November 01, 2012

The Museum of Abandoned Secrets

The Museum of Abandoned Secrets

No one knows a novel like its translator, who must question the significance of every comma and colon, consider alternative meanings of every adjective and adverb, research obscure historical and cultural references and understand the author’s intent sometimes better than the author. So, when we received a review copy of The Museum of Abandoned Secrets, by Oksana Zabuzhko, we reached out to Nina Shevchuk-Murray, whom we have worked with to translate Peter Aleshkovsky’s Fish and his forthcoming Stargorod.

First, congratulations on your achievement! But I have to say, at 680 pages, this is a truly intimidating tome. And even a cursory skim reveals an amazingly rich, dense language, with long, stream of consciousness sentences and a plot that spans many generations. As someone who knows this book intimately, why should a reader take on this huge novel? What rewards lie in wait?

One of Oksana Zabuzhko’s truly extraordinary talents as a novelist is her ability to observe and relate the most intimate thoughts and perceptions of her characters. When one reads this book, one often comes to recognize one’s own habits of thinking, ways of seeing the world, relationships with others. The characters in the novel – because one comes to know them so intimately – become family. I think it is absolutely safe to say that one gains a whole new family: Daryna, the unstoppable TV journalist; her mother Olga, her stepfather and her friends; the man she loves, Adrian, who is an antique dealer and a failed physicist, and the other characters to whom Daryna is connected through the stories she tells – and the secrets she uncovers.

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