"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.
Gary Saul Morson, a professor of Slavic literature at Northwestern University, wrote the brilliant introduction to my translation of Anna Karenina and was the featured speaker at the Read Russia awards ceremony this year, where he explained: "Because Everyone Needs a Little Russian Literature." Morson, one of the foremost authorities on Russian literature in the United States, was interviewed by Russia Beyond the Headlines about his love for Tolstoy, the ongoing popularity of the Russian classics and what, if anything, politicans can gain from studying literature.
In the story, 20-year-old Chechen War veteran Kostya, maimed beyond recognition by a tank explosion, spends weeks on end locked inside his apartment, his sole companions the vodka bottles spilling from the refrigerator. But soon Kostya's comfortable if dysfunctional cocoon is torn open when he receives a visit from his army buddies who are mobilized to locate a missing comrade.
The terrific screenplay is also the work of the book's author, the extremely talented Andrei Gelasimov.
A short, sweet review from Frogma of a book I recently translated--Daria Wilke's Playing a Part--that seems to have slipped under the radar but is so much more than your standard YA novel that I recommend it to all readers: ". . . What really gave this story an intereresting and unusual feel is that Grisha's parents are actors at a puppet theatre and that's where he's grown up and feels the safest. The descriptions of the theater, the puppets, performers and performing, puppet makers and puppet making are just luscious. . . . a quick read, but a satisfying one." I wholeheartedly agree.
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.