1. dostoyevsky:

    Must reblog.

    See previous post about loving the Russians, and now: this. 

    (Source: , via booklover)


  2. "My hope is that you’ll spend the dollars you’ve saved on vodka to pick up a book by Mikhail Kuzmin."
    — Justin Torres wants you to read Mikhail Kuzmin. Apparently he’s good even without vodka. 

  3. booklover:


    The novels of Dostoevsky are seething whirlpools, gyrating sandstorms, waterspouts which hiss and boil and suck us in. They are composed purely and wholly of the stuff of the soul. Against our wills we are drawn in, whirled round, blinded, suffocated, and at the same time filled with a giddy rapture. Out of Shakespeare there is no more exciting reading. We open the door and find ourselves in a room full of Russian generals, the tutors of Russian generals, their step-daughters and cousins, and crowds of miscellaneous people who are all talking at the tops of their voices about their most private affairs. But where are we? Surely it is the part of a novelist to inform us whether we are in an hotel, a flat, or hired lodging. Nobody thinks of explaining. We are souls, tortured, unhappy souls, whose only business it is to talk, to reveal, to confess, to draw up at whatever rending of flesh and nerve those crabbed sins which crawl on the sand at the bottom of us. But, as we listen, our confusion slowly settles. A rope is flung to us; we catch hold of a soliloquy; holding on by the skin of our teeth, we are rushed through the water; feverishly, wildly, we rush on and on, now submerged, now in a moment of vision understanding more than we have ever understood before, and receiving such revelations as we are wont to get only from the press of life at its fullest. As we fly we pick it all up — the names of the people, their relationships, that they are staying in an hotel at Roulettenburg, that Polina is involved in an intrigue with the Marquis de Grieux — but what unimportant matters these are compared with the soul! It is the soul that matters, its passion, its tumult, its astonishing medley of beauty and vileness. And if our voices suddenly rise into shrieks of laughter, or if we are shaken by the most violent sobbing, what more natural? — it hardly calls for remark. The pace at which we are living is so tremendous that sparks must rush off our wheels as we fly. Moreover, when the speed is thus increased and the elements of the soul are seen, not separately in scenes of humour or scenes of passion as our slower English minds conceive them, but streaked, involved, inextricably confused, a new panorama of the human mind is revealed. The old divisions melt into each other. Men are at the same time villains and saints; their acts are at once beautiful and despicable. We love and we hate at the same time. There is none of that precise division between good and bad to which we are used. Often those for whom we feel most affection are the greatest criminals, and the most abject sinners move us to the strongest admiration as well as love.

    “The Russian Point of View”The Common Reader.

  4. Peter Mountford’s debut novel is getting translated into Russian - hooray! Right? Oh, wait, the Russian rights were never sold…Read how the author discovered his pirate translator, and why Mountford helped him

    "I considered contacting AlexanderIII to offer translation help, but I sensed that if I wrote to him, he might vanish. He might even stop translating the book. So I became a voyeur to my own book’s abduction and, confusingly, found myself rooting for the abductor.

    Though I was impressed by AlexanderIII’s dedication, his numerous message-board queries did not inspire much confidence in his translation abilities. At one point, he indicated that he was struggling with ‘white-liberal guilt.’ (Me too!, I wanted to chime in.) He postulated that white liberal guilt meant: ‘the guilt for consuming white substance (cocaine).’”


  5. The Big Think talks to translator Christian Wiman on the publication of Stolen Air by Osip Mandelstam, who died at 47 in a Siberian work camp during the Stalin regime. 

    BT: In your afterword you call these poems “versions” rather than “translations.” Could you explain the distinction and describe your process in working with Mandelstam’s poetry, including your collaboration with poet Ilya Kaminsky?

    CW: I think of translations as passing some scholarly smell test: you can read the words of the translation and be reasonably sure of what the words are in the original. Not of the tone, mind you, and rarely of the form, but you can get the words. The translator is effaced, for better or worse, for the sake of the original. I don’t think that someone who does not speak the original language can ever expect to produce a real translation in this sense.

    A version aims at other things, depending on the translator. Usually, though, it’s the tone that he’s after, which of course is paradoxical if he doesn’t speak the language. The tone has to be gleaned from other sources: the poet’s prose, comparing multiple translations, working with native speakers, gut instinct.

    I don’t speak or read Russian. I did these versions from word-by-word translations provided by Ilya or Helena Lorman (a scholar at Northwestern) as well as transliterations of the originals (the Cyrillic changed to the Roman alphabet) so that I could tell where the rhymes were happening and get a sense of the sounds. I also worked with a lot of scholarly sources to help me think about the context of individual poems.

    I wanted to call my poems versions, but as I say in the afterword, the marketing department wasn’t keen on that, for sound reasons. They won.

    Read the rest here


  7. literalab:

    Literary roundup: Polish vampires, Russian apartment sellers and German inadequates (take your pick)

    Continue Reading



  9. Susan Bernofsky on “The Woman with the 5 Elephants,” playing this week at Film Forum in New York.

    Vadim Jendreyko’s documentary The Woman with the 5 Elephants is quite possibly the most beautiful movie ever made about a translator. The film’s protagonist, Svetlana Geier, who died last year at the age of 87, is famous for her translations into German of Dostoevsky’s five huge novels (the “elephants” of the title). But this film is no mere biopic - it is a gorgeous essay on the art of translation and the complex and often fraught ways in which the life’s work of this talented woman resonates with the self-transformations she herself underwent, having been born in Kiev, where her world was turned upside-down first by Stalin’s purges, then by the German occupation.

  10. Happy birthday, Pushkin! 

    To celebrate, Melville House is selling ALL of its Russian novels at a 50% discount - today only. Go. Buy. Be gloomy.  


  11. Crazy interesting stuff over at Granta, where six translators of Russian talk about what they’re working on now.

    I also translated excerpts from diaries of the period. One diarist, an Orientalist working at the Hermitage, wrote: Somewhere around the 26th and 28th December 1941 I finished an incredibly stupid story… ‘Two Travels to the Big House’. He wrote the last six words in English. Their coded meaning tells us that he was twice called in for interrogation at secret police headquarters. His assumption that the local NKVD would not understand English must have proved correct, because he not only survived the siege: he escaped the gulag and the firing squad too. Perhaps an instance of translation saving a life.


  12. "

    Novel you’d most like to read in its original language:

    Anna Karenina. When I was researching and writing Winter Garden, I fell completely in love with the Russian poets and writers. I was stunned to discover how much difference there was in the content based on the various translations.

    — From today’s Shelf Awareness, in a Q&A with author Kristin Hannah