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translated Envy by Yuri Olesha, Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov, A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov, and I know of an unpublished version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.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.
The last five days of the eleventh-century Icelandic politician, writer of sagas, and famous murder victim Snorri Sturleleson (the Norwegian spelling, Snorre, is preserved in the book) make up Thorvald Steen’s most recently translated historical fiction, The Little Horse. Murdered. . .
We all know Paris, or at least we think we know it. The Eiffel Tower. The Latin Quarter. The Champs-Élysées. The touristy stuff. In Dominique Fabre’s novel, Guys Like Me, we’re shown a different side of Paris: a gray, decaying. . .
One hundred pages into Birth of a Bridge, the prize-winning novel from French writer Maylis de Kerangal, the narrator describes how starting in November, birds come to nest in the wetlands of the fictional city of Coca, California, for three. . .
At 30, the Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli is already gathering her rosebuds. Faces in the Crowd, her poised debut novel, was published by Coffee House Press, along with her Brodsky-infused essay collection, Sidewalks. The essays stand as a theoretical map. . .
Fantomas Versus the Multinational Vampires: An Attainable Utopia (narrated by Julio Cortázar) is, not disappointingly, as wild a book as its title suggests. It is a half-novella half-graphic novel story about . . . what, exactly? A European tribunal, Latin. . .
Marie NDiaye has created a tiny, psychological masterpiece with her Self-Portrait in Green. In it she explores how our private fears and insecurities can distort what we believe to be real and can cause us to sabotage our intimate relationships.. . .
Reading a genre book—whether fantasy, science fiction, crime, thriller, etc.—which begins to seem excessively, stereotypically bad, I have to make sure to ask myself: is this parodying the flaws of the genre? Usually, this questioning takes its time coming. In. . .
The Sicilian Mafia has always been a rich subject for sensational crime fiction. The Godfather, Goodfellas, and The Sopranos worked the mob’s bloody corpses and family feuds to both entertainment and artistic value. Giuseppe di Piazza’s debut novel attempts this,. . .
Antoine Volodine’s vast project (40 plus novels) of what he calls the post-exotic remains mostly untranslated, so for many of us, understanding it remains touched with mystery, whispers from those “who know,” and guesswork. That’s not to say that, were. . .
It hasn’t quite neared the pitch of the waiting-in-line-at-midnight Harry Potter days, but in small bookstores and reading circles of New York City, an aura has attended the novelist Elena Ferrante and her works. One part curiosity (Who is she?),. . .