N+1 has published an excerpt from my translation of Mikhail Shishkin's novel Maidenhair in its Winter 2013 issue:
DARIUS AND PARYSATIS had two sons, the elder Artaxerxes and the younger Cyrus.
Interviews start at eight in the morning. Everyone's still sleepy, crumpled, and sullen — employees, interpreters, policemen, and refugees alike. Rather, they still need to become refugees. For now they're just GS. That's what these people are called here. Gesuchsteller.1
He's brought in. First name. Last name. Date of birth. Thick lips. Pimply. Clearly older than 16.
Briefly describe the reasons why you are requesting asylum in Switzerland.
I lived in an orphanage since I was 10. Our director raped me. I ran away. At the bus stop I met drivers taking trucks across the border. One took me out.
Why didn't you go to the police and file a statement against your director?
They would have killed me.
In an op ed piece for the Guardian, Mikhail Shishkin explains the larger disaster that has befallen Russia and Ukraine as a result of Putin's recent actions:
"Unending, smouldering conflict on the border is a regime dream that is coming true before our eyes. Undeclared war with Ukraine finally gives it cause to crush independent civil society in Russia and establish a lethal police order. Militarism, the hunt for domestic enemies, the struggle against "traitors," and the mass propaganda of patriotism – all this is already our present. Scoundrels and fools have speculated for too long on love for the fatherland. And now, once again, we've all been taken hostage – both Ukrainians and Russians. Once again we are going to suffer together – two fraternal nations. And we are going to have to fight for our future together."
A war between Russia and Ukraine would be close to a civil war and just as unspeakably sad.
In the last year, Cristina Vezzaro has asked over a hundred literary translators to answer the same set of questions for her blog, Authors & Translators--and the answers have been fascinating. We all have our own take on just what we're doing when we translate literature and our own motivations. My turn came recently to talk about my translation career. Check out my interview here.
Gods of the Steppe
by Andrei Gelasimov
Translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz
It is the summer of 1945. Germany has been defeated, Hitler has disappeared, and tensions are mounting ever higher along the Russian-Chinese border…where the threat of Japanese invasion haunts.
For Petka, no life could be more thrilling and glorious than marching into battle alongside the Red Army. But he is only twelve, the bastard child of a fractured family, trapped in a village too tiny for his bursting spirit. So he must make his own adventure wherever he can find it. And if that means passing off a wolf cub as a puppy under the nose of his ferocious grandma, stealing bootleg alcohol for the bivouacked troops he worships, smuggling himself in a barrel across the border and into the line of fire, fighting for his life when his own aimless peers turn inexplicably vicious, or befriending an enigmatic Japanese POW who transcends Petka’s provincial world, then so be it.
By turns comical, harrowing, poignant, and exhilarating, Petka reveals the soul of a boy who knows only to take from life all that he can—not merely what his circumstances allow.
Several of the translations I've done of Sergei Tasks's fine stories are now available on line through Iowa Research Online, which is making available the work of alums from University of Iowa's International Writers Program. Sergei is not only a fine writer of fiction (as you'll see from the stories) but a playwright and an important translator of English-language fiction, poetry, and especially drama into Russian.