Tuesday, May 31, 2016

2016 Big Book Finalists: Lizok’s Summer Reading Plan

Today the Big Book Award announced eleven finalists for its 2016 season. Here’s the list, in Russian alphabetical order, by author surname, followed by a bit of commentary:
  • Pyotr Aleshkovsky’s Крепость (The Citadel), which I bought after reading the beginning of the PDF that Aleshkovsky’s literary agency sent me: archaeology and medieval constructions caught me.
  • Evgeny (Eugene) Vodolazkin’s Авиатор (The Aviator), which I read recently and loved for its blend of genres, epochs, and themes, some familiar from Laurus and Solovyov and Larionov. I’m translating this book and enjoying it all over again as I see, up-close, how the book works.
  • Maria Galina’s Автохтоны (part 1) (part 2) (Autochthons, I guess), which is, I can now confirm, a Galina-esque combination of phantasmagoria, magical realism (though hmm?), history, and a regular-guy (anonymous) hero. I finished Autochthons yesterday and still wonder what I read—not, apparently, an unusual reaction—because the book is (usually) cozily disorienting.
  • Vladimir Dinets’s Песни драконов (Dragon Songs) is, according to the full title, about love and adventures in the world of crocodiles and other relatives of dinosaurs. Dinets, who lives in the US, writes in Russian and English, and an English version of the book already exists: Publishers Weekly loved it. This could be a fun surprise. For online animal pictures, check Dinets’s blog.
  • Aleksei Ivanov’s Ненастье (Nasty Weather, this title is a toponym, too, so I’m going to rethink it) is about an Afghan War veteran who robs an armored car, betraying his comrades. I enjoyed Ivanov’s Geographer (previous post) and this one, which I began last night, is off to a good start.
  • Alexander Ilichevsky’s Справа налево (From Right to Left) contains essays.
  • Anna Matveeva’s Завидное чувство Веры Стениной (Vera Stenina’s Envy; the Russian title is closer to Vera Stenina’s Enviable Sense but that is, indeed, tough to sort...) is a novel about two women and their relationship, which, yes, has strong elements of envy.
  • Sergei Soloukh’s Рассказы о животных (Stories About Animals) is, contrary to the title, a novel about human beings, concerning a former academic who’s now working in a business. (brief interview + excerpt)
  • Ludmila Ulitskaya’s Лестница Якова (Jacob’s Ladder) is a family saga set during 1911-2011; I read the beginning after Ulitskaya’s agent sent me the text. This one’s already on the shelf.
  • Sasha Filipenko’s Травля (Persecution, perhaps?) sounds as indescribable as Galina’s book: I find mentions of youth, irony, cynicism, and this time we live in.
  • Leonid Yuzefovich’s Зимняя дорога, (The Winter Road) is described as a “documentary novel”: the cover sums up the details with “General A.N. Pepeliaev and anarchist I.Ia. Strod in Yakutia. 1922-1923.” I’ve been reading small chunks of The Winter Road each night and thoroughly enjoying Yuzefovich’s absorbing, masterful characterizations of people and a time. He works wonders with archival material.

As for commentary, there were a few books I was especially sorry didn’t make the list… Vasily Avchenko’s Кристалл в прозрачной оправе (excerpt) (Crystal in a Transparent Frame), with its ocean theme, and Dmitry Danilov’s Есть вещи поважнее футбола (There Are Things A Little More Important Than Football/Soccer) are at the top of my list. Our cats were rooting for Aleksandr Arkhangelsky’s Правило муравчика. Сказка про бога, котов и собак (excerpt) (The Rule of the Purrer/The Right Cat Rule. A Tale About God, Cats, and Dogs), which I’ll have to read if only to figure out what to do with the title. Based on some good reviews, I was a little surprised Sergei Kuznetsov’s Калейдоскоп (excerpt) (Kaleidoscope) didn’t make it, though wonder if the combination of dozens of characters and their stories (including, apparently, sex and vampires, which I wouldn’t think would put people off!) might have, nevertheless, put off the experts. Sasha Okun’s Камов и Каминка (Kamov and Kaminka), which purports to involve art and a detective story, looks so appealing that I may have to read it sooner rather than later. And, finally, as I mentioned in a quick note to Klarisa Pul’son, who wrote this prediction of the finalist list, I was surprised that crocodiles knocked poets out of contention for this year’s award: I was expecting either Zakhar Prilepin’s book on Anatoly Mariengof, Boris Kornilov, and Vladimir Lugovskoi, or Dmitrii Bykov’s book on Vladimir Mayakovsky to make the short list. I thought Klarisa did pretty well by (correctly) predicting six out of eleven books that made the shortlist: even without having read all the books on the long list, I was nearly certain Yuzefovich, Ulitskaya, Ivanov, and Vodolazkin would be finalists; I would have put Aleshkovsky, Avchenko, and Kuznetsov at the top of my “probably” list.

