus). Still one of my favorites; also a finalist for the Big Book, Yasnaya Polyana, and National Bestseller. (previous post)
  • Vadim Levental: Маша Регина (Masha Regina). Another favorite that I’ll be writing about soon. Translating excerpts makes me appreciate Masha Regina even more.
  • Margarita Khemlin: Дознаватель (The Investigator). Another one I read and enjoyed (previous post). BTW, Subtropics will be publishing my translation of one of Margarita’s stories fairly soon.
Some books are on other shortlists or have already won awards:
  • Alexander Arkhangelsky: Музей революции (Museum of the Revolution). Book of the Year winner; I just couldn’t get into this one.
  • Andrei Volos: Возвращение в Панджруд (excerpts) (Return to Panjrud). Volos, who is originally from Dushanbe, often writes about Central Asia. His agent’s site says this novel is about a poet in the Middle Ages. Finalist for this year’s Big Book.
  • Alisa Ganieva: Праздничная гора (Holiday Mountain). A novel about Dagestan… in which Dagestan becomes separate from Russia, resulting in problems and not-so-happy endings.
  • Il’dar Abuziarov: Мутабор (Mutabor, the Latin first-person singular future passive indicative of mūtō, according to Wiktionary, related to mutate and indicating change or transformation. “Mutabor” is used as a magic word in some stories, including Wilhelm Hauff’s “Caliph Stork.”), This book is described as an intellectual chess detective novel, though Abuziarov sees it more as a political thriller. Either way, there’s a booktrailer!
  • Anton Ponizovskii: Обращение в слух (maybe For the Ears?)
  • Sergei Beliakov: Гумилев сын Гумилева (excerpts) (Gumilev, Son of Gumilev). I read the first chapter of this book last night and liked it very, very much.
There are plenty of books I haven’t read by writers I have read, if only a bit—Alexander Kabakov, Mikhail Elizarov, Vladimir Kozlov, Anna Starobinets, and Igor Sakhnovskii—but I’m going to list a few books and writers that aren’t familiar, particularly since NOSE can be rather quirky so I never know what I might find:
  • Igor Funt: Останусь лучше там… (I’d Best Stay There…). Crime/action. Excerpt here.
  • Vladimir Martynov: Книга книг (The Book of Books). Words and images from a composer and writer.
  • Evgenii Bunimovich: Девятый класс. Вторая школа (Ninth Grade. School Number Two). Apparently “a declaration of love in 23 parts.”
Meanwhile, in the land of nonfiction, the Просветитель (Enlightener) award named its shortlist last week. I noticed Enlightener more than usual this year because Victor Sonkin, a translator who was at the translators’ coven in June, made the humanitarian sciences shortlist for his Здесь был Рим (Here Was Rome).

Finally, I couldn’t help but laugh when I saw that GQ named Viktor Pelevin “writer of the year” for 2013: with Pelevin’s sales figures, Pelevin is writer of the year just about every damn year. (This reminds me of how my mother always used to tell me, “every day is children’s day” when I was little and asked why parents had special holidays but kids didn’t.) Pelevin beat out Evgenii Vodolazkin, Maksim Kantor, Mikhail Shishkin, and Anton Ponizovskii, all of whom had eventful years for reasons that seem far more interesting to me than yet another bestseller.

Disclosures: The usual. I’ve translated work by several writers listed.

Up Next: Zaionchkovskii’s Petrovich, Levental’s Masha Regina, Yasnaya Polyana winners, translator conference trip report…

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Yasnaya Polyana Short Lists for 2013

The Yasnaya Polyana award announced its 2013 short lists for the “XXI Century” and “Childhood, Adolescence, Youth” awards on Tuesday. Here are the lists, in Russian alphabetical order by author. Winners will be announced on October 8.

XXI Century:
  • Evgeny Vodolazkin: Лавр (Laurus). Still one of my favorites; also a finalist for the Big Book and the National Bestseller.
  • Alisa Ganieva: Праздничная гора (Holiday Mountain). A novel about Dagestan… in which Dagestan becomes separate from Russia, resulting in problems and not-so-happy endings.
  • Aleksandr Kuznetsov-Tulianin: Идиот нашего времени (Idiot of Our Time). Kuznetsov-Tulianin is a new name for me. This is apparently a book about two men (former legislators) who look and think nearly identically but find very different post-Soviet paths for their lives.
  • Maya Kucherskaya: Тётя Мотя (Auntie Motya/Minna). Also a Big Book finalist.
  • Oleg Riabov: Четыре с лишним года. Военный дневник. (Four Years and Then Some. A War Diary). Fiction based on letters, diaries, and memories from World War 2.
  • Roman Senchin: Информация (The Information). I’m glad to see The Information finally make it to a shortlist: I think it’s been unjustly ignored/underrated. (Previous post)

Childhood, Adolescence, Youth:
  • Eduard Verkin: Облачный полк (The Cloud Regiment)
  • Maria Martirosova: Фотография на память (A Photograph as a Memento)
  • Iurii Nechiporenko: Смеяться и свистеть (To Laugh and Whistle)

Bonus Links! The New Yorker ran a fun piece by Reed Johnson about Russian translations of Catcher in the Rye. Johnson gets at a lot of my favorite translation topics—e.g. the perils of food words, projecting distinctive voices into other languages, and slang—in a way that makes literary translation sound and feel like a relatively normal human activity. That reminds me: On Monday, The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article about retranslations, focusing largely on Anna Karenina. Enjoy!

