Literary roundup: Russian horses, new writers and bodies from Prague

Chtenia’s Summer 2012 issue is out and is devoted entirely to horses, with an essay on the animals’ role in Russian literature as well as translations of equestrian-themed work from Vladimir Mayakovsky, Nikolai Zabolotsky, Vladimir Sorokin and Alexander Kuprin among others.

One odd feature of this magazine is that though there is a “Web links for this issue” link for every issue, the result of clicking on it is a page saying “There are at present no links for this issue.” In fact, this is the case for the previous six issues as well. A little inaccessible, a little archaic – and yet, we are talking about horses.

Contemporary Russian writers

The Morning News is starting a contemporary Russian literature series called Reading Roulette – a story per month for six months, and if the Russian roulette comparison holds, one of these stories should kill you.  The series kicks off with “I’m Waiting” by Anna Starobinets and is followed by an interview with the author. Her story collection An Awkward Age was published by Hesperus Press is 2010 in a translation by Hugh Aplin, which is bringing out her dystopian novel The Living this year.

The translation of the story is more extremely British than many British novels I’ve read. For me, it distracts too much from the fact that it’s Russian and set in Moscow – Mum and a bin or two, okay, but there were too many “quites” and something “smelt dreadful” and I don’t even know what a rubbish tip is.

The interview is interesting, though I think when she says no one (writer, reader, critic, etc.) takes the “Queen of Russian Horror” label she’s been given at all seriously and that she can throw it off anytime she should be careful. Her take on horror though is right on, as when she talks about Gogol:

“‘Pure’ horror doesn’t exist in Gogol, nor in [Mikhail] Bulgakov, [Ray] Bradbury or [Franz] Kafka, nor—I dare hope—in my work. A good writer can’t write “pure” horror, since real literature is always broader than a genre.”

At Three Percent there is a review of Mikhail Shishkin’s Maidenhair, translated by Marian Schwartz, that opens with a telling indictment of how marginalized contemporary Russian literature in translation can get among readers still awash in the lazy idea that great Russian writing stopped at a certain vague point that no one can actually identify, the politicized clichés of the cold war and the far more powerful and long-lasting clichés surrounding the works of Russia’s “Golden Age.”

There will be some reviews of contemporary Russian fiction upcoming on literalab.

B O D Y interview at Czech Literature Portal

I interviewed the three editors of new Prague-based literary magazine B O D Y about their new publication and the writers they are featuring, as well as their hopes of giving Czech writers they know an international platform for their work to be read in English translation together with a diverse group of poets and prose writers.

Photo – Bathing of a Red Horse by Petrov-Vodkin, 1912

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