I’ll start posting about finalists soon since I’ve already finished two. All in all, this list looks far more to my taste than last year’s—with some old favorites plus some new names and species—so I’m very much looking forward to reading the finalists as well as the books from the long list that are already on the shelf.

Disclaimers: I’m a member of the Big Book’s jury, the Literary Academy, and will vote on finalists later this year. Authors and literary agents have given me electronic copies of several of these books. I am translating one of the finalists.

Up Next: The National Bestseller Award winner. Then three books, all difficult to write about: Eugene Vodolazkin’s The Aviator, which truly does soar, Alexander Snegirev’s Vera, which I do think I’ll call Faith, and Maria Galina’s Autochthons. I’m now reading Aleksei Ivanov’s book, which I’m thinking of as Nasty Weather for now, because of the sound play.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Translation Potpourri for a Sleepy Sunday

What better for a blustery Sunday afternoon than a translation potpourri? And so: two novels written in English, one essay, one short course, and a link…

I’ll start with Alison Anderson’s The Summer Guest since it’s a novel with a Russian theme: a modern-day British publisher, Katya, hires Ana to translate a journal written by Zinaida Lintvaryova, a young doctor whose own illness has blinded her. The title’s summer guest is none other than Anton Chekhov, who visits the Lintvaryov estate in Sumy, in eastern Ukraine. The journal, which begins in 1888, makes up the bulk of the novel but Anderson intersperses occasional chapters set in the 2010s, chronicling Katya’s personal and professional problems—her husband’s absences and their publishing house’s difficulties—as well as Ana’s work on the manuscript. Of course I relate heavily to Ana, who can be observed checking spellings, splurging on books, and hoping for a new project (did Chekhov really leave behind a draft of the novel he read to Zinaida? could she translate it?), not to mention making an impulsive trip to Ukraine toward the end of the book. Anderson’s greatest success in The Summer Guest, though, is Zinaida’s journal, which beautifully meshes Chekhov’s gentlemanly humor and humanity with Zinaida’s fears and hopes. The rapport he and Zinaida develop is poignant, and the scene where the Chekhov brothers take Zinaida out in a rowboat is particularly lovely: Zinaida feels freed, “suspended” from her darkness. Though the framing device in The Summer Guest felt a bit thin to me because I wanted to see Katya and Ana in greater depth, and some of the current events mentioned felt a little tacked on, I’ll simply say (to avoid spoilers!) that the frame allows Anderson to make the journal count twice. More important to me, as a reader and recommender, though, is the readability of the journal’s story, the colorfulness of the Chekhov and Lintvaryov families, and the many admirable choices that Anderson makes when incorporating bits of Russian language and background into her text. Her own translation work informs her well; so, apparently did her research, which she notes in a brief but informative afterword…

Which made me especially happy to read Anderson’s “Spurn the Translator at Your Own Peril,” on The Millions. I won’t say much about it because you can read it yourself, here. (I know at least one of you already read it: thanks to the reader who sent the link!) Anderson writes about reader perceptions of translation, translator and author invisibility (she takes a fun angle on this because of the mysterious Elena Ferrante), what is (ahem!) found in translation, and even how we do it. She mentions two to ten pages a day. And yes, of course she’s right that “it is a pleasure.” She’s also right that translators make “interesting protagonists within the fiction that is their province”: she notes novels including Rabih Alameddine’s An Unnecessary Woman, which I was lukewarm on, and Idra Novey’s Ways to Disappear

