Thursday, December 31, 2020

Happy New Year! 2020’s Translations Before the Calendar Flips to 2021

Smaller fireworks this year
This December doesn’t feel like the time to compile a cheerful list of favorite books I read this year (though there were a few), happy international travel notes (since there was no travel other than a wonderful pre-lockdown trip up the road to Bowdoin College), or professional achievements (as happy as I am about them). Rather than focus on what’s purely personal, I decided to post the 2020 translation list today: I like this list as a final post for the year since it inventories the collective efforts of authors, translators, and publishers. And even if we’re not happy with certain aspects of it – I’m sure we’ll all find shortcomings – it shows, consolingly, that books are being translated and published. May people read them as well.

And so, on to the annual caveats that go with the annual lists. If I counted correctly (that’s not a given), this list contains 50 49 48 books, down from last year’s (as of this writing) total of 54 books. Four dozen is pretty not bad given this year’s postponements, not to mention the fact that this is only the first count. (Last year’s first count was 49 and there wasn’t even a pandemic!) Totals almost always increase over time and there are a few sites I’ll be checking again; as I complained mentioned last year, site designs and search functions don’t always make it easy to hunt down translations. Like last year, I’m listing only new (meaning: no reissued) translations available in print editions and have linked to publisher sites. I include books of all genres, for all ages, though self-published books are listed on a separate post. I always welcome new comments with listings. If you’d like me to add a book to this year’s list, please write a comment to this post.

In terms of analysis, hmmm. There are certainly classics: Pushkin has four volumes and Turgenev has two. Griboedov and Radishchev are back. It’s very disappointing, though, that only nine books (again, if I counted correctly) were written by women, though those nine books are relatively varied. There’s not a lot of contemporary fiction, either, though I’m pleased to see Mebet (previous post) and a decent assortment of other recent books. That “not a lot” is just statement of fact since, as they say, грех жаловаться (literally, it would be a sin to complain) given the varied (other than the men/women question!) authors, translators, genres, and times represented here. Honestly, anything good – like the simple fact of four dozen new translations from the Russian – feels like a big, generous gift this year and there truly are some nice titles on this list.

I’ll finish, as usual, with a summary of caveats and admin notes related. Some will be repetitive. This list is just a start; I’m always happy to add titles I’ve missed. I may have missed a lot. Please add a comment or e-mail me with changes/errors or additions; my address is on the sidebar. NB: I now list only new translations. I’ll place a link to this post on the sidebar of the blog for easy reference. I’m taking names and titles for 2021 now, so please start sending 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 and I’ll be happy to approve it.

I send best wishes for 2021 to everyone! Here’s hoping for lots more good books to read! Happy New Year! C Новым Годом


Here’s the list:

Abgaryan, Narine: Three Apples Fell From the Sky, translated by Lisa Hayden; Oneworld Publications, 2020.

Afanasyev, Alexander: Tales from Russian Folklore, translated by Stephen Pimenoff; Alma Classics, October 2020.

Boratynsky, Evgeny: Evgeny Boratynsky and the Russian Golden Age: Unstudied Words That Wove and Wavered, translated by Anatoly Liberman; Anthem Press, 2020.

(Brianchaninov), Ignatius: Harbor for Our Hope: On Acquiring Peace Amidst Suffering, translated by Elena Borowski; Holy Trinity Publications, 2020. A talk with translator Elena Borowski.

Dobrenko, Evgeny: Late Stalinism: The Aesthetics of Politics, translated by Jesse M. Savage; Yale University Press, August 2020.

Draitser, Emil: Farewell, Mama Odessa; Northwestern University Press, January 2020. (Author Draitser says this is an “expanded English-language edition” of a 2012 book, На Кудыкину Гору: Одесский Роман.)

Dubinskaya, Tatiana L.: In the Trenches: A Russian Woman Soldier’s Story of World War I, edited by Lawrence M. Kaplan with translation by Julia Lemberskiy; Potomac Books, 2020. This sounds very interesting!

