Although the prospect of analyzing Soviet punk rock in an academic context thrilled me, it also presented me with a daunting task, one into which I had made only a few brief forays: translating Letov’s work into English. At the same time as I hoped that my research would focus more on the political aspects of Letov’s song texts rather than their poetic devices or any intrinsic literary value, a large part of my work hinged on examining his lyrics. By translating them, I could lend credence to my argument to speakers of Russian and English alike.
Dreams of a Pan-European Fantasy Literature: Andrei Bely’s “The Symphonies,” Translated from Russian by Jonathan Stone
Collectively, The Symphonies offer a glimpse into the cradle of Bely’s art: less fully achieved than his mature novels, but closer to a common source in the author’s twisted and escapist imagination. Marrying naïve cliché and bold innovation, always diversely energetic but always grinding the same gears, these experimental works are a storehouse of raw material that draws on the early poems and feeds into the more masterful accomplishments to come.
By Katherine E. Young Talasbek Asemkulov’s A Life at Noon, translated into English by Shelley Fairweather-Vega, is an artistically risky enterprise. Billed as the first post-Soviet novel from Kazakhstan to appear in English, A Life at Noon is a lightly fictionalized autobiography of one of Kazakhstan’s leading artists. Author Talasbek Asemkulov (1955-2014) was known as […]
By Brandy Harrison It all began with youthful audacity. When someone asked me one day, “What are you reading?,” the answer was War and Peace. There was a pause, a faint flicker of confusion in the face hovering above my own, and then a slower, more tentative second question: “Why . . . are you […]
B-Sides and Rarities: “Fifty-Two Stories by Anton Chekhov,” Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
In short, this is not the “greatest hits” compilation we have come to expect from translated collections of short prose. The question becomes, then, what is it?
If you know Tsvetaeva well, it’s hard not to reconstruct the original mentally while reading the translation.
By Ainsley Morse The collection Accursed Poets: Dissident Poetry from Soviet Russia (Smokestack Books, 2020) presents a bilingual selection of late-Soviet-era work from eighteen Russian-language poets. The poets’ work is featured in alphabetical order: Gennady Aigi, Yuri Aikhenvald, Yuli Daniel, Vladimir Earl(e), Yuri Galanskov, Natalia Gorbanevskaya, Igor Kholin, Viktor Krivulin, Evgeny Kropivnitsky, Viktor Nekipelov, Vsevolod […]
Across a Threshold: Olga Livshin’s “A Life Replaced, Poems with Translations from Anna Akhmatova and Vladimir Gandelsman”
By Lev Fridman There is this edge, where some of us recall childhood’s voices. –– There is an edge, Mama i Papa –– where we wake up in the car with a travel mug to recall a Country. ––No, not That Country of the Present slowly invading this one.–– […]
Voices of the Post-Soviet Intellectual: Maxim Osipov’s “Rock, Paper, Scissors,” Translated from Russian by Boris Dralyuk, Alex Fleming, and Anne Marie Jackson
By Jonathan Stone The Grannies took the most practice. There were three of them, and as I prepared to read out loud Alex Fleming’s translation of Osipov’s essay “The Cry of The Domestic Fowl,” I kept vacillating between voices. The one who’s in the worst health hears and sees things: “Yuri, is that you?” she’ll […]
Laughter in the Gulag: “Sacred Darkness,” Translated from Russian by Brian James Baer and Ellen Vayner
By Dimiter Kenarov Looking back at the Soviet Union, nearly three decades after its demise, I can’t shake off the feeling of vertigo. That terrifying whale of an empire, whose blubber once stretched over a sixth of the landmass and most of the twentieth century, seems like a distant memory now, a mythical creature that […]
Polyphonic Transpositions: Pavel Arseniev’s “Reported Speech,” translated from Russian by Thomas Campbell, Cement Collective, Jason Cieply, Ian Dreiblatt, Ronald Meyer, Ainsley Morse, Ingrid Nordgaard, Anastasiya Osipova, Lia Na’ama Ten Brink
By Molly Thomasy Blasing From its very first pages, Pavel Arseniev’s Reported Speech shows itself to be true to its title; the opening poem’s epigraph comes to us, we are told, from an “Instruction in the platzkart train car” (15). This is only the beginning of a journey through a trail of words found, mixed […]
“The Storm”: A Sweet, Searing Counterpart to Leonid Yuzefovich’s “Horsemen of the Sands,” Translated from Russian by Marian Schwartz
By Sabrina Jaszi Leonid Yuzefovich’s novella The Storm details the minutely calibrated network of emotions and ideology underlying daily life at a Soviet primary school in the Urals. An early work by Yuzefovich who gained prominence in the last two decades for his detective novels set in 19th century Russia, a period which he also […]
On Akhmatova’s Couch: “Relative Genitive: Poems with Translations from Osip Mandelstam & Vladimir Mayakovsky,” by Val Vinokur
by Jonathan Stone In a way, Relative Genitive should get three reviews: as Val Vinokur’s translation of eighteen poems by Osip Mandelshtam, as Val Vinokur’s translation of seven (mostly longer) poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky, and as a collection of thirty eight poems by Val Vinokur. However, the artfulness with which Vinokur fuses and navigates those […]
The young and exciting Haute Culture Books has already made a name for itself with its innovative take on the participative publishing model. Governed by the philosophy “digital books should be free, physical books should be sublime,” HCB rewards its “Book Angels” with beautifully crafted art object limited editions that subsidize the wide distribution of […]