I loved Idra Novey’s Ways to Disappear. She had me with her first sentence: “In a crumbling park in the crumbling back end of Copacabana, a woman stopped under an almond tree with a suitcase and a cigar.” Whether it was the repetition of “crumbling,” the combination of the suitcase and the cigar, or the thought of almonds, which I enjoy eating on just about anything, yes, dear reader, I bought the book. In hardcover. I had to find out what happens when American translator Emma Neufeld goes from snowy Pittsburg to blazing-hot Brazil in search of the almond tree woman, Beatriz Yagoda, who happens to be Emma’s author. Beatriz has gone missing because of gambling debts and Emma goes missing on her lets-go-running-and-lets-get-married boyfriend because, well, our authors are part of us in some mysterious way. Has Novey ever used the hairbrush of one of her authors? I don’t know and I don’t need to know but I will say that I, personally, have never used a hairbrush (or comb or other grooming device) belonging to any of my authors but oh my, what a wonderful, fitting metaphor. On the same page (23, if anyone’s looking), there’s a mention of Emma’s (earlier, of course) confession to Beatriz that she “hadn’t been quite as dutiful in her last translation as in Beatriz’s earlier books, and Beatriz had replied that duty was for clergy. For translation to be an art, she told Emma, you have to make the uncomfortable but necessary transgressions that an artist makes.” Yes, yes, and yes. I couldn’t wait to buy the book because Novey mentions “the risk-taking, the reckless joys of translation” in an LA Times interview that my cousin clipped and sent to me… Risks and joys are what make translation so exhilarating and I feel lots of reckless joy and risk-taking in Ways to Disappear, too, and all of it works and pays off for Novey. For more complete views: Heller McAlpin’s review on npr.org or Catherine Lacey’s review for the New York Times Book Review.

If you’re a translator looking for a short course in London, in mid-July, you might consider Translate in the City, where the tutor for Russian is Robert Chandler. I think I first heard about the program from Anne Marie Jackson, an alumna of the very first “Translate in the City” course: among other things, Anne Marie is a co-translator of two volumes of Teffi that were just released (herewith, the 2016 translation list for details), including Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea, reviewed in today’s New York Times Book Review by Masha Gessen. Translate in the City covers eleven languages and all are taught by instructors whose main work is literary translation. Robert notes that many students come to London from the US for the program.

And, finally, to end on an especially happy and translation-related note, here’s an article by Alison Flood for The Guardian: Translated fiction sells better in the UK than English fiction, research finds. And here's a Monday-morning addition, also in The Guardian: Daniel Hahn's The Man Booker International prize: a celebration of translation.
Disclaimers: The usual. Thank you to HarperCollins for the review copy of The Summer Guest. The book has a release date of May 24, 2016. Especially recommended for Chekhov fans.

Up Next: Eugene Vodolazkin’s The Aviator, which I just plain loved. Alexander Snegirev’s Vera, which I may yet call Faith. Maria Galina’s Autochthons, which is getting eerier… The Big Book finalist announcement is coming up soon, too.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

New Russian-to-English Translations for 2016

I’m happy to say that compiling lists of Russian-to-English translations continues to be a big job! The list for 2016 contains about three dozen titles—roughly the same as in 2015—and there’s a blend of genres again this year, too, with plenty of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. There’s also an interesting combination of contemporary and classic literature. As I mentioned in 2014, grant programs from the Institute of Translation and the Prokhorov Fund’s Transcript Program contribute tremendously, both directly and indirectly, to publisher interest in Russian-to-English translations. I know that I’m not the only translator who’s tremendously grateful to both organizations for all they do to support publishers, translators, and writers.

A few caveats, as always. This list is just a start—I’ll be adding books throughout the year and making corrections, as necessary. Please e-mail me with any changes; my address is on the sidebar. As last year, this is a global list that includes new translations and retranslations. I’ve linked titles on the list to publishers’ pages wherever possible. Publication dates are notoriously subject to slippage; I transfer books from year to year as necessary and have crossed out titles on the 2015 list that weren’t actually published in 2015. Update: I have done the same for 2016 titles that were moved to 2017. I’ll place a link to this post on the sidebar of the blog for easy reference. I’m taking names and titles for 2017 now, so please feel free to send them in. Finally, don’t forget the Self-Published Translation post: If you have a book to add, please add it in a comment on that page.

