On Friday, May 29th, at a ceremony the Grolier Club in New York City for the 2015 Read Russia Prize--which was awarded to Oliver Ready for his translation of Vladimir Sharov's novel Before & During, a Special Jury Mention was also awarded to me and Rosamund Bartlett for our respective translations of Anna Karenina, both of which came out in 2014.
The jury wrote:
Why re-translate the classics? It's often said that translations have a life span of 50 years, or that every generation needs its own translation of the classics. Tolstoy's language has not aged for his Russian readers, but the language of his first English translators may now seem dated to the reader in the 21st century. More importantly, our understanding of Tolstoy has changed over the century since his death, as has our idea of what makes for a good translation. Both Rosamund Bartlett and Marian Schwartz have embraced the peculiarities, repetitions, and perceived awkwardness of Tolstoy's style that often transgress all conventions of good English prose. Bartlett writes that her "translation seeks to preserve all the idiosyncrasies of Tolstoy's inimitable style, as far as that is possible," while Schwartz notes that she "found [Tolstoy's] so-called roughness . . . both purposeful and exciting, and was eager to recreate Tolstoy's style in English." True, the two translators go about this in their own ways, and as one might suspect they have their own strengths and biases, but this foregrounding of style is everywhere felt in these new translations.
Ultimately, translation represents an act of interpretation. There is no doubt that these volumes, published so beautifully by excellent university presses, present to the English-language reader two magnificent interpreters of Tolstoy's beloved novel.
I've just learned that my translation of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina has been short-listed for the 2015 Read Russia Prize!
I'm in stellar company: Oliver Ready, Jamie Rann, Rosamund Bartlett, Katherine Dovlatov, and Peter Daniels, and so is Tolstoy, the other authors represented being Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vladislav Khodasevich, Vladimir Sharov, Sergei Dovlatov, and Anna Starobinets.
The prize will be awarded on Friday, May 29, at the Grolier Club in New York City.
Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories, by Mikhail Shishkin, has just been published by that exciting new indie publisher Deep Vellum, out of Dallas--yes, Dallas.
Four of the eight pieces were translated by me, including the title story, "Calligraphy Lesson," along with "Language Saved," "The Blind Musician," and "In a Boat Scratched on a Wall." The remaining four were translated by my fine colleagues Leo Shtutin, Sylvia Maizell, and Mariya Bashkatova.
Shishkin was the first (and still the only) writer to win the three major Russian literary awards (the Russian Booker, National Bestseller, and Big Book Awards). He is a master prose writer in the timeless, breathtakingly beautiful style of the greatest Russian writers, such as Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Bunin, and Boris Pasternak. Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories will be Shishkin's third work available in English, previously published were his novels Maidenhair (Open Letter) and The Light and the Dark (Quercus).
To order your copy, click here.
"How Russians Lost the War," Mikhail Shishkin's op-ed piece on the occasion of Victory Day (New York Times, March 10, 2015) explains the grievous truth that the unimaginable sacrifices made by the Russian people during World War II did not, in the end, bring them victory. They saved themselves from hitler only to remain in Stalin's thrall: "The great victory only reinforced their great slavery."
Stalin and the Soviet Union are gone, but the war's legacy is very much present: "Once again, the dictatorship is calling on its subjects to defend the homeland, mercilessly exploiting the propaganda of victory in the Great Patriotic War. Russia's rulers have stolen my people's oil, stolen their elections, stolen their country. And stolen their victory."
Read the complete essay here.
Russian scholar and translator Olga Bukhina has written a smart and thoughtful review my translation of Daria Wilke's Playing a Part in Worlds of Words. In particular, I'm very grateful for how she contextualizes the gay theme that was so newsworthy when the book first came out in Russian:
"This is a first book for young readers in Russia which openly involves gay characters, and may be the last because of the new Russian law that prohibits mentioning a gay theme in books for readers under 18. The designated age is to be displayed on the cover of all books. . . . In this coming of age novel, the focus on being gay stands for the many choices adolescents need to make. First of all, is freedom of choice, any choice, not only of sexual orientation. It is also about the need to stand against the peer pressure and to search for one's individual way."