Friday, October 16, 2015

Happy Birthday to the Bookshelf: The Blog Turns Eight

It’s October 16, so the cupcake is back! If there’s a cupcake to eat this year, it’ll be eaten in Florida… and since I’m writing this post before I travel, I can’t be sure whether to say it’s hot, sunshiny, humid, beautiful, or something else (thunderstormy?) in Naples, but I can be sure it will be nice to see my parents, aunt, and cousins, for a family wedding.

No matter what the weather, I send a big thanks to all of you who read the blog, whether regularly or occasionally. I’m glad so many of you seem to find it helpful and/or enjoyable! Thank you.

The big theme for the last year is that work has been super-busy (understatement!) with translations: editing and revising Eugene Vodolazkin’s Laurus (previous post), turning in a draft of Vadim Levental’s Masha Regina (previous post), and getting started on Vodolazkin’s Solovyov and Larionov (as a 2014 highlight). I’m also excited that three translations were released this year: Vladislav Otroshenko’s Addendum to a Photo Album (favorite review), Marina Stepnova’s The Woman of Lazarus (a lovely review), and Laurus (reviews: RBTH, Asymptote, Complete Review), which was released in the U.S. this Tuesday.

I intend no self-indulgence whatsoever in posting the reviews: what’s most important is that non-Russian readers really, truly can understand and appreciate Russian fiction in English translation. I already knew that and you probably already knew that, too, if you’re reading this blog post, but I keep running into stereotypes about Russian fiction that you probably hear, too: the books are (too) long, (too) serious, (too) heady, and (too) all sorts of other things. Though I think this is slowly changing, sometimes it feels to me like there’s some sort of Pavlovian response: hearing "Russian fiction" triggers thoughts of Heavy, Unreadable Stuff that’s just way too serious for mere mortals to finish a book in one lifetime. (Hmm, maybe this has been bothering me?!) The responses to Laurus have been especially heartening, not just because there’s been a fair number of reviews—Oneworld Publications, who just so happened to publish Marlon James’s A Brief History of Seven Killings in the UK, knows its books and its readers and does a fantastic job getting its books out—but because the reviewers (and not just these but others, from trade publications) are so appreciative of Vodolazkin’s play with time and language. I’m glad that came through in the translation.

All “my” translations are, of course, group efforts that involve my colleague Liza Prudovskaya, who checks a draft for each of my books, plus head editors, copy editors, proofreaders, and friends and colleagues with specific knowledge of specific related subjects. It’s also wonderful to work with authors—all the above—who are so patient in answering my odd questions about the horizons and flexibility of the words and expressions they use. Thank you to everyone who’s helped and thank you to all of you who have bought and/or asked about my translations. I appreciate your trust! Literary translation is not (not always, anyway) the lonely profession it’s imagined to be.

Moving on to blog stats, I’ll start by repeating last year’s line. “Google Analytics provides fewer interesting data about searches these days but there’s still plenty about geography and popular posts”:

Geography. As in years past, the United States continues to lead in visitor sessions, followed by United Kingdom, Russia, Canada, and Germany. In the top ten countries for visitorship, though, it’s readers from The Netherlands and France who read the most, with 2.02 and 1.84 pages/session, respectively, and over two minutes for average time length, too. By city, the top five are New York, (not set), London, Moscow, and Oxford, with Arlington Heights not far behind; I’ll list it to compensate for (not set).

Popular Posts. The most popular landing pages again this year “other than the home page, [are] Russian Fiction for Non-Native Readers, followed by Top 10 Fiction Hits of Russian Literature.” (Cut and paste is a marvelous thing.) I’m happy that the new translations list for 2014 is next, followed by my posts on Gogol’s “The Overcoat” and Sologub’s The Petty Demon. The most popular post about a contemporary book concerns Pelevin’s Omon Ra, at number nine; Pelevin’s the only contemporary writer in the top ten.

Common and Odd Search Terms. This used to be my favorite category, but this year it’s “(not provided)”, which leads by many, many, many thousands over the next term, which is “(not set)”. The rest of the top ten is pretty dull, with variations obviously created by people looking for easy Russian-language reading. I’m happy to say, though, that the only name in the top ten is one I know: “marina stepnova.” A few terms that made me happy: denisov’s pronunciation, best compromise in the compromise dovlatov, cat manhattan high line, fur hat symbolism in dr zhivago, i don’t like Russian winters, and war and peace Natasha famous passages flirtation. I’ll stop on that happy note!

Finally, another huge and hearty thank you very much to all of you for your visits, comments, notes, and love of Russian literature. See you again next year for another cupcake! For now, signing off from Florida.
File:Historic Naples FA.JPG
"The historic centre of Naples, Florida"
Disclaimers. The usual.

Photo Credits: MJJR for Naples, via Creative Commons; nazreth, via stock.xchng, for the cupcake.


  1. Congrats, LIsa! Eight years is a long time in the blog world - kudos to you for keeping us all up to date on Russian literature!

  2. Congratulations, Lizok, on eight years of wonderful blogging! Down with the baggy monster stereotype, and hurrah for the success of your Laurus translation, which I look forward to reading.

    1. Thank you so much, Russian Dinosaur, it's great to hear from you! Of course the old original baggy monster is my favorite novel of all time (and I'm enjoying another baggy one right now, Свечка, which mentions the old original many times) but I do wish the stereotype would go away!

      Thank you, too, for mentioning Laurus. It's great to see it get so much attention and appreciation! Becky Kraemer, Oneworld's amazing US-based publicist (who also just happened to write the previous comment) has been a big, huge part of making that happen.

  3. I'm just curious why Arlington Heights would be a top geographic hit. Any ideas?

  4. No, I have no idea! Though I think some people prefer to just visit blogs regularly instead of subscribing. I suspect that's what's happening with the post about reading for non-native speakers, too. (I could probably figure that out pretty easily by looking at more specific data but I don't mind the mysteries...) Thanks for the question!