Don’t mean to play favorites here, but to be honest, in my opinion, Marian Schwartz is one of the smartest, most talented translators working today. Especially in terms of Russian translation. And retranslation. In recent years, she’s translated Envy by Yuri Olesha, Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov, A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov, and I know of an unpublished version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.
The real reason I chose to feature Marian today though is to congratulate her on winning this year’s AATSEEL Award for Best Translation into English for her translation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The White Guard, which came out from Yale University Press. (As a sidenote, one of my interns is preparing a review of this which should run in the next few weeks.)
Marian is also a former president of ALTA, a great speaker on all things translation (she gave a couple killer presentations here at the U of R—including a great speech on retranslations), and a very encouraging, very engaged, very realistic reader, translator, and thinker . . . Personally, I think all young translators should spend some time with her if at all possible—Marian would be an excellent mentor.
Anyway, gushing aside, here are her answers and comments:
Best Translation that You’ve Done to Date: The Tattered Cloak and Other Stories by Nina Berberova
Since I have my issues with Russians and their
lack of understanding of copyright issues, I want to share a brief story (which I’m hopefully not screweing up too bad) Marian told me about Berberova. Back when Marian’s first translations of Berberova were about to come out, she got a gall from Berberova in which Berberova was all excited about all the different places publishing her story. “It’s going to be in here, and also here, and here. . . . “ In Russia, more is obviously better and legal conventions be damned!
Book that Needs to Be Published in English Translation: Cranes and Pygmies by Leonid Yuzefovich, and The Man Who Couldn’t Die by Olga Slavnikova
This is a sort of perfect response. Not necessarily for the choices themselves, but for the googleability of the translations. As it turns out Cranes and Pygmies — which won the Big Book Award — is one of the projects Marian’s currently working on and you can read a sample by clicking here.
And an excerpt from The Man Who Couldn’t Die appeared in Word Without Borders.
Prose translators will likely disagree, but I believe translating poetry requires a significant level of talent, a commitment to the text, and near mania, all of which suggests that the undertaking is the greatest possible challenge. The task is to. . .
The biggest issues with books like The Subsidiary often have to do with their underpinnings—when we learn that Georges Perec wrote La Disparition without once using the letter E, we are impressed. Imagine such a task! It takes a high. . .
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .