Literary roundup: Tsvetaeva and fighting for writing in translation

On February 20 Prague literary journal B O D Y is hosting an evening of the work of Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva by translator Mary Jane White. The translations will be accompanied by excerpts from the Russian originals and a scholarly talk about “the soundscape of Kafka’s and Tsvetaeva’s writing. “The evening kicks off with a wine reception at the Tsvetaeva Center, which I had no idea even existed but in fact does and which I’ll have to go back, see and write about during a non-wine reception time.

Russian Reading Roulette

The last installment of The Morning News’ Reading Roulette series features an excerpt from Maidenhair and an interview with the novel’s author Mikhail Shishkin. Shishkin talks about translation, international or maybe multinational living, the Russian political situation and some of the background to his novel.

Dostoevsky’s The Idiot begins with Prince Myshkin returning to Russia from Switzerland, a country Dostoevsky had about as much admiration for as Orson Welles’s Harry Lime in The Third Man, who comparing the country to chaotic but creative Italy, said: “In Switzerland they had brotherly love – they had 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.”

Shishkin, who lives partly in Switzerland, has a different take on the country though: “In Russia (and in all the world) Switzerland is considered a boring country. What can you write about a country without war, revolution, tyranny? But a true writer will always find something–particularly in a country that is considered a world leader in suicide.”

Joining the fight for translation

At Publishing Perspectives Joanna Zgadzaj and Nancy Roberts of Stork Press come out swinging for literature in translation, in an effort to open minds (figuratively, not in the skull-cracking sense . . . unless absolutely necessary). They make a lot of fresh and precise points, though points that indicate a reality that is as depressing as ever in many respects. Nevertheless, there is a way ahead, with changes in publishing, the growing recognition of small presses and their sense that the reading audience is far ahead of the oscillated establishment.

Photo – Marina Tsvetaeva

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