Dyachenko, Sergey and Marina: Daughter from the Dark, translated by Julia Meitov Hersey; HarperCollins, February 2020.

Gogol, Nikolai: The Nose and Other Stories, translated by Suzanne Fusso; Columbia University Press/Russian Library, September 2020.

Goncharov, Ivan: Malinovka Heights, translated by Stephen Pearl; Alma, 2020. (This novel has usually been called The Precipice.)

Griboedov, Alexander: Woe from Wit, translated by Betsy Hulick; Columbia University Press/Russian Library, April 2020. I’ve heard lots of very happy comments about this new translation and have been meaning for months to read it!

Grigorenko, Alexander: Mebet, translated by Christopher Culver; Glagoslav, October 2020.

Grin, Alexander. Fandango and Other Stories, translated by Bryan Karetnyk; Columbia University Press/Russian Library, January 2020.

Grinëv, Andrei Val’terovich: Russian Colonization of Alaska: Baranov’s Era, 1799–1818, translated by Richard L. Bland; University of Nebraska Press, 2020.

Kolonitskii, Boris: Comrade Kerensky, translated by Arch Tait; Polity, November 2020.

Krzhizhanovsky, Sigizmund: Unwitting Street, translated by Joanne Turnbull; New York Review Books, August, 2020. Short stories.

Kulishenko, Natalia: An English Queen and Stalingrad, translated by Christopher Culver; Glagoslav, March 2020.

Kurkov, Andrey: Grey Bees, MacLehose Press; translated by Boris Dralyuk, November 2020

Leskov, Nikolai: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, translated by Donald Rayfield, Robert Chandler, and William Edgerton; New York Review Books, October 2020.

Lotman, Yuri: Culture and Communication: Signs in Flux. An Anthology of Major and Lesser-Known Works, edited by Andreas Schönle and translated by Benjamin Paloff; Academic Studies Press, 2020.

Nikonov, Vyacheslav: The Code of Civilization, translated by Huw Davies; Glagoslav, December 2020.

Piotrovsky, Mikhail: The State Hermitage Museum, translated by Paul Williams; Scala, February 2020.

Prigov, Dmitri: Soviet Texts, translated by Simon Schuchat with Ainsley Morse; Ugly Duckling Presse, February 2020.

Prilepin, Zakhar: The Monastery; Glagoslav, translated by Nicholas Kotar, July 2020.

Pushkin, Alexander: Feast During the Plague, translated by Matvei Yankelevich; Ugly Duckling Presse, April 2020.

Pushkin, Alexander: Selected Poetry, translated by Antony Wood; Penguin, 2020. Winner of both this year’s Read Russia Prizes (global and anglophone)! I have tremendous respect for Antony Wood’s Pushkin translations.

Pushkin, Alexander: Lyrics (volumes 2 and 3), translated by a team led by Robert Clarke; Alma Books, 2020. (Volume 1 appears to have been published in 2018; volume 4 comes out next year.)

Radishchev, Alexander: Journey from St. Petersburg to Moscow, translated by Andrew Kahn and Irina Reyfman; Columbia University Press/Russian Library, November 2020. I want to do a real, methodical reading of this Journey after very much enjoying the introduction and random readings of passages when I pick up the book.

Rubinstein, Lev: Page 29, translated by Philip Metres and Tatiana Tulchinsky; Ugly Duckling Presse, September 2020.

Rymbu, Galina: Life in Space, translated by Joan Brooks, with introduction by Eugene Ostashevsky; Ugly Duckling Presse, November 2020.

Rytkheu, Yuri: When the Whales Leave; Milkweed Press, translated by Ilona Yazhbin Chavasse, 2019.

Semenova, Natalya: Morozov: The Story of a Family and a Lost Collection; Yale University Press, translated by Arch Tait, October 2020.

Sen-Senkov, Andrei: Moscow as an Upturned Umbrella; Smokestack Books, 2020. A bilingual edition; no translator is credited.

