Articles Tagged ‘Russian literature’

"A Quintessential Russian Novel"

Into the Thickening Fog cover

Phoebe Taplin has written a wonderful review in Russia Beyond the Headlines of Andrei Gelasimov's newest title, Into the Thickening Fog:

Into the Thickening Fog often feels like a quintessential Russian novel: it starts with a bout of heavy drinking, is set in a frozen northern city, and features dogs, demons and existential angst. Andrei Gelasimov’s novels have earned him numerous awards, and this 2015 offering, just out in English, has many hallmarks of his prize-winning playful style.

And she has kind words for my translation as well:

This is the fifth Gelasimov novel that Marian Schwartz has translated, and she is a past master at capturing his allusive, elusive style. Here, his free-range references flap from classical (Circe, Charybdis), biblical (friendship three times denied) and Shakespearean (leaping, like Hamlet, into his dead wife’s grave or quoting Macbeth’s sound and fury) to pop cultural (his noisy breathing like a “raspy, unintelligible, and infinitely lonely Darth Vader”, hair standing up like Doc Brown’s in Back to the Future).

 

Read the whole review here.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "March 1917: The Red Wheel, Node III, Book 1"

The University of Notre Dame Press has just published my translation of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's March 1917: The Red Wheel, Node III, Book 1. This is the third of eight volumes that make up Solzhenitsyn's sweeping masterpiece of historical fiction covering World War I, the two revolutions of 1917, and their aftermath in 1918. 

The translation is the first volume to appear in a major, ongoing project to translate and publish all of Solzhenitsyn's untranslated works. I will be translating the next three volumes as well, with the next scheduled for publication in a year's time.

It is a great privilege to be contributing to the opus of an author whose works such as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and First Circle were such an inspiration to me decades ago, at the very beginning of my love affair with Russian literature.

Anna Karenina Short-Listed for 2015 Read Russia Prize

Anna Karenina coverI've just learned that my translation of Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina has been short-listed for the 2015 Read Russia Prize!

I'm in stellar company: Oliver Ready, Jamie Rann, Rosamund Bartlett, Katherine Dovlatov, and Peter Daniels, and so is Tolstoy, the other authors represented being Fyodor Dostoevsky, Vladislav Khodasevich, Vladimir Sharov, Sergei Dovlatov, and Anna Starobinets.

The prize will be awarded on Friday, May 29, at the Grolier Club in New York City.

Great Russian literature 'probes the ultimate questions of human life'


Gary Saul Morson, a professor of Slavic literature at Northwestern University, wrote the brilliant introduction to my translation of Anna Karenina and was the featured speaker at the Read Russia awards ceremony this year, where he explained: "Because Everyone Needs a Little Russian Literature." Morson, one of the foremost authorities on Russian literature in the United States, was interviewed by Russia Beyond the Headlines about his love for Tolstoy, the ongoing popularity of the Russian classics and what, if anything, politicans can gain from studying literature.

March 1917: The Red Wheel, Node III, Book 1, by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

March 1917: The Red Wheel, Node III, Book 1

by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

Translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz

The Center for Ethics and Culture Solzhenitsyn Series

University of Notre Dame Press, 2017

The Red Wheel is Solzhenitsyn’s magnum opus about the Russian Revolution. Solzhenitsyn tells this story in the form of a meticulously researched historical novel, supplemented by newspaper headlines of the day, fragments of street action, cinematic screenplay, and historical overview. The first two nodes— August 1914 and November 1916—focus on Russia’s crises and recovery, on revolutionary terrorism and its suppression, on the missed opportunity of Pyotr Stolypin’s reforms, and how the surge of patriotism in August 1914 soured as Russia bled in World War I.

March 1917—the third node—tells the story of the Russian Revolution itself, during which not only does the Imperial government melt in the face of the mob, but the leaders of the opposition prove utterly incapable of controlling the course of events. The action of book 1 (of four) of March 1917 is set during March 8–12. The absorbing narrative tells the stories of more than fifty characters during the days when the Russian Empire begins to crumble. Bread riots in the capital, Petrograd, go unchecked at first, and the police are beaten and killed by mobs. Efforts to put down the violence using the army trigger a mutiny in the numerous reserve regiments housed in the city, who kill their officers and rampage. The anti-Tsarist bourgeois opposition, horrified by the violence, scrambles to declare that it is provisionally taking power, while socialists immediately create a Soviet alternative to undermine it. Meanwhile, Emperor Nikolai II is away at military headquarters and his wife Aleksandra is isolated outside Petrograd, caring for their sick children. Suddenly, the viability of the Russian state itself is called into question.

