Sunday, August 30, 2020

Women in Translation, 2020

August may be almost gone but it’s still Women in Translation Month for another day and a half, meaning I’m going to hop to it and write up a rather rambling post with some rather random bits of news about Russian books by women that are on their way to anglophone readers. “Random” really is the word here: this is a pretty nonmethodical (perhaps even slipshod) look at some personal favorites and news, as well as a couple of interesting cases of certain writers who have multiple new translations on the way.

I’ll start with Katherine E. Young’s translation of Anna Starobinets’s Look at Him, which will be out soon from Three String Books, an imprint at Slavica Publishers. I’m mentioning Look at Him first because the book, a memoir of sorts, made such an impression on me when I read it back in 2018 (previous post). Starobinets is particularly known for writing fictional horror stories but here she tells the true story of her own experiences, many of which are utterly horrifying, when she terminated a pregnancy. For more: Svetlana Satchkova’s interview with Starobinets on Punctured Lines.

There seem to be lots of other translations on the way but please note that I have yet to do much work on this year’s new translation list so may be missing some good and very imminent books. That said, the work I have done is more than enough to know that there’s been some significant slippage in publication dates, likely due to the pandemic. So! Among the other books by women that are in progress, we have three books by Maria Stepanova: the poetry collection War of the Beasts and the Animals, translated by Sasha Dugdale and on the way from Bloodaxe Books in March 2021; In Memory of Memory, fiction translated by Sasha Dugdale and published by New Directions (U.S.) and Fitzcarraldo Editions (U.K.) in February 2021; and The Voice Over, a selection of poems and essays edited by Irina Shevelenko that’s scheduled for publication with Russian Library/Columbia University Press in June 2021.

Another big bright spot is the list at Deep Vellum, whose Will Evans told RusTRANS of a slew of books on the way: Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s novel Kidnapped: A Crime Story, translated by Marian Schwartz, and The New Adventures of Helen & Other Magical Tales, translated by Jane Bugaeva; an autobiographical novel by Nataliya Meshchaninova translated by Fiona Bell; and Alisa Ganieva’s Offended Sensibilities, translated by *checking on the name*. The RusTRANS blog page also includes a post with a note by Ruth Ahmedzai Kemp mentioning that she’s translating one of Yulia Yakovleva’s detective novels; Ruth’s Web site lists the title as Punishment of a Hunter (previous post, where, NB, I used a provisional title); the book is on the way from Pushkin Press in 2021.

For a more historical form of WIT fun, I really love this list of “25 Books by Women in Translation From the Russian Language” on Reading With KT. Yes, I’m very grateful a few of my translations are included and just as glad to see some wonderful translations by colleagues, but I’m especially happy that the list contains two Soviet-era classics that I’ve enjoyed: Lydia Chukovskaya’s Sofia Petrovna (previous post) is a book I’ve read several times and would recommend to anyone, and Natalya Baranskaya’s A Week Like Any Other, which I’ve only read once (or maybe twice, once in each language?) but ordered up after reading KT’s post. (Languagehat, by the way, was reading A Week (post here) the same week I read the Reading With KT blog post.) For another list of Russian women writers’ books available in translation, here’s A Russian Affair’s (shorter) list, which includes Banine’s Days in the Caucasus, for Pushkin Press, translated from the French by Anne Thompson-Ahmadova, who also has a note on RusTRANS. (Alas, I just found this book isn’t available in the U.S. until next year.) If I were to add one personal favorite to those two lists, it would be Julia Voznesenskaya’s The Women’s Decameron, which I’ve mentioned a couple times over the years. I read it first in W.B. Linton’s translation, then again in Russian. I bought a copy in Moscow but, another alas here: the box containing that book got lost somewhere between Moscow and Maine. I’d love to think someone swiped the box solely because the Voznesenskaya book was in there.

Finally, on a more personal note, it’s been a nice year for translations of women! Narine Abgaryan’s Three Apples Fell From the Sky, which I translated for Oneworld Publications, was published and made the Read Russia Prize (anglophone!) longlist. It was also the March book club selection on; I answered some fun interview questions for Asymptote’s Josefina Massot, here. I’m currently translating Maria Galina’s Autochthons (previous post), which never let me go over the years – it’s the perfect puzzling book to translate in this strange time; the translation is for Russian Library/Columbia University Press. In other good news, my translation of Guzel Yakhina’s Zuleikha made the shortlists of the EBRD Literary Prize and the Read Russia Prize (anglophone again!). Turning to potential future translations: I translated excerpts of two novels written by women: Anna Kozlova’s Rurik (previous post) and Daria Desombre’s The Birdcatcher, which I haven’t posted about but enjoyed very much and then came to love even more when I translated excerpts: not only did it draw on my BFF feelings for War and Peace, it reminded me of studying eighteenth-century Russian literature, particularly sentimentalism. The Birdcatcher is a historical crime novel (with elements of coming-of-age blended in) set in Russia during the War of 1812 and it features a young Russian woman whose family’s rural estate ends up housing French officers. Desombre has also written contemporary detective novels featuring a young woman, Masha Karavai: Shelley Fairweather-Vega translated The Sin Collector for Amazon Crossing. I read another Masha Karavai book early on in the pandemic and found it good light reading that actually keep me reading (I was having a lot of trouble reading at the time), though it made me very wistful about missing Moscow. On another note, a more Petersburg note, it’s a wonderful plus that one of the best books I’ve read this year is Ksenia Buksha’s Churov and Churbanov (previous post); Anne O. Fisher translated a chunk that’s available here. Which leads me to another book written by a woman…

Up Next: Inga Kuznetsova’s Промежуток, which I thoroughly enjoyed, is up next. I’m not sure what will come after that since I’m reading two books, one printed, the other electronic. We’ll see which I finish first!

Disclaimers and disclosures: The usual, particularly knowing some of the translators, writers, and publishers mentioned in this post.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

2020 NatsBest Goes to Elizarov’s Earth

Yesterday the National Bestseller Award went to Mikhail Elizarov’s Земля (Earth) (previous post), a very long and often very funny book about death and the funeral industry. Earth had two votes. Olga Pogodina-Kuzmina’s Уран (Uranium) and Sofia Sinitskaya’s Сияние “жеможаха” (the one with the tricky title that I kind of like calling The “Zhemozhakha” Shining since the title’s other word is the same as the Russian title of a certain Stephen King book) each had one vote.

For a bit more, see this post from Год литературы.

Up Next: Potpourri, Inga Kuznetsova’s Промежуток.

Disclaimers and Disclosures: I received a copy of Earth from BGS Literary Agency and have translated excerpts from the novel.