Shalamov, Varlam: Sketches of the Criminal World, translated by Donald Rayfield; New York Review Books, January 2020.

Semenova, Natalya: Morozov The Story of a Family and a Lost Collection, translated by Arch Tait; Yale University Press, October 2020.

Simonov, Konstantin: Wait for Me, translated by Mike Munford; Smokestack Books, 2020. Bilingual edition.

Skidan, Aleksandr: Golem Soveticus: Prigov as Brecht and Warhol in One Persona, translated by Kevin M.F. Platt; Ugly Duckling Presse, May 2020.

Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: Between Two Millstones, Book 2: Exile in America, 1978-1994, translated by Clare Kitson and Melanie Moore; Notre Dame Press, 2020.

Starobinets, Anna: Look at Him, translated by Katherine E. Young; Three String Books, 2020. I read this book in 2018 and found it very powerful (previous post).

Strugatsky Brothers: The Inhabited Island, translated by Andrew Bromfield; Chicago Review Press, February 2020. 

Tsvetaeva, Marina: Youthful Verses, translated by Christopher Whyte; Shearsman Books, 2020.

Turgenev, Ivan: A Sportsman’s Notebook, translated by Charles and Natasha Hepburn with introduction by Daniyal Mueenuddin; HarperCollins, January 2020.

Turgenev, Ivan: Love and Youth, translated by Nicolas Pasternak Slater; Pushkin Press, October 2020.

Tvardovsky, Alexander Trifonovich: Vasili Tyorkin: A Book about a Soldier, translated by James Womack; Smokestack Books, 2020. Bilingual edition.

Various: Other Shepherds, poems written by Nina Kossman and Marina Tsvetaeva, whom Kossman translates; Poets & Traitors Press, summer 2020.

Various: F Letter: New Russian Feminist Poetry, ed. Galina Rymbu, Eugene Ostashevsky, and Ainsley Morse, and a team of translators (click through for names!); isolarii, 2020. As featured on!

Various: Accursed Poets: Dissident Poetry from Soviet Russia 1960-80, edited and translated by Anatoly Kudryavitsky; Smokestack Books, 2020.

Various: Russia Is Burning: Poems of the Great Patriotic War, edited by Maria Bloshteyn; Smokestack Books, 2020. Many of the poems in this bilingual edition are apparently translated by Bloshteyn.

Various: Front Line Lyre/Фронтовая лира, a bilingual anthology compiled by A.E. Skvortsov with translations edited by Katherine E. Young; Б.С.Г.-Пресс, 2020.

Zamyatin, Yevgeny: We, translated by Bela Shayevich; Canongate, November 2020.

Bonus 1! The Read Russia site has a special page for Russian Library books, including those on this list, with links and texts.

Bonus 2! How Russia Learned to Write: Literature and the Imperial Table of Ranks, by Irina Reyfman, University of Wisconsin Press. This sounds interesting, particularly after so enjoying Reyfman’s work (with Andrew Kahn) on the Radishchev book listed above.

Disclaimers and Disclosures: The usual. I work on projects for Read Russia; I’ve translated one book for Columbia University Press/Russian Library and am currently working on a second. I know many of the translators and publishers on this list.

Up Next: A combo post about recent reading and genres, beginning with medieval chronicles and moving along to detective novels and science fiction/fantasy.

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


  1. Goodness! I could make a lovely wishlist up from that list. Happy new year! :D

    1. Glad to hear it! Happy new year to you, too -- here's to lots more good books!

  2. I got a kick out of the blurb on the backof Fasso's Columbia University Press translation of Gogol stories. It claims that Fasso's translation is the first "major" translation of Gogol stories in "twenty years". This is, however, true only if you don't think that Oliver Ready's Pushkin Press collection of Gogol short stories, "And the Earth Will Sit on the Moon" from 2019, and Dora O'Brien's translation of "Petersberg Tales" from Alma in 2014, are "major" translations.