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Tuesday, September 04, 2012
Welcome to the first of a series of updates from me, your humble translator, which I will be writing as I work on the translation of Dmitry Chen’s Pet Hawk of the House of Abbas. This is a small but sincere thank you for your sponsorship. Much like our hero, I have no carved-in-concrete plan for any of it but am simply inviting you to share my impressions and discoveries as I go along.
Two months in (real time, not novel time), my journey with our narrator and hero, Nanidat Maniakh, has only begun, but already I feel quite at home in the world of his story. Having barely arrived back in his beloved Samarkand from another long trading trip to Imperial China, he is hustled away in the dead of night to put him out of danger (that doesn’t work, but if it had, there’d be no story) and given a mysterious errand that neither he nor his readers yet fully understand.
Beyond the plotline, though, I quickly learned that this is a gloriously visual, tactile, sensual piece of writing, with its louring fortresses, prickly badlands, fragrant gardens singing with water, the comforting aroma of fresh bread, the racket and jostle of a sun-baked bazaar, the stench and copious bodily fluids of a hospital with empty coffers, and so much more.
There is a powerful distancing mechanism in operation here that excludes the modern sensibilities. Real as he is, Nanidat Maniakh is very much a man of his time and place—self-aware, self-deprecating but also delightfully self-confident and, it seems, endlessly resourceful. But this is no magic carpet ride, either. It is grittily true, seen through Maniakh’s clear eyes, yet with none of the irritating omniscience that can often leave us in awe of the narrator but rarely endears us to him.
So far, Maniakh has been making his way without much of a plan, just doing the best he can to stay alive and one step ahead of those who are obviously invested in seeing him dead. The people he has met along the way are previously known to him or (mostly) random strangers, but all have meandered in and out of his life and gone off to follow their own destinies. We can’t know if we will ever see them again. But each adds another tile or two to the mosaic that is his life in exile.
One such character is a caravan mistress—no heroine, she, but still Maniakh’s unlikely savior in a time of great peril. She wants to know more about him; he has secrets that he wants to keep:
So then, with another sigh, I gave the matron a tale about something else altogether.
About how we lay on a rug, Aspanak, that loathsome lad, and I, both with hands clasped together and chins just grazing them. And directly before our eyes stood two identical and marvelous objects. They were large. . . my God in heaven, simply enormous—bigger than both our heads! . . heavy, compact constructions, like little dwellings made of pure silver. Their flat, polished bases rested sturdily on Zargisu’s rug, and the two side walls of each curved smoothly upward to meet at a silver loop in the form of thick, knotted vine strands.
And in the milky gleam of those walls was a whole world, a vanished and half-forgotten world of loveliness. Interlaced in cambered coils were wondrous beasts with arched necks, arrows frozen in flight behind them and letters in human form, and above them all, Khosrow the Great, King of Kings, his lance angled downward.
These were the silver stirrups of a prince of vanquished Iran.
This mesmerizing novel from one of Russia’s most important modern authors traces the life journey of a selfless Russian everywoman. In the wake of the Soviet breakup, inexorable forces drag Vera across the breadth of the Russian empire. Facing a relentless onslaught of human and social trials, she swims against the current of life, countering adversity and pain with compassion and hope, in many ways personifying Mother Russia’s torment and resilience amid the Soviet disintegration.
This wonderful novella by Alexander Kuprin tells the story of the wrestler Arbuzov and his battle against a renowned American wrestler. Rich in detail and characterization, At the Circus brims with excitement and life. You can smell the sawdust in the big top, see the vivid and colorful characters, sense the tension build as Arbuzov readies to face off against the American.
Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin has a problem. Several, actually. Not the least of them is the fact that a powerful Soviet boss has been murdered, and Matyushkin's surly commander has given him an unreasonably short time frame to close the case.
Stargorod is a mid-sized provincial city that exists only in Russian metaphorical space. It has its roots in Gogol, and Ilf and Petrov, and is a place far from Moscow, but close to Russian hearts. It is a place of mystery and normality, of provincial innocence and Black Earth wisdom. Strange, inexplicable things happen in Stargorod. So do good things. And bad things. A lot like life everywhere, one might say. Only with a heavy dose of vodka, longing and mystery.
For over 100 years, most of the science fiction produced by the world’s largest country has been beyond the reach of Western readers. This new collection changes that, bringing a large body of influential works into the English orbit.
A beloved Russian classic about a resourceful Russian peasant, Vanya, and his miracle-working horse, who together undergo various trials, exploits and adventures at the whim of a laughable tsar, told in rich, narrative poetry.
Senior Lieutenant Pavel Matyushkin is back on the case in this prequel to the popular mystery Murder at the Dacha, in which a serial killer is on the loose in Khrushchev’s Moscow...
In honor of Chekhov's 150th birthday, we produced a special 168-page Chtenia: Chekhov Bilingual with English and accented Russian on facing pages throughout. This is truly a collector's edition, in addition to being a great language-learning tool.
A look at the life and work of Bulat Okudzhava, King of the Bards. Thematic sections have short introductions, and all poems and stories in this volume are presented side by side in English and Russian.
The fables of Ivan Krylov are rich fonts of Russian cultural wisdom and experience – reading and understanding them is vital to grasping the Russian worldview. This new edition of 62 of Krylov’s tales presents them side-by-side in English and Russian. The wonderfully lyrical translations by Lydia Razran Stone are accompanied by original, whimsical color illustrations by Katya Korobkina.