Disclaimers: The usual, including having translated and/or met some of these writers, plus a Yasnaya Polyana juror.

Up next: Vadim Levental’s Masha Regina and Oleg Zaionchkovsky’s Petrovich.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Ragweed Season Miscellany

With ragweed season in full swing here in my part of the world, I was glad to find a few bits of news to post this week rather than trying to write anything coherent about Vadim Levental’s Masha Regina. The book deserves a lot better than what I could write up between my alternating urges to sneeze (from the pollen) and snooze (from the allergy pills). So, a few bits of news and comment…

First off, what could be a better birthday present for Lev Tolstoy than his very own (online!) portal, at (where else but?) The site plans to offer “Весь Толстой в один клик” (“All of Tolstoy in one click”)… ninety volumes of Tolstoy online. Only a little bit is available so far—the project just got started in mid-June—though a few PDFs are up and ready for downloading. Future formats will include .fb2 and ePub. There are already sections with photos and biographical information, though the English-language version of the portal is under construction. Also: The project is apparently still looking for volunteers. Information here.

Book of the Year awards were handed out last Wednesday—coinciding with the opening of the Moscow International Book Fair—to writers including Yevgeny Yevtushenko and Alexander Arkhangelsky. Yevtushenko won Book of the Year for Поэт в России — больше, чем поэт. Десять веков русской поэзии (A Poet in Russia Is More Than a Poet. Ten Centuries of Russian Poetry), a five-volume anthology; it appears that only the first volume is out. Arkhangelsky won Prose of the Year for his novel Музей Революции (Museum of the Revolution) and the “Poet” series of books from Leninzdat won the Poetry award. A full list of winners is available on the site of the Russian Federal Agency for Press and Mass Communication, which organizes the awards and the book fair. The FAPMC piece noted that this year’s entertainment included ballet… it’s always sounded to me as if Book of the Year is the book award with the most lavish floor show. (And yes, it feels odd to even write that…)

Khlebnikov's grave, Novodevichy Cemetery, Moscow.
I saved the best for last! It was a pleasant surprise to find a copy of Modern Poetry in Translation in my mailbox last week… and especially pleasant to have “Khlebnikov & Birdsong” catch my eye as soon as I unwrapped the journal. “Khlebnikov & Birdsong” is a lovely clutch of pieces that begins with MPT editor Sasha Dugdale’s “Transcribing Birdsong,” an introduction that includes a chunk of an essay by Alexander Ilichevsky about Velimir Khlebnikov, bird sounds, zaum, and language. Sasha’s introduction is followed by two translations of Khlebnikov’s “Там, где жили свиристели”: Peter Daniels’s “Timelings” and Edwin Kelly’s “Waxwings.” (“From the Ends to the Beginning” includes the original and another take on the poem here.) I particularly enjoyed the momentum, rhyme, and rhythm of Peter Daniels’s version, which feels very much like the original to me in both form and content, beginning with “Where the waxwings once were living.” Perhaps best of all, it read wonderfully to me on its own even before I looked up the original.

The two waxwing poems are followed by two more translations of Khlebnikov, also with introductions: Robert Chandler’s “Night in Persia” (“Ночь в Персии”) and Edwin Kelly’s “Garden of Animals” (“Зверинец”). I’ve always had a special fascination for Khlebnikov because I’ve always had a soft spot for zaum. Khlebnikov’s famous “Заклятие смехом”/“Incantation by Laughter” is probably as a good place as any to start reading him if he’s new for you. Back to MPT: this issue (no. 2, 2013) includes loads of other poems, featuring a “Romanian Focus” section, plus reviews, including James Womack’s piece about G.S. Smith’s As I Said, a translation of Lev Loseff’s Как я сказал.

Finally, an administrative note. Those of you who subscribe to my blog feed (by e-mail or blog/feed reader) might have noticed that you received three posts last week: there was a feed problem, which I fixed, so things should now be back to normal. I’m very grateful to the reader who sent a note last week asking why the feed hadn’t been updated since July. I usually monitor the feed more closely but, well, it’s been summer... I sometimes consider setting up a Facebook page to post links to new entries—is this something that (m)any of you would find useful, as an alternative to e-mail or blog/feed reader subscriptions?

Disclaimers. I’m translating a brief excerpt of Vadim Levental’s Masha Regina. I work on projects for Read Russia, which is funded by FAPMC. And I thoroughly enjoyed spending time with Peter Daniels, Robert Chandler, and Sasha Dugdale in Oxford and London this past June. A very special thanks to Sasha for the copy of Modern Poetry in Translation!

Up Next: Levental’s Masha Regina and then Oleg Zaionchkovskii’s Petrovich, a low-key novel-in-stories about a boy.