PRAISE FOR THE TRANSLATION

Like the earlier volumes translated by the late Harry Willetts, Marian Schwartz's rendition is superb. -- Gary Saul Morson, "Solzhenitsyn's Cathedrals," New Criterion, October 2017

. . .  the book is as immersive as binge-worthy television, no little thanks to this excellent translation that renders its prose as masterful in English as it was in Russian. -- Foreword Reviews

The translation is very well done and ought to give the reader a better understanding of the highly complex events that shook Russia exactly a century ago.” — Richard Pipes, emeritus, Harvard University

REVIEWS

“As the great Solzhenitsyn scholar Georges Nivat has written, Solzhenitsyn is the author of two great ‘literary cathedrals,’ The Gulag Archipelago and The Red Wheel. The first is the definitive exposé of ideological despotism and all of its murderous works. The Red Wheel is the definitive account of how the forces of revolutionary nihilism came to triumph in the first place. It is a sprawling and fascinating mix of philosophical and moral discernment, literary inventiveness, and historical insight that sometimes strains the novelistic form, but is also one of the great works of moral and political instruction of the twentieth century.” — Daniel J. Mahoney, co-editor of The Solzhenitsyn Reader: New and Essential Writings

The Red Wheel, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s epic of World War I and the Russian revolution, belongs to the Russian tradition of vast, densely plotted novels of love and war set during a time of social upheaval. An extended act of author-to-nation communication, this multivolume saga poses the question, ‘Where did we go wrong?’ and answers it in human and political terms, but with a mystical twist that is unlike anything else in Solzhenitsyn. This translation beautifully conveys the distinctive flavor of Solzhenitsyn’s prose, with its preternatural concreteness of description, moments of surreal estrangement, and meticulous detailing of the nuances of human relationships in the shadow of encroaching chaos. The novel’s reliable, unreliable, and even mendacious character voices, its streams-of-consciousness, and its experimental flourishes possess the same vividness and freshness as they do in Russian. Think Anna Karenina and Doctor Zhivago, with Dostoevsky’s Demons thrown in for good measure.” — Richard Tempest, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

“There is no doubt that The Red Wheel is one of the masterpieces of world literature, made all the more precious by its relevance to the tragic era through which contemporary history has passed. Moreover, the impulse of revolutionary and apocalyptic violence associated with the age of ideology has still not ebbed. We remain confronted by the fragility of historical existence, in which it is possible for whole societies to choose death rather than life.” — David Walsh, Catholic University of America

“In his ambitious multivolume work The Red Wheel (Krasnoye Koleso), Solzhenitsyn strove to give a partly historical and partly literary picture of the revolutionary year 1917. Several of these volumes have been translated into English, but the present volume appears in English for the first time. The translation is very well done and ought to give the reader a better understanding of the highly complex events that shook Russia exactly a century ago.” — Richard Pipes, emeritus, Harvard University

“Scholars may debate whether Russian culture is an integral part of Christian civilization or whether it should be allocated its own separate place. The five thousand pages of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s Red Wheel comprise one of those pyramids of the spirit (the other being The Gulag Archipelago ) that makes living Russian civilization stand out from other large-scale cultural constructs that shape the literary landscape. In his insistence on conveying to his ‘brothers in reason’ his vision of the inexorable Russian catastrophe of the twentieth century, the author frequently abandons the narrative form to address the reader directly, grabbing him by the scruff of the neck mid-text. His grandiose picture of this catastrophe and the cultural continent that perished in it is not confined to the pages of the book; making sense of it requires additional time—including historical time. Unfortunately, this time is incomparable to the length of one man’s life.” — Alexander Voronel, Tel-Aviv University

To purchase directly from the publisher, click here.

Shishkin Collection Attracts Year-End Attention

calligraphylessoncoverAs 2015 draws to a close, Mikhail Shishkin's Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories (Deep Vellum), has been getting some lovely attention.  

World Literature Today has put it on its list of 75 Notable Translations of 2015, and Russia Beyond the Headlines has added it to its "Christmas Feast of Russian Books." Phoebe Taplin writes:

Marian Schwartz and others have translated these works, which are "the perfect introduction to Russia's greatest... contemporary author." The 1993 short story "Calligraphy Lesson" was Shishkin's first published work. Like the narrator in Maidenhair, legal scribe and calligraphy teacher Evgeny hears harrowing stories every day and transmutes them into art. The most recent piece in the book, "Nabokov's Inkblot" written in 2013, is an accessible tale of money, culture and compromise. Along with stories, in Shishkin's characteristically dense and allusive prose, there are autobiographical fragments, like "The Half-Belt Overcoat", which revisits his mother's death and the process of writing The Taking of Izmail, due out in English next year. The volume ends with the breathtakingly brilliant essay on language, "In a Boat Scratched on a Wall", where the author argues for the redemptive power of literature, "a link between two worlds."

 

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