Tue, 07 Feb 2023

5 new Russian books published in English in 2022

10 Dec 2022, 07:56 GMT+10

This year wasn't marked by a big amount of Russian book translations published in English, as usually are. However, there are several remarkable volumes you might want to discover.

1. Vladimir Vysotsky: Selected Works

Glagoslav Publications, translated by John Farndon with Olga Nakston

In Russia, Vladimir Vysotsky (1938-1980) is compared to Bob Dylan. His multifaceted talent made him a true Soviet hero. He was an iconic poet, singer and songwriter and an extremely popular actor with legendary acting, both in theater (he played Hamlet at the Taganka Theater) and movies (his most famous role was policeman Zheglov in the cult Soviet TV series 'The Meeting Place Cannot Be Changed').

He had a very deep voice with a very well recognized wheezing, which made all of his singing even more dramatic and eccentric.

This brand new bilingual edition featuring Vysotsky's poems, both in Russian and English, will immerse you in the world of this incredible man who lamented about love and friendship with anguish and despair.

"His songs championed the underdog and, even today, forty years after his death at a tragically young age, people in countries as far apart as Bulgaria and Kazakhstan weep at the mere mention of his name. Yet, remarkably, this is the first landmark collection of his lyrics and poetry in English," the publisher says.

2. Vasily Grossman. The People Immortal

NYRB Classics, translated by Robert Chandler and Elizabeth Chandler

Vasily Grossman (1905-1964) is considered the "Leo Tolstoy of the 20th century". 'The People Immortal' is the title of one of his novels and is devoted to World War II, alongside 'Stalingrad' and 'Life and Fate'. This trilogy can be truly compared with 'War and Peace', where the lives of ordinary people are ruined by the very turbulent historical events.

As a military correspondent, from Summer 1941, Grossman was an eyewitness to the war. He was evident of the Stalingrad Battle, while his mother was killed by the Nazis in the Jewish ghetto in the Soviet town of Berdichev (modern-day Ukraine).

Written in 1942, 'The People Immortal' became Grossman's first World War II novel. According to the publisher, this book "is not only a moving and exciting story of desperate defense and the turning tide of war, but also a monumental memorial for the countless war dead".

3. Efim Etkind. Barcelona Prose

Academic Studies Press, translated by Helen Reeve, Joyse Man, & Julia Trubikhina

Soviet poet, translator and professor Efim Etkind (1918-1999) was walking the edge. He defended Joseph Brodsky on trial, judging him for social parasitism. He was friends with exiled Alexander Solzhenitsyn (and carried home his banned 'Archipelago GULAG' manuscript). Finally, he wrote a book about the Soviet poetry translating school, where he claims that, without being able to express themselves in original art, genius Soviet poets (including Boris Pasternak) gave their talent to translations.

In 1974, Etkind was accused of anti-Soviet activity and fired from university and then totally deported from the USSR and deprived of his citizenship.

'Barcelona Prose' is a collection of autobiographical essays and a vivid documentation of the time. "He captures the absurdity of a cultural-political experiment that destroyed his family's life, his own career, and that of many of his colleagues," the publisher says.

4. Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky. Countries That Don't Exist

Columbia University Press. Russian Library series. Edited by Jacob Emery and Alexander Spektor

Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky (1887-1950) was Russian and Soviet playwright, theater expert and writer with Polish origins. He was born in Kiev (then part of the Russian Empire), but lived most of his life in Moscow and was incredibly famous in bohemian and theatrical circles. He wrote impressive works on theater theory and performing psychology.

Now Krzhizhanovsky's legacy is being ranked as high as Mikhail Bulgakov, Andrei Platonov and Daniil Kharms. However, his fiction works were never let for being published in Stalin's time. They were rediscovered only 40 years after the author's death and saw the light of day in the 1990s. The English translations of his works include such novels as 'The Return of Munchausen', 'Autobiography of a Corpse' and 'The Letter Killers' Club', while his modernist style is frequently defined as Soviet magic realism.

This new translation features a collection of Krzhizhanovsky's nonfiction works of different genres from fables to literary criticism and philosophical essays. "Krzhizhanovsky comes across as a strange voice from another past, at once utterly novel, yet unmistakably belonging to the high modernist 1920s and 1930s," the publisher says.

5. Alexander Pushkin. Peter the Great's African: Experiments in prose

NYRB Classics, translated by Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, and Boris Dralyuk

Lost in translation in the shadow of Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoevsky, Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837) in Russia is considered to be the poet No. 1 and just a great genius, who literally created the modern Russian language! Despite having created his works two centuries ago, he is still extremely relevant.

READ MORE: 10 reasons why Pushkin is so great

Pushkin is also considered that great in Russia, because, during his relatively short life (he died after an injury he got in a duel aged only 37), he managed to work with all the possible genres. He created several brilliant plays and a genius novel in verse 'Eugene Onegin', which is defined as 'Encyclopedia of Russian life'. Not to say that all Russians are raised on his poems and fairy tales.

This new edition brings the less known, but still fantastically great Pushkin - a prose writer - and opens up his creative laboratory. This collection includes his unfinished 'Dubrovsky' novel (a love story and a vivid picture of provincial Russia), 'Egyptian Nights' (an experimental thing reflecting on the nature of artistic inspiration) and 'History of the Village of Goriukhino' (poking fun of problems while writing history).

The title novel 'Peter the Great's African' depicts the tsar through the eyes of his close associate, a former African slave, who was actually Pushkin's maternal great-grandfather. "At once outsider and insider, Ibrahim offers a sympathetic yet questioning view of Peter's attempt to integrate his vast, archaic empire into Europe," the publisher says.

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