A short, sweet review from Frogma of a book I recently translated--Daria Wilke's Playing a Part--that seems to have slipped under the radar but is so much more than your standard YA novel that I recommend it to all readers: ". . . What really gave this story an intereresting and unusual feel is that Grisha's parents are actors at a puppet theatre and that's where he's grown up and feels the safest. The descriptions of the theater, the puppets, performers and performing, puppet makers and puppet making are just luscious. . . . a quick read, but a satisfying one." I wholeheartedly agree.
Articles Tagged ‘Russian fiction,’
"The Russian expats who inhabit these stories aren't given a lot of time to nurse their wounds between the revolution back home and the impending world war in their adopted city of Paris. And Berberova's graceful but merciless portraits—of fading countesses, dreary bohemians, former elites now busing tables and cleaning floors, all clinging if only barely to their memories (or fantasies) of a fancier life—had me aching right along with them. One heroine, Sasha, wakes up from a dream with "a strange aftertaste, a mysterious knot that weighs on me to this very day"—words I could easily steal here to describe the spell Berberova casts with each story in this collection."
First published by Knopf, it's currently in available in paperback from New Directions.
This time the author takes us to the equivalent of Yakutsk, where a hometown boy who has made good in Moscow as a film director has returned in the dead of winter to clear his bad conscience, only to encounter a city on the brink of catastrophe as it finds out exactly what extreme cold means when the city's central heating supply partially shuts down and evacuation is not an option.
Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories
by Mikhail Shishkin
Translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz, Leo Shtutin, Sylvia Maizell, and Mariya Bashkatova
Deep Vellum Publishing, 2015
Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories is the first English-language collection of short stories by Mikhail Shishkin, the most acclaimed contemporary author in Russia, including four stories that have been published in various English-language sources (Words Without Borders, Read Russia Anthology, Spolia, the Independent) and four previously untranslated stories (including two previously unpublished in any language). Shishkin was the first (and still the only) writer to win the three major Russian literary awards (the Russian Booker, National Bestseller, and Big Book awards). He is a master prose writer in the timeless, breathtakingly beautiful style of the greatest Russian writers, such as Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Bunin, and Boris Pasternak.
PRAISE FOR THE TRANSLATION
". . . the artfulness of this translation helps it to surmount Shishkin's own claim that languages cannot communicate with each other." -- Caroline North, Dallas Observer
To purchase, click here.
We now have a cover for Polina Dashkova's fabulous crime novel, Madness Treads Lightly--my first foray into popular fiction, and a grand one it is.
Dashkova is one of the best-selling crime writers in Russia and a great favorite all over Europe, and now, at last, English-language readers get their turn.
If you like a good crime story brought to a ringing conclusion by a smart, brave woman, this is definitely the book for you.
Throw in exotic Siberia and a brilliant sociopath and you're there!
Look for it in September (if not sooner)!
Cynsations--"a source for conversations, publishing information, writer resources & inspiration, bookseller-librarian-teacher appreciation, children's-YA book news & author outreach"--has interviewed me about my recent foray into YA lit: Playing a Part, by Daria Wilke.
This novel spotlights traditional puppets, especially the Jester in a version of Cinderella. Is the lexicon of puppets embedded in everyday Russian, or did you have to learn from scratch about gesso and leg yokes, ruches and chiton, controllers and crossbars?
I knew nothing about the technical aspect of puppets when I began this project, but that's one of the perks of being a translator: the research required to make a translation correct and complete. It's easy to get (happily) lost learning about a new field. I read books about puppetmaking and consulted with puppeteers. I did extensive Internet image searches. There are books that require no research at all, but they're very rare.
Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories, by Mikhail Shishkin, has just been published by that exciting new indie publisher Deep Vellum, out of Dallas--yes, Dallas.
