Marian Schwartz began her career in literary translation in 1978 with her translation ofLandmarks,a 1909 collection of essays on the Russian intelligentsia written by some of Russia’s most eminent philosophers of the day. In the three decades since then she has published over seventy volumes of fiction and nonfiction—biography, criticism, fine arts, and history.
Schwartz studied Russian at Harvard University, Middlebury Russian School, and Leningrad State University and received a Master of Arts in Slavic Languages and Literatures from the University of Texas at Austin in 1975, after which she headed to New York to try her hand at publishing. Two years as an assistant editor for Praeger Publishers led to the freelancer’s life, which she has embraced ever since, including a five-year engagement translating the quarterly Russian Studies in Literature.
Schwartz is perhaps best known for her prize-winning translations of works by Russian émigré writer Nina Berberova, including seven volumes of fiction(The Accompanist, The Tattered Cloak, Billancourt Tales, The Revolt, Cape of Storms, The Book of Happiness,andThe Ladies from St. Petersburg)and one biography (Moura: The Dangerous Life of the Baroness Budberg,translated with Richard D. Sylvester).
Schwartz has had one brush with bestsellerdom, Edvard Radzinsky’sThe Last Tsar: The Life and Death of Nicholas II.Her translation was on the New York Times’ bestseller list for sixteen weeks, was read by David McCallum for an audio tape, and was translated (from the English) into Spanish asEl último zar.
Some of Schwartz’s favorite translations have been quirky, like Vasily Peskov’sLost in the Taiga,a journalist’s account of a family of Old Believers who lived in the taiga completely isolated from human society for sixty years, andWhite on Black,by Ruben Gonzales Gallego, stories about his life growing up severely disabled in the Soviet Union. She is currently working with Professor Darra Goldstein on High Society Dinners: Aristocratic Dining in Tsarist Russia, a family album of menus and related papers from 1857-58 with an introductory essay by Yuri Lotman on the history of dining in Russia.
In recent years, Schwartz has retranslated several Russian classics—Mikhail Lermontov’sA Hero of Our Time,Yuri Olesha’sEnvy,Mikhail Bulgakov’sWhite Guard,Ivan Goncharov’sOblomov, and her forthcoming translation of Lev Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina—but remains committed nonetheless to contemporary Russian literature. Current authors include Olga Slavnikova, Andrei Gelasimov, Leonid Yuzefovich, Mikhail Shishkin, Daria Wilke, and Yuri Mamleyev; in 2011, AmazonCrossing published her translation of Gelasimov’sThirst, followed by The Lying Year and Gods of the Steppe and, soon, Rachel.
Having witnessed over the course of her career the steady decline of foreign literature publishing among commercial publishers, Schwartz remains committed to promoting literary translation and encouraging the publication of high-quality foreign literature in the United States and is intrigued by what lies ahead for it in the digital age. In support of this commitment, she has served on the board and as president of the American Literary Translators Association and is an active member of the PEN Translation Committee and the Austin Area Translators and Interpreters Association’s Literary Special Interest Group.