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First Reviews in for Daria Wilke's "Playing a Part"

PlayingAPart coverI'm very happy to announce that in March Arthur A. Levine Books will be publishing my translation of Daria Wilke's wonderful young adult novel Playing a Part--about a boy growing up in a Moscow puppet theater, where his parents perform--and the good reviews have started to come in. The book made headlines when it was originally published amid the enactment of laws forbidding the distribution of gay "propaganda" to minors (see the Publishers Weekly review).

Kirkus Reviews says that  "readers will be engrossed by the plot hatched by Grisha and Sashok to get Lyolik back and moved by the story's themes and the rich, image-laden language: 'The theater starts murmuring, speaking, tramping, and rustling.' A lovely, moving novel with a bittersweet conclusion."

VOYA praises it as well: "The beautifully drawn characters entice readers into the story, which, although small in scope, illuminates crucially important issues about sexual identity, acceptance, and the pressure to conform. The book is unique in that it highlights the problems encountered by teens who are gender neutral or still exploring their sexual identity. The writing is lyrical and the imagery vivid."

Watch this space for more reviews, as they appear.

 

The Translator's Answerability

In his blog--the unlight bearableness of translating a really great title--Russell Scott Valentino follows up on his previous post on Masha Gessen's review of the two new translations of Anna Karenina. He begins the post:

My previous post on Masha Gessen's review of the two new Anna Karenina translations, one each by Rosamund Bartlett and Marian Schwartz, attrAK Gessen reviewacted some criticisms. I'll respond in a couple of posts to make each one shorter.

Schwartz AKJohn Cowan comments, "You write as if the translator had no responsibility to the author at all, and it is all one whether the AK translator writes 'All happy families are alike' on the first page, or 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.'"

I hope this wasn't a widespread impression from my piece. But maybe I wasn't clear enough. A glance at the Weinberger essay I quote from should dispel any lingering doubts, especially where he writes: "Now obviously a translation that is replete with semantical errors is probably a bad translation."Bartlett AK Outside of parodying or otherwise hijacking a text for other purposes, it's hard to imagine a context where switching a Tolstoy line for a Dickens line would be seen as a successful translation strategy.

But why the "probably" in Weinberger's quote? Because "fidelity may be the most overrated of a translation's qualities." It is the easiest thing to get right. Not easy of course, just the easiest.

 

I'm looking forward to the next installment.

Lively Anna Karenina Reading at BookPeople

BookPeople reading sign 11jan15Thank you to everyone who turned out for my reading of Anna Karenina on Sunday, January 11--all fifty or so of you!  It was especially lovely to see so many translator friends in the audience.

BookPeople did a first-rate job of promoting the event and even featured me on their events sign (left).

They had me sign extra copies, so if you couldn't come but want a signed book, drop by the store before they run out!

The "Real" Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina gets around. She's had a second career touring the world, dropping in on television studios and movie sets, portrayed by Greta Garbo, Sophie Marceau, Vivien Leigh, and Jacqueline Bisset, among others. Russian comic book artists even reinvented her in a graphic novel set in the New Russia, complete with "cell phones and cocaine, sushi bars and convertibles." And the latest screen version, with Keira Knightley as Anna, put us squarely in the realm of fan fiction, presenting the story reimagined as a theatrical production.

And, of course, the novel has been translated into English many times.

But what if none of those translations fully appreciated, let alone conveyed, the true glory of Tolstoy's characters and story lines and the perfect way they mesh because they failed to notice that Tolstoy made some of his most important points not explicitly but in the way he used language? That he did at least as much showing as telling?

What if Tolstoy was an innovative stylist as well as a masterful psychologist and storyteller?

What if indeed?

Read the rest of my HuffPost post about my new translation of Anna Karenina (Yale University Press)  here.