Four of the eight pieces were translated by me, including the title story, "Calligraphy Lesson," along with "Language Saved," "The Blind Musician," and "In a Boat Scratched on a Wall." The remaining four were translated by my fine colleagues Leo Shtutin, Sylvia Maizell, and Mariya Bashkatova.
Shishkin was the first (and still the only) writer to win the three major Russian literary awards (the Russian Booker, National Bestseller, and Big Book Awards). He is a master prose writer in the timeless, breathtakingly beautiful style of the greatest Russian writers, such as Leo Tolstoy, Ivan Bunin, and Boris Pasternak. Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories will be Shishkin's third work available in English, previously published were his novels Maidenhair (Open Letter) and The Light and the Dark (Quercus).
To order your copy, click here.
English PEN has announced its list of PEN Translates award winners, and one of them isSlav Sisters: The Dedalus Book of Russian Women Literature,edited by Natasha Perova, due to be published by Dedalus Limited in January 2018.
Among the stories in this exciting anthology is my translation of Olga Slavnikova's "The Stone Guest"--another of her "train stories," several of which I've translated and published over the years:
- “The Recluse.” Ezra: An Online Journal of Translation (June 2016)
- “The Cherepanova Sisters.” New England Review34, 3-4 (2014): 276-293
- "Russian Bullet." American Reader(September 2012)
- “Substance.” Subtropics,no. 7 (Winter-Spring 2009): 38-54
- “Love in Train Car No. 7.” Chtenia05 (Winter 2009)
I'm thrilled to be joined in Slav Sisters by an array of simply excellent translators--Robert Chandler, Ilona Chavasse, John Dewey, Boris Dralyuk, Andrew Bromfield English, Jamey Gambrell, Marian Schwartz, Arch Tait, and Joanne Turnbull--and look forward to reading all their contributions.
This year, the PEN Translates list includes a record number of women writers and translators and also covers books translated from 14 languages and 16 countries, including a Uyghur memoir, Palestinian short stories, Somali poetry, and a Czech feminist novel, Belarusian essays, and a Chinese graphic novel/memoir.
I'm very happy to announce that in March Arthur A. Levine Books will be publishing my translation of Daria Wilke's wonderful young adult novel Playing a Part--about a boy growing up in a Moscow puppet theater, where his parents perform--and the good reviews have started to come in. The book made headlines when it was originally published amid the enactment of laws forbidding the distribution of gay "propaganda" to minors (see the Publishers Weekly review).
Kirkus Reviews says that "readers will be engrossed by the plot hatched by Grisha and Sashok to get Lyolik back and moved by the story's themes and the rich, image-laden language: 'The theater starts murmuring, speaking, tramping, and rustling.' A lovely, moving novel with a bittersweet conclusion."
VOYA praises it as well: "The beautifully drawn characters entice readers into the story, which, although small in scope, illuminates crucially important issues about sexual identity, acceptance, and the pressure to conform. The book is unique in that it highlights the problems encountered by teens who are gender neutral or still exploring their sexual identity. The writing is lyrical and the imagery vivid."
Watch this space for more reviews, as they appear.
Madness Treads Lightly
by Polina Dashkova
Translated from the Russian by Marian Schwartz
Only three people can connect a present-day murderer to a serial killer who, fourteen years ago, terrorized a small Siberian town. And one of them is already dead.
As a working mother, Lena Polyanskaya has her hands full. She’s busy caring for her two-year-old daughter, editing a successful magazine, and supporting her husband, a high-ranking colonel in counterintelligence. She doesn’t have time to play amateur detective. But when a close friend’s suspicious death is labeled a suicide, she’s determined to prove he wouldn’t have taken his own life.
As Lena digs in to her investigation, all clues point to murder—and its connection to a string of grisly cold-case homicides that stretches back to the Soviet era. When another person in her circle falls victim, Lena fears she and her family may be next. She’s determined to do whatever it takes to protect them. But will learning the truth unmask a killer...or put her and her family in even more danger?