As always, happy reading!

Alexievich, Svetlana: Chernobyl Prayer, translated by Anna Gunin and Arch Tait; Penguin Modern Classics, out now.

Alexievich, Svetlana: Second-Hand Time, translated by Bela Shayevich; Fitzcarraldo Editions (UK) and Random House (US), May 2016.

Aristov, Vladimir: What We Saw from This Mountain, translated by Julia Trubikhina (Kunina), Betsy Hulick, Gerald Janecek; Ugly Duckling Presse, spring 2016.

Babel, Isaac: Odessa Stories, translated by Boris Dralyuk; Pushkin Press, November 2016.

Belenkaya, Nadezhda: Wake in Winter, translated by Andrea Gregovich, Amazon Crossing, November 2016.

Bulgakov, Mikhail: The White Guard, translated by Roger Cockrell; Alma Classics, August 2016.

Chekhov, Anton: Little Apples and Other Early Stories, translated by Peter Constantine; Steven Stories Press, January 2016.

Dostoevsky, Fyodor: The Double, translated by Hugh Aplin; Alma Classics, August 2016.

Chizhova, Elena: Children of Zaches translated by Carol Ermakova; Glagoslav, 2016.

Gazdanov, Gaido: The Flight, translated by Bryan Karetnyk; Pushkin Press, March 2016.

Gelasimov, Andrei: Cold, translated by Marian Schwartz; Amazon Crossing, 2016.
Grigorieva, Lydia: Shards from the Polar Ice: Selected Poems; translated by John Farndon; Glagoslav, August 2016.

Grishkovets, Evgeni: The Shirt, translated by Ronan Quinn; Glagoslav, 2016.

Gromova, Natalia: Moscow in the 1930s: A Novel from the Archives; translated by Christopher Culver, Glagoslav, May 2016.

Ivanov, Georgy: Disintegration of the Atom/Petersburg Winters, translated by Jerome Katsell and Stanislav Shvabrin; Academic Studies Press, April 2016.

Kapitsa, Sergei: Paradoxes of Growth, translated by Inna Tsys and edited by Scott D. Moss and Huw Davies; Glagoslav, May 2016.

Kashin, Oleg: Fardwar, Russia!, translated by Will Evans; Restless Books, January 2016.

Klekh, Igor: Adventures in the Slavic Kitchen, translated by Michael Naydan and Slava Yastremski; Glagoslav, 2016. (A food book, what a rarity!)

Krzhizhanovsky, Sigizmund: The Return of Munchausen, translated by Joanne Turnbull; NYRB Classics, December 2016.

Kurchatkin, Anatoly: Tsunami, translated by Arch Tait; Glagoslav, 2016.

Kurkov, Andrei: The Bickford Fuse, translated by Boris Dralyuk; MacLehose Press, May 2016.

Lebedev, Sergei: Oblivion, translated by Nina W. Bouis; New Vessel Press, January 2016. This one’s on the shelf; I’ll be reading it soon.

Lermontov, Mikhail: A Hero of Our Time, translated by Elizabeth Cheresh Allen; Northwestern University Press, August 2016. An old favorite in what is apparently a new translation; I just love this book (previous post).

Levental, Vadim: Masha Regina, translated by Lisa Hayden; Oneworld Publications, May 10, 2016. (previous post)

Lukyanenko, Sergei: Sixth Watch, translated by Andrew Bromfield; Harper Paperbacks (US)/William Heinemann (UK), August 31/September 1 respectively.

Mandelstam, Osip: Voronezh Notebooks, translated by Andrew Davis; New York Review Books, 2016.

Mayakovsky, Vladimir: Vladimir Mayakovsky and Other Poems, translated by James Womack; Carcanet Press, October 2016.

Minkina-Taycher, Elena: The Rebinder Effect, translated by Christopher Culver; Glagoslav, 2016. (previous post) (Note that the effect in question is named for a scientist, whose name transliterates as Petr Rebinder, but that the scientific effect is very often, as on Wikipedia, spelled "Rehbinder.")

Nemzer, Anna: Prisoner, translated by Ronan Quinn; Glagoslav, February 2016.

