Sunday, October 16, 2016

Happy Birthday to the Bookshelf: Nine Years

Well, there are no cupcakes in the house again this year but at least I have tea and Russian chocolates! I’ll readily admit I’m especially sleepy this October 16, though it’s a nice kind of sleepy: a combination of residual happy tiredness after last week’s return from the American Literary Translators Association conference in Oakland and a wonderfully dreary (if only very intermittently) fall day that would seem to be crying out “You need a nap!” even if I didn’t need a nap.

All that aside, thank you to everyone who reads the blog, whether you visit regularly or only occasionally. It’s gratifying that so many people find it helpful for personal and work-related reasons. Thank you for stopping by!

Not much has changed since last year’s birthday post: work is still super-busy, I’m again translating Eugene Vodolazkin (this time his Aviator), and I’m thrilled to be working on Guzel Yakhina’s Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes (previous post), too. I’m also excited about my translations that were released this year: Vadim Levental’s Masha Regina and 1917: Stories and Poems from the Russian Revolution, an anthology edited by Boris Dralyuk, for which I translated, “The Blue Banner,” a story by Mikhail Prishvin. Recent travel to Moscow and Oakland (trip reports coming soon!) were great fun, too, and I love my work as much as last year, if not more.

I mentioned last year that I got the impression that stereotypes about Russian fiction seemed to be easing a bit, away from thinking everything is way too intensely Heavy, Deep, and Real (to borrow a phrase from a beloved college housemate) for true enjoyment to realizing there is plenty of Russian literature available in translations that might offer, say, some deep thoughts, real settings, and heavy enjoyment. I know I’m not imagining this: lots of people ask questions when I tell them what I do, and I was especially happy to tell an Oakland TSA agent—who greeted me with a cheery «привет» when I told him I translate from the Russian—where to find the blog. The great variety of books being translated these days—you can check the new translation lists by clicking on the sidebar—means there’s something for just about any reader. And I can’t wait to get started on the stack of books I brought back from Moscow: there are lots written by writers I’ve never read so I’m looking forward to seeing what else I might like to recommend to publishers.

On to blog stats! I will repeat, yet again, an old line: “Google Analytics provides fewer interesting data about searches these days but there’s still plenty about geography and popular posts.” Here’s a bit:

Geography. As before, the United States is way out front in terms of sessions, followed by the United Kingdom, Russia, Canada, and Australia. Among the top ten, though, readers from The Netherlands (at number nine) read the most pages: 2.42 per session. Visitors from the Netherlands also spend the most time (2 minutes, 38 seconds) per session, and Russia is in second place, followed by Australia. The top city is (not set), which further confirms the tendency toward suppressing personal data, followed by New York, London, Moscow, and Melbourne. It’s nice to see places like Vilnius, Oxford, and New Delhi rounding out the top ten.

Popular Posts. The most popular landing page again this year, after the home page, is Russian Fiction for Non-Native Readers, followed by Back to Classics: Turgenev and the Generation Gap (this makes me happy since I love Fathers and Sons!) and Gogol’s “The Overcoat,” a perennial favorite. I’m glad my new translation lists for 2014 and 2016 are also in the top ten; I’m not sure why there’s less interest in the 2015 list, which includes lots of good contemporary fiction. The only post about contemporary fiction in this year’s top ten list is my post about Vodolazkin’s Laurus. That makes me happy, too.

Common and Odd Search Terms. This category is pretty much a total bust again this year, with (not provided), (not set), and spammy stuff taking up six of the top ten slots. The top real search terms are generation gap in fathers and sons, lazarus Vodolazkin [oops, somebody’s mixing metaphors there!], and maksim osipov. There are better terms later, things like “russian sadism,” i love narine [this must be Abgaryan!], and russian book very simple. Someone apparently even wants to know when one of my colleagues (I won’t mention the name, so as not to cause stress!) will finish a translation… but there’s little of the wonderfully crazy stuff of years past.

And so, another slightly sleepy but very, very heartfelt thanks for your visits, comments, notes, and interest in Russian literature. I’ll see you again soon for more trip reports and book reports. Thank you again for your visits and for your interest in Russian literature!

Up Next. Trip reports on Moscow (Translator Kongress) and Oakland (ALTA conference), plus Alexander Snegirev’s Faith and Oleg Zaionchkovsky’s Timosha’s Prose, as well as more Big Book finalists. Also: some Russia-related books written in English.

Cupcake credit. nazreth, via stock.xchng, for the cupcake.


  1. Happy anniversary! If you are nine, I guess I am, too. You provide a wonderful service - unique.

    The 1917 book is high on my "too read" list.

    1. Thank you, Amateur Reader! Yes, we're the same age. And your blog is pretty unique, too, thanks to the variety of books you read and the unusual angles you take on them. (The rats in Tess, how did I miss them on so many readings!?)

  2. Поздравляю! Congratulations!

  3. Happy anniversary! This blog got me brushing up my rusty Russian and reading Russian lit again after a very long break. You're also indirectly responsible for making my suitcase heavier and my wallet lighter after a huge book buying spree in Moscow earlier this year :) I wish you every success for the future!

    1. Thank you, Philip Price! This is what I like to hear: heavy luggage and light wallets are all worth it when Russian books are involved. I wish you lots of fun reading in Russian!

  4. Happy belated birthday to the Bookshelf! Your longevity is an inspiration to us all.

  5. "Visitors from the Netherlands also spend the most time (2 minutes, 38 seconds) per session ..." I'm not a bit surprised. :)