Saturday, December 31, 2016

Happy New Year! & 2016 Highlights

Happy New Year! С Новым годом! As I look back at this year’s posts and last year’s year-end greeting, I feel like I could repeat much of my old text: another year seemed to slip by very quickly and, for the fourth year in a row now, “the reading situation has been quality over quantity with lots of abandonments but also a fair number of books I’ve enjoyed.” And, yet again, it was a very busy year for translation, which is one reason I’ve been on a bit of a holiday hiatus this month. Here are some of the year’s highlights:

Favorite book by a writer I’d already read: Evgenii Vodolazkin’s The Aviator (previous post) was thoroughly enjoyable to read and it’s just as enjoyable to translate: I finished a smoothed rough draft yesterday and can only marvel at how nicely the book’s themes and plotlines fit together. Vodolazkin’s theme of timelessness and time’s spirals feel especially topical (I don’t want to write “timely”!) just before a holiday that’s so based on the nature of time. The Aviator fits beautifully with Laurus and Solovyov and Larionov, making a sort of triptych, all to be published by Oneworld Publications.

Favorite book by a writer I’d never read: Aleksandr Grigorenko’s Mebet (previous post) has stuck with me very nicely: Grigorenko’s portrayal of a fierce taiga warrior is beautiful and epic in all the right ways, making for a perfect combination of simple and complex, too. I bought Grigorenko’s Ilget when I was in Moscow and am looking forward to reading it… though I’m also a bit afraid to pick it up after having enjoyed Mebet so much.

Nicest book surprise: It was a lovely surprise to receive a big, flat package from Russian Life a few months ago: the box was clearly too heavy to contain a calendar and I certainly wasn’t expecting a copy of The Spine of Russia, a coffee table book with photos by Mikhail Mordasov and Paul E. Richardson, along with commentary from the photos’ highly varied subjects, about whether they consider themselves patriots. I’m a sucker for books with vivid, telling photos of Russia so of course I love paging through to look and read, particularly in combination with Richardson’s Driving Down Russia’s Spine, a companion book with a textual account of the trip that covers the same characters—who include Vodolazkin—in much more detail. Richardson, who enjoys quirkiness, includes lots of interesting tidbits about history and contemporary (2015) life in Russia, including the far north, an area of particular interest for me.

Happiest moods: I think winning the Read Russia Award and being shortlisted for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize pretty much topped everything (previous post)! That said, signing contracts to translate Vodolazkin’s Aviator (Oneworld), Margarita Khemlin’s Klotsvog (Columbia University Press/Russian Library), and Guzel Yakhina’s Zuleikha Opens Her Eyes (Oneworld) put me in pretty excellent moods, too, particularly since I loved reading all three books. Nice reviews for Vadim Levental’s Masha Regina, also for Oneworld, made me very, very happy, too!

Best travel: Moscow, for the literary translator congress and for my love of the city (previous post). Beyond the award, it was fun to see colleagues, authors, and old friends, and amass lots of books to bring home.

Favorite novel about translation: I made up this new category because I keep thinking about Idra Novey’s Ways to Disappear (and the hair brush!), which I enjoyed so much (previous post). Novey has said she wrote it as a love letter to translation and that truly comes out. 

What’s coming up in 2017: In terms of translation: my translation of Marina Stepnova’s Italian Lessons is in the works and should be on the way, plus I’ll be finishing The Aviator and Zuleikha and starting on Klotsvog. In terms of the blog: I have a lot of posts to write to get caught up on my reading, though some common themes—as well as some (honestly, far too many) disappointments that have made me think more about my expectations as a reader—mean I’ll write some roundups. I’m now reading Sergei Kuznetov’s Kaleidoscope, which is over 800 pages of, hmm, connected stories/chapters that have a strange way of drawing me in. I’ll be greeting 2017 with that book. I also have my Crime and Punishment reread project, which involves Robert Belknap’s wonderful Plots, sent to me by Columbia University Press, whose package of the first three Russian Library books was waiting for me at the post office today, just in time for the holiday.

Thank you again! Thank you to everyone for visiting the blog, whether regularly or occasionally. I’m glad it’s useful and wish everybody a very happy, healthy 2017 filled with many good books! Special thanks go to Columbia University Press and Russian Life for sending the books I mentioned above.

Happy New Year!

Image credit: Fireworks in Bratislava, New Year 2005, from Ondrejk, via Wikipedia.


  1. Congratulations on your award win and shortlisting, and the new translations,it sounds fantastic and super busy, thank you for continuing to share your wonderful reviews and news of Russian literature, it's like an ocean of delicacies, quite overwhelming, but I love browsing here!

    1. Thank you so very much, clairemca! I'm glad to hear you enjoy the blog and (though this may sound odd) glad you find it overwhelming. Yours gives me a similar feeling but that's a feeling I like because there's so much opportunity in all the books!

      Happy 2017 to you!