. . . captivating storytelling, distinctive characters, and the eternal conundrum of Russia itself. -- Publishers Weekly starred review
“The scenery is...stunning and interesting... when someone mentions Siberia, I generally think of snow and frozen tundras, but Dashkova’s descriptions of a deeply forested and frozen land are magical and lend a certain level of grandeur to an otherwise ordinary thriller... this is a fine novel if you’re interested in Russia and the changes that took place in the ’80s and ’90s when the country transitioned from communism to capitalism as well as wonderful descriptions of the land from a native.”—Fresh Meat (starred review)
Mikhail Shishkin’s Maidenhair is an instant classic of Russian literature. It bravely takes on the eternal questions—of truth and fiction, of time and timelessness, of love and war, of Death and the Word—and is a movingly luminescent expression of the pain of life and its uncountable joys.
The Global Literature in Libraries Initiative strives to raise the visibility of world literature for adults and children at the local, national and international levels by facilitating close and direct collaboration between translators, librarians, publishers, editors, and educators.
It's an honor to be part of this worthy enterprise.
Andrei Gelasimov's striking novel Thirstwas published in 2011, but now we have a new, if brief, review to add to the accolades for this gem:
Masterfully translated from its original Russian by award-winning translator Marian Schwartz, Thirst tells the story of 20-year-old Chechen war veteran, Kostya. Maimed beyond recognition by a tank explosion, Kostya spends weeks on end locked inside his apartment, his sole companion the vodka bottles spilling from the refrigerator.
If you missed this one when it first came out, now would be a great time to get started on Gelasimov.
One of the best books I've read in the past decade, Maidenhair is the sort of densely beautiful book where, after reading 50 pages, you may not know what's going on—there are three distinct storylines, all of which bounce off one another, without completely connecting until the very end—but you'll know that what you're reading is an absolute masterpiece of world literature.
Time to fix that!
Full disclosure: Maidenhair was published by Chad Post's fine publishing house, Open Letter Books.
Last month I had the great pleasure of doing a reading of "Calligraphy Lesson," a story by Mikhail Shishkin, which first appeared on Words Without Borders and was published this year in Calligraphy Lesson: The Collected Stories, published by Deep Vellum.
The reading was especially enjoyable because I shared the bill with Marcela Sulak, who was launching her new book of poetry translation, Twenty Girls To Envy Me, so the audience certainly got to hear a range of material!
Now Austin's excellent Malvern Books, which hosted the event, has posted a video of the reading, which you can enjoy by clicking here.
This year, PEN America asked me and several other PEN members to celebrate the freedom to read by reflecting on the banned books that matters most to us. This is PEN's way of taking part in the American Library Association's annual Banned Books Week, which brings together the entire book community in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.
My choice was Daria Wilke's Playing a Part, a young adult novel (which I translated and which came out this year from Arthur A. Levine Books) that addresses Russian censorship around LGBT themes:
In Daria Wilke's young adult novel Playing a Part, young Grisha is happy at home with his actor parents in a Moscow puppet theater, but he is young and trying to sort out the whole identity—especially gender identity—thing. He's harassed not only by school bullies but even by his grandfather, who doesn't think he's macho enough. Meanwhile another actor, Sam, who is Grisha's mentor and friend, is leaving Russia for the Netherlands because he's gay and can't endure the daily harassment being gay brings upon him.
I describe the book in this way because of its publication in Russia, where homosexuality was criminalized throughout the Soviet period and, in the last few years, criminalized anew. The fact of Russian censorship of "gay propaganda" has shaped my presentation and made this thoughtful and engaging novel also political.
For the rest of the article, click here.
October 2016 will see the launch of an exciting new literary magazine, The Arkansas International, with renowned poet and translator Geoffrey Brock as its editor-in-chief.
I'm pleased to be able to announce that they have accepted my translation of Victor Shenderovich's short story "Wind Over the Parade Ground" for publication in the inaugural issue!
Watch this space for more on this brand-new endeavor.