Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Awards, Awards, Awards! Big Book, Compass & AATSEEL

The Big Book Awards were announced this evening in Moscow, and I’m particularly excited that Evgeny Vodolazkin’s Лавр (Laurus) won the first jury prize – regular visitors to the Bookshelf know how much I loved this book. Laurus already won the Yasnaya Polyana last month and it’s not often a book wins two major awards in one season. Second jury prize went to Sergei Beliakov’s Гумилев сын Гумилева (Gumilev, Son of Gumilev), which I’ve read parts of but can’t get too excited about, and third went to Iurii Buida for Вор, шпион и убийца (Thief, Spy, and Murderer), which I thought was best in its first half. Readers’ choices were Maya Kucherskaya’s Тетя Мотя (literally Auntie Motya but the Elkost literary agency is calling it Auntie Mina), which I also couldn’t get too excited about, followed by Gumilev and Laurus.

The Compass Award announced three winners for its 2013 competition, all awarded for translations of poems by Maria Petrovykh. Josephine von Zitzewitz won first prize, Alexandra Berlina took second prize, and Peter Oram received third, with Nora Krouk earning an honorable mention.

Finally, I’m especially late to mention the winner of AATSEEL’s “best translation into English” award, which was announced several weeks ago: The Letter Killers Club, by Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky, translated by Joanne Turnbull with Nikolai Formozov. AATSEEL is the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages… and I’m so dorky I always enjoy reading through all their lists of award nominees.

Disclaimers: The usual, including work on excerpts of Vodolazkin’s book.

Up Next: We’ll see…

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Destination: Bloomington, Indiana. American Literary Translators Association Annual Conference Trip Report

It took a few weeks, well, a month, but here, finally, is a trip report on the American Literary Translators Association conference, held this year at Indiana University in Bloomington. Indiana. Not Illinois. Here’s some of what I enjoyed most…

First off, ALTA awards news: I was very excited that Philip Boehm won the 2013 National Translation Award for his translation of Herta Müller’s The Hunger Angel, which I read last year and recommend highly. Müller wrote the book in German but there are bits of Russian, too, with lots of wordplay. Lucas Klein won the Lucien Stryk Prize for translating, from the Chinese, Notes on the Mosquito: Selected Poems, by Xi Chuan.

The first time slot of the conference after the first plenary session—in which Maureen Freely, chair of the Translators Association in the UK, spoke about translating Orhan Pamuk, noting, among other things, Pamuk’s intentionally trance-inducing long sentences, something I relate to oh-so-well—included a section of readings of translations from the Russian. ALTA’s bilingual readings are always fun, thanks to Alexis Levitin who serves as organizer and emcee; this year’s attendees included second-year Russian students from IU. Katherine Young read her translations of poetry by Inna Kabysh and Tanya Paperny read her translation of a story (“Иллюзион”) from Andrei Krasnyashykh’s cycle of stories Парк культыры и отдыха (The Park of Culture and Relaxation); another of Tanya’s translations from the cycle is here. I participated in this section, too, reading the beginning of my translation of Vladislav Otroshenko’s Приложение к фотоальбому (Addendum to a Photo Album), which I’m working on for Dalkey Archive Press.

And then there were panels and roundtables…  
  • “Translating Voice in Russian Literature,” which focused on poetry, was fun, with Alyssa Dinega Gillespie speaking about Zinaida Gippius’s “Она” (literally “She”), a poem I vividly remember from grad school (!!!), Anna Barker looking at Lev Tolstoy’s stories for children, and Jim Kates focusing on Alexander Pushkin’s “Ворон к ворону летит” (“Raven to raven on the wing”) and offering multiple translations, including his own, Yevgeny Bonver’s, and Google Translator’s. I thought Google’s work was particularly funny for these lines, which seem to invoke both Poe and an executive assistant: “The Raven, where we used to have dinner? / How can we check on that?”  
  • “Translating Fiction IV: Characters and Voice” was fun, too: Alex Zucker’s discussion of translating Petra Hůlová’s Paměť mojí babičce (translated as All This Belongs to Me) was particularly useful for ideas on colloquial speech and mixed language since Hůlová tosses in Mongolian and Russian. Marian Schwartz spoke about working on novels by Andrei Gelasimov, noting differences in registers (e.g. veterans tend to swear) and mentioning the presence of Yuri Levitan, a real-life Soviet radio announcer during World War 2, in Gods of the Steppe. Levitan appears fairly regularly in contemporary fiction and names like his, which are pretty obvious to Russian readers, are unknown to most non-Russian readers. The two other speakers were Sean Cotter, who spoke about Romanian writer Mateiu Caragiale’s Rakes of the Old Court, whose wonderfully “extravagant diction” (I think that’s a quote!) presented challenges, and Susan Bernofsky, whose talk about her work on Kafka’s Metamorphosis made the “IV” in the panel’s title feel less like a Roman numeral than an invigorating IV of adrenalin because her advice about exaggerating characteristic “things” in a translation to sharpen style, starting in early drafts, hit me at the perfect time. Honestly, I think it’s worth heeding the advice of anyone who calls Gregor Samsa a drama queen.
  • I also moderated a roundtable discussion, “When Two Multilingual Heads Are Better Than One,” in which Olga Bukhina, Sibelan Forrester, and Alyssa Dinega Gillespie discussed close collaborations with their authors. Olga talked about working with Eugene Yelchin on translating Breaking Stalin’s Nose into Russian (and she gave me a copy, which I’m looking forward to reading!), Sibelan noted lots of useful procedural aspects of collaboration, such as clarifying what’s unclear and handling writers with “some English,” and Alyssa, who has written about Marina Tsvetaeva and won awards for translating her, spoke about working “with” dead writers through scholarship and writing original poetry.

