Sunday, June 14, 2015

New York Trip Report, Part One, Belated: Oliver Ready Wins 2015 Read Russia Prize

So much for timely trip reports about award ceremonies! That doesn’t mean I’m not still thrilled to say, more than two weeks later, that Oliver Ready received the 2015 Read Russia Prize for his translation of Vladimir Sharov’s До и во время, which Dedalus Books published with the title Before and During. I accepted the award for Oliver and am very excited for all involved: for Oliver, for Sharov, whom I met through Oliver, and for Dedalus Books.

Recognizing Oliver felt doubly appropriate because his Crime and Punishment translation was shortlisted for this year’s award, too. Given my interest in contemporary Russian literature, I’m especially happy Oliver won for the Sharov book—the decision came, by the way, through unanimous vote—both because I hope it draws attention to present-day writers and because I read and admired (previous post) Oliver’s translation.

Read Russia commended classics, too, by giving a special jury award to two new translations of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina: Rosamund Bartlett’s translation was published by Oxford University Press and Marian Schwartz’s by Yale University Press. The jury’s statements on both awards are online here. I should note that this Read Russia Prize was for Russian-to-English translations only.

The Read Russia evening also included a talk from Gary Saul Morson, the man who taught me War and Peace twice: he spoke on the topic of “Because Everyone Needs a Little Russian Literature.” I’d wondered, in a previous post (about the Read Russia shortlist), if Dr. Morson took the title from a Read Russia bumper sticker. He did. My notes about his talk, alas, are even more inadequate than usual, most likely due to a combination of plain old tiredness after three days at BEA and excitement for Oliver.

I am happy to report, though, that, among other things, Dr. Morson quoted from a book by his pseudonym Alicia Chudo, noted the sense of moral urgency that Russian literature conveys, and spoke of literary characters as possible people, a formulation I like very much. Best of all, he read aloud, from translations: when I was a student, undergrad and grad, I didn’t understand why he read aloud to us, but have come to realize in recent years how much his readings helped me learn to hear the shadings of literary voices.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Alex Cigale gave me a copy of the spring/summer 2015 issue of Atlanta Review: Alex edited the issue and it includes four or five or six dozen translations of Russian poems. Alex pulled together a fantastic roster of fifty poets (Shamshad Abdullaev to Ivan Zhdanov, if taken in the Roman alphabet’s A to Z) and several dozen translators, many of whom I know and have heard read from and/or speak about their work. I’ve only read a small sliver of the issue—every time I open the journal, I get happily stuck on Alyssa Dinega Gillespie’s lush translation of a Polina Barskova poem that starts with “Sweetness of the sweetest slumber/Sweet is sweet is sweet is dream” because I love what Alyssa does with rhythm and rhyme—but I can’t wait to read more, poet by poet, translator by translator. Alex reminded me that readers can get tastes of the poems (as well as background) from the Atlanta Review Facebook group, where posts often include lots of links. If you’re looking for very short notes, there’s also Twitter!

Disclaimers: The usual, including work for Read Russia. Thank you to Alex Cigale for Atlanta Review.

Up Next: Trip report, Part Two, BookExpo America book fair and event report. And two books: Eugene Vodolazkin’s Solovyov and Larionov, which I’ll start translating this summer, meaning soon, and Sergei Nosov’s Член общества, или Голодное время (something like Member of the Society or A Time of Hunger), the sad-but-funny story of a man’s life after selling all his Dostoevsky. And then: I’m currently reading Elena Minkina-Taycher’s The Rebinder Effect, which I’m enjoying very much. Rebinder didn’t catch me on several previous tries so I’m glad I kept trying because I’m finding it very, very readable. After that, I’ll be starting my Big Book Award finalist marathon, beginning with Guzel’ Iakhina’s Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes, which I’ve already started…


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