Osminkin, Roman: Not a Word About Politics, translated by Olga Bulatova, Cement Collective, Jason Cieply, Ian Dreiblatt, Brian Droitcour, Keith Gessen, Ainsley Morse and Bela Shayevich, Anastasiya Osipova, Jon Platt, and David Riff; Cicada Press, May 2016. Double your fun: it's bilingual!

Platonov, Andrei: Fourteen Little Red Huts and Other Plays, translated by Robert Chandler, Jesse Irwin, and Susan Larsen; Columbia University Press/Russian Library, December 2016. Edited by Robert Chandler.

Pushkin, Alexander: Yevgeny Onegin, translated by Anthony Briggs; Pushkin Press, April 2016.

Pushkin, Alexander: Novels, Tales, Journeys: The Complete Prose of Alexander Pushkin, translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky; Knopf, November 2016. 

Sharov, Vladimir: The Rehearsals, translated by Oliver Ready; Dedalus Books, 2016.

Shishkin, Mikhail: Taking Izmail, translated by Andrew Bromfield; Quercus, June 2016.

Shklovsky, Viktor: Viktor Shklovsky, A Reader, translated by Alexandra Berlina; Bloomsbury Publishing, December 2016.

Sinyavsky, Andrei: Strolls with Pushkin, translated by (the simplified version!) Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy, Slava I. Yastremski, and Michael Naydan, with Olha Tytarenko; Columbia University Press/Russian Library, December 2016.

Sokolov, Sasha: Between Dog and Wolf, translated by Alexander Boguslawski; Columbia University Press/Russian Library, December 2016.

Stratanovsky, Sergey: Muddy River: Selected Poems, translated by J. Kates; Carcanet Press Ltd., May 1, 2016.

Strugatsky, Arkady and Strugatsky, Boris: The Doomed City, translated by Andrew Bromfield; Chicago Review Press, July 2016.

Teffi: Rasputin and Other Ironies, translated by Rose France, Robert Chandler, and Anne Marie Jackson; Pushkin Press, May 2016. This book is known as Tolstoy, Rasputin, Others, and Me: The Best of Teffi for the NYRB Classics edition also scheduled for May 2016.

Teffi: Memories: From Moscow to the Black Sea, translated by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler, Anne Marie Jackson, and Irina Steinberg; Pushkin Press, May 2016. Same title for the NYRB Classics edition, also due in May 2016.

Tsvetaeva, Marina: Letter to the Amazon, translated by A'Dora Phillips, Gaëlle Cogan; Ugly Duckling Presse, spring 2016. With an introduction by Catherine Ciepiela.

Ulitskaya, Ludmila: The Kukotsky Enigma, translated by Diane Nemec Ignashev; Northwestern University Press, August 2016. Ulitskayas Russian Booker winner.

Vagner, Yana: To the Lake, translated by Maria Wiltshire; Skyscraper Publications, fall 2016.

Various: 1917: Literature from the Russian Revolution, ed. Boris Dralyuk, translated by Boris Dralyuk et al; Pushkin Press, December 2016. I’m very happy to say that I translated a story by Mikhail Prishvin for this anthology!

Various: Written in the Dark: Five Siege Poets, translated by Anand Dibble, Ben Felker-Quinn, Ainsley Morse, Charles Swank, and Jason Wagner; Ugly Duckling Presse, Spring 2016. Poets are Gennady Gor, Dmitry Maksimov, Sergey Rudakov, Vladimir Sterligov, and Pavel Zaltsman, edited by Polina Barskova.

Various: A Very Russian Christmas: New Vessel Press, October 2016. There's a Zoshchenko story on the New Vessel Web site, here.

Various: 100 Poems About Moscow: An Anthology, translated by various translators, compiled by A. Skortsov; BGS-press, 2016. A bilingual edition that many friends and colleagues were involved with.

And this Mongolian poetry collection, just because I feel like mentioning it:
Oidov, Tseveendorjin: The End of the Dark Era, translated by Simon Wickhamsmith; Phoneme Media, July 2016. The book also includes Oidov’s artwork.

Disclaimers: The usual.

Up Next: Eugene Vodolazkin’s The Aviator, which I just plain loved. Alexander Snegirev’s Vera, which I may yet call Faith. Maria Galina’s Autochthons