I’ll stop there since several other bloggers have already written great pieces about the conference. Here are some links:

Susan Bernofsky/Translationista: ALTA 2013 Part 1: Cole Swensen. A nice summary of keynote speaker Cole Swensen’s talk.

Susan Bernofsky/Translationista: ALTA 2013 Part 2: Publishing and Funding News.

Susan Bernofsky/Translationista: ALTA 2013 Part 3: Advocacy and Promotion.

Will Kirkland/All In One Boat: Leaping Linguals! Everything is Understood! Will mentions lots of wonderful details from the conference, including highlights of ¡Declamacion! readings (BTW, I recited a poem by Evgeny Kropivnitsky about bedbugs, lice, and mice, in commemoration of finding a bedbug in my room after last year’s ¡Declamacion! event), keynotes, and a closing night talk at a special Founders’ Dinner, at which Willis Barnstone spoke about ALTA, translation, and many other things, culminating with readings that then culminated with Apocalypse via “Seven seals,” from Barnstone’s The Restored New Testament: A New Translation Including the Gnostic Gospels of Thomas, Mary, and Judas. A personal note: The Apocalypse is quite a way to end a conference. It sent me for a final ice cream at Hartzell’s, my very favorite place in Bloomington.

Yardenne Greenspan/Words Without Borders: Dispatch from the 2013 ALTA Conference. Another nice summary, one I particularly enjoyed for mentioning the informal aspect of ALTA that I love so much.

Bonus Links!

Sal Robinson’s update on the Tolstoy Internet project: “Russian volunteers put the complete works of Tolstoy online”. Sal, an editor at Melville House, is also a co-founder of the Bridge Series, “a reading series focused on translation” that holds events sounding so painfully great that I sometimes wish I lived in New York. City. It was great to see Sal at ALTA.

Martin Cruz Smith’s “Five Best” column on Russian humorists in last Saturday’s Wall Street Journal. Yet another reminder that I never ever seem to get back to Zoshchenko… Sara Paretsky’s “Five Best” column in today’s Wall Street Journal focuses on “bearing witness to the unspeakable” and also includes two Russian books.

File:IUB Lilly Library P1000231.jpg
The Lilly Library, a darn hard place to find if you don't really know where you're going. It houses rare books and manuscripts, including translators' papers.

Up Next: Vadim Levental’s Masha Regina, which I’ve been promising forever!

Image Credit: Vmenkov, via Wikipedia/Creative Commons.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

And There’s More Award News! NOSE Finalists & Bunin Winners

Ah, autumn, the season for literary awards!

First off, the NOSE Award named this season’s shortlist on Thursday. Winners will be announced on February 1, 2014; there will be jury awards and reader awards. The finalists are a combination of familiar and unfamiliar names:

  • Sergei Beliakov: Гумилев сын Гумилева (excerpts) (Gumilev, Son of Gumilev), also on the Big Book shortlist. I read a chapter or two of Gumilev, Son of Gumilev every now and then and find it okay but a little watered down, with too much detail about the times and people around Gumilev to consistently hold my interest. 
  • Evgeny Vodolazkin: Лавр (Laurus). Still one of my favorites; won Yasnaya Polyana, also a finalist for the Big Book and National Bestseller. (previous post)
  • Aleksandr Grigorenko: Ильгет. Три имени судьбы (excerpts) (Ilget. Three Names for Fate).
  • Mikhail Elizarov: Мы вышли покурить на 17 лет (This title seems to end up as We Went Out for a Seventeen-Year Smoke).
  • Andrei Ivanov: Харбинские мотыльки (The Moths of Harbin). A novel about Russians in Estonia during 1920-1940. This sounds like a difficult but interesting novel.
  • Eduard Kochergin: Записки Планшетной крысы (Notes of a [Theater] Board Rat… the word планшет has an Oxford Russian-English dictionary translation of plane table (for surveying) or map case and is also used for devices like iPads but is apparently also a theater term for the stage, the intent here.).
  • Vladimir Martynov: Книга книг (The Book of Books). Words and images from a composer and writer.
  • 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.
  • Konstantin Charukhin: Щежерь (Shchezher). The title is the name of a village in the Mogilev region of Belarus. The book is apparently a collection of stories.

As for the Bunin Award, first a big thanks to translator Anne Marie Jackson for sending a note to ask if I’d be writing about the Bunin Award. I don’t follow it closely, partly because it’s a fairly low-profile award that I don’t always hear about it and partly because (and this is related to the low-profile aspect) I’ve always found the award a little confusing. In any case, this year focused on prose, so here’s a summary of this year’s winners:

Special awards went to Fazil Iskander, whom I’ve thoroughly enjoyed reading, and Viktor Likhonosov, whom I’ve never read. This year’s four winners are Vera Galaktionova for На острове Буяне (On Buyan Island), Dmitrii Poliakov (Katin) for Дети новолуния (Children of the New Moon), Andrei Volos for Возвращение в Панджруд (Return to Panjrud), and Maxim Osipov for stories and essays published in the book Человек эпохи Возрождения (Renaissance [Era] Man) and the journal Znamia.

Disclaimers: The usual (here), plus I’ve translated work by Khemlin as well as excerpts from Vodolazkin’s Laurus.

Up Next: Trip report on the American Literary Translators Association conference in Bloomington, Indiana, then Vadim Levental’s Masha Regina.