Marian Schwartz began her career in literary translation in 1978 with her translation of Landmarks,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, and The Ladies from St. Petersburg) and one biography (Moura: The Dangerous Life of the Baroness Budberg, translated with Richard D. Sylvester).
She is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts translation awards as well as the 2018 Linda Gaboriau Award for Translation from the Banff International Literary Translation Centre, the 2014 Read Russia Prize for Best Translation of Contemporary Russian Literature, the 2002 and 2011 Heldt Translation Prize from the Association of Women in Slavic Studies, the 2009 AATSEEL Award for Best Translation into English, the 1999, 2007, and 2016 Soeurette Diehl Frasier Translation Award from the Texas Institute of Letters, 2016, 2007, 1999, and, for Nina Berberova's "Sentence Commuted," the 1985 Novella-in-Translation Award from The Literary Review, the first recognition for her translation work and so remembered with special fondness.
Schwartz has had one brush with bestsellerdom, Edvard Radzinsky’s The 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 as El último zar.
Some of Schwartz’s favorite translations have been quirky, like Vasily Peskov’s Lost 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, and White on Black,by Ruben Gonzales Gallego, stories about his life growing up severely disabled in the Soviet Union. She worked 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’s A Hero of Our Time,Yuri Olesha’s Envy, Mikhail Bulgakov’s White Guard, Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov, and Lev Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina—but remains committed nonetheless to contemporary Russian literature. Current authors include Olga Slavnikova, Andrei Gelasimov, Leonid Yuzefovich, Mikhail Shishkin, Polina Dashkova, and Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn. In the spring of 2017, Amazon Crossing published a fifth novel by Gelasimov, Into the Thickening Fog and, in the fall, Polina Dashkova's crime novel Madness Treads Lightly.
November 2017 marked the publication by University of Notre Dame Press of her translation of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's March 1917: The Red Wheel, Node III, Book 1, the third volume in the eight-volume Red Wheel cycle and the first of four that will appear in her translation.
Just out, in January 2019, is Olga Slavnikova's The Man Who Couldn't Die: The Tale of an Authentic Human Being, part of the Russian Library published by Columbia University Press.
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.