Literary roundup: Russian women and Russian words

At Russia Beyond the Headlines there is an interview with Boris Pasternak’s nephew Nicolas Pasternak Slater talking about his translation of the correspondence between his family and his famous uncle as well as his current project of preparing a trilingual edition of his mother Lydia Pasternak’s poetry for publication (she wrote poetry in Russian, German and English).

It’s an interesting interview though there are a few strange questions and strange answers. Pasternak Slater is not interested in translating Dr. Zhivago, saying, quite sensibly, “I don’t think that I would be able to add anything just on the strength of being a family member.” (And what a bizarre idea that he could.)

When asked how Pasternak managed to escape the Gulag though his answer is oddly stated, to say the least. “Above and beyond everything else, Stalin was also a poet.” He goes on to suggest that Stalin understood him as a poet and saw that he didn’t have a political agenda. Still, the “above and beyond everything else” is a bit jarring. Maybe it’s a bad translation.

Women of the Gulag

Speaking of the Gulag, RBTH is showing the first part of a fantastic documentary project interviewing the last women survivors of the Soviet labor camps. Now in their 90s time is running out to capture their stories and you can help support ongoing funding of the project here.


And continuing the theme of Russia and women’s lives, the Czech Literature Portal has a preview of the soon-to-be-published English translation of Freshta (Frišta) by Czech writer, journalist and humanitarian Petra Procházková. Procházková is an award-winning journalist known for covering some of the more traumatized areas of the former Soviet Union and Afghanistan. In Freshta she has brought this experience to bear in her debut work of fiction.

Future Tense

At Publishing the World there is an interview with Will Evans, future publisher of literature in translation with Future Tense books, who besides deserving infinite acclaim for the kind of books it sounds like he plans on publishing, deserves the publisher of the year award for this quote alone:

“I’m most scared that I’m going to put out the most amazing books that I think can change the life of anyone who reads them and they’re going to go unnoticed and disappear as a drop of water in the ocean of self-published garbage and turgid/flaccid pseudo-erotica and young adult fiction that is read way, way, way too much by adults who tell themselves “at least I’m reading” and Brooklyn-transplant MFAs sucking up what little space there is for “literary fiction” in the minds of the Americans who aren’t reading all the other shit I just mentioned.”


Photos – 1) Interior of prisoners’ facility in Gulag, 1936-37, 2) The Pasternak children by Leonid Pasternak, 1914. Boris is on the left, Lydia is second from the right.

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