Marian Schwartz has translated over sixty volumes of Russian classic and contemporary fiction, history, biography, criticism, and fine art. She is the principal English translator of the works of Nina Berberova and translated the New York Times’ bestseller The Last Tsar, by Edvard Radzinsky, as well as classics by Mikhail Bulgakov, Ivan Goncharov, Yuri Olesha, and Mikhail Lermontov. Her most recent book translations are Andrei Gelasimov’s Rachel (AmazonCrossing), Yuri Mamleyev's The Sublimes (Haute Culture), and Venedikt Erofeev's Walpurgis Night. Her new translation of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina will be published by Yale University Press in Fall 2014. She is the recipient of two National Endowment for the Arts translation fellowships and the 2014 Read Russia Prize for Best Translation of Contemporary Russian Literature and is a past president of the American Literary Translators Association.
It is not often that I read something about literary translation that strikes such a chord with me as this interview with Daniel Hahn, director of the British Centre for Literary Translation, and Urdu language translator Fahmida Riaz, during a literary translation workshop taking place in Karachi on 13-17 October.
In particular, this Q&A:
What linguistic qualities are the hardest to translate?
Oh, all of it. Translation is impossible! And I don't just mean it's really, really difficult, but really, it's not actually possible. There's not a single word in any of the languages I translate that can map perfectly onto a word in English. So it's always interpretative, approximate, creative. Anything that is, itself, a 'linguistic' quality will by definition be anchored in a particular language — whether it's idiom, ambiguity, or assonance. All languages are different. There are congruences between languages that are more closely related, of course, but those relationships are very much in the minority.
The truth is out.
For a most thorough and intelligent review of this classic Russian play, read Ethan Alexander Perets's piece on Words Without Borders.
Walpurgis Night is a burning drink of a play made from equal parts violence and comic relief. Its success almost singularly depends on the skill with which these parts are mixed. Not only must the proportions be accurate, but also the timing of their combination. Likewise, Erofeev focuses not just on what is said, but how dialogue is delivered. In these regards Schwartz's translation is impeccable. Her attention to the brutality of Erofeev's language, his comedic timing, and the sounds of words as they are spoken will likely make the work a classic outside of Russia.
I'm grateful not only for the compliment but also for Perets's analysis of the play and the play in the context of Russian literature, culture, and history. Hat's off to him for writing a review the way a review should be written.
Award-winning translator Marian Schwartz talks to Russia Beyond the Headlines about her mission to bring Russian literature to more readers.
For the full article, click here.
For further coverage of events, there is Nataliya Bokareva's article in the St. Petersburg Times: "Translators Affected by Ukraine Crisis."
For a more detailed article on the translators' letter of protest, there is this (in Russian) from Radio Svoboda.
The text of the letter is here.
I'm thrilled to announce that on September 6, 2014, I was awarded the Read Russia Prize for Contemporary Russian Literature (published after 1990) for my translation of Harlequin's Costume, by Leonid Yuzefovich. To my great pleasure, Natalia Solzhenitsyna awarded me the prize at the ceremony.
The awards ceremony for the Read Russia Prize has taken place on September, 6 within the stately confines of Moscow's Pashkov House, part of the Russian State Library. This biennial event, which is supported by the Moscow Institute of Translation, is designed to honor the best translators working in any language and to facilitate the further translation of Russian literature. It encompasses four categories: Classic Russian Literature, 20th Century Russian Literature (published before 1990), Contemporary Russian Literature (published after 1990), and Poetry. The winner of each category receives a special diploma and a medal, as well as a cash prize of 5,000 euros and a 3,000 euro grant that enables the winner's publishing house to cover the cost of translating another Russian work of their choosing.
The nominees for the Contemporary Russian Literature category were Julie Bouvard for her French translation of Eduard Kochergin's "Christened with Crosses," Ives Gauthier for her French translation of Andrei Rubanov's "A Successful Life," Nicoletta Marcialis for her Italian translation of Zakhar Prilepin's "Sin," Ljubinka Milincic for her Serbian translation of Georgy Vladimov's "The General and His Army," Ewa Rojewska-Olejarczuk for her Polish translation of Viktor Pelevin's "T," and Marian Schwartz for her English translation of Leonid Yuzefovich's "Harlequin's Costume." The winner was Marian Schwartz, who was emotional and grateful as she accepted her award.
I sincerely hope that this prize will bring Yuzefovich the recognition he is due and lead to English translations of more of his work.