Marian Schwartz has translated over sixty volumes of Russian classic and contemporary fiction, history, biography, criticism, and fine art. She is the principal English translator of the works of Nina Berberova and translated the New York Times’ bestseller The Last Tsar, by Edvard Radzinsky, as well as classics by Mikhail Bulgakov, Ivan Goncharov, Yuri Olesha, and Mikhail Lermontov. Her most recent publications are Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, Andrei Gelasimov's Rachel, Daria Wilke's Playing a Part, and half the stories in Mikhail Shishkin's Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories. She is a past president of the American Literary Translators Association and the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts translation fellowships, as well as the 2014 Read Russia Prize for Contemporary Russian Literature.
A very good day.
First, my Anna Karenina got shortlisted for ALTA's National Translation Award,
And then, Svetlana Alexievich won the Nobel Prize.
Possibly not in that order.
In 2001, I translated a couple of essays by Alexievich for Autodafé: The Journal of the International Parliament of Writers: "Go Where You Shouldn't" and "Enquêtes sur l'amour en Russie (Inquiries into Love in Russia)," and in 2005, Words Without Borders published my translation of a story of hers, "The Wondrous Deer of the Eternal Hunt," which you can read here.
This year, PEN America asked me and several other PEN members to celebrate the freedom to read by reflecting on the banned books that matters most to us. This is PEN's way of taking part in the American Library Association's annual Banned Books Week, which brings together the entire book community in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
My choice was Daria Wilke's Playing a Part, a young adult novel (which I translated and which came out this year from Arthur A. Levine Books) that addresses Russian censorship around LGBT themes:
In Daria Wilke's young adult novel Playing a Part, young Grisha is happy at home with his actor parents in a Moscow puppet theater, but he is young and trying to sort out the whole identity—especially gender identity—thing. He's harassed not only by school bullies but even by his grandfather, who doesn't think he's macho enough. Meanwhile another actor, Sam, who is Grisha's mentor and friend, is leaving Russia for the Netherlands because he's gay and can't endure the daily harassment being gay brings upon him.
I describe the book in this way because of its publication in Russia, where homosexuality was criminalized throughout the Soviet period and, in the last few years, criminalized anew. The fact of Russian censorship of "gay propaganda" has shaped my presentation and made this thoughtful and engaging novel also political.
For the rest of the article, click here.
"The Russian expats who inhabit these stories aren't given a lot of time to nurse their wounds between the revolution back home and the impending world war in their adopted city of Paris. And Berberova's graceful but merciless portraits—of fading countesses, dreary bohemians, former elites now busing tables and cleaning floors, all clinging if only barely to their memories (or fantasies) of a fancier life—had me aching right along with them. One heroine, Sasha, wakes up from a dream with "a strange aftertaste, a mysterious knot that weighs on me to this very day"—words I could easily steal here to describe the spell Berberova casts with each story in this collection."
First published by Knopf, it's currently in available in paperback from New Directions.
A very nice surprise. My Anna has been longlisted for the National Translation Award given by the American Literary Translators Association! The list is not just full of distinguished translators but a good guide to anyone looking for something new to read in international literature. Bear in mind, also, that the NTA is the only major translation prize in the US that does a thorough examination of the translation against the original, an incredibly labor-intensive process that only adds to the prize's luster and makes it all the more meaningful to get even this far.
The winning translators will receive a $5,000 cash prize, and the award will be announced at ALTA's annual conference, which will be held this year at the Marriott University Park in Tucson AZ from Oct. 28-31, 2015.
The five-title shortlists will be announced in September. In the meantime, ALTA will highlight each book on the longlist with features written by the judges, on the ALTA blog.