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Literary Snobs

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Nov 17, 2011, 7:50am Top

I thought it would be interesting to start a thread on new writers and new works that we come across and want to share.

Yes, I have been inspired to do so by seeing that a work by Andrei Gelasimov - an excellent writer - has been translated into English as Thirst by Marian Schwartz, a leading translator from Russian. It should be an excellent read. I've not read Thirst, but I've read other work by Gelasimov. In his short story "Zhanna", for instance, he employs fresh narrative structures to great effect. Anyway, in case you're interested, it's available from 22 November at Amazon.com. (Not sure when we get it on this side of the puddle.)

Nov 17, 2011, 7:56am Top

>1 anisoara: - you should be able to buy from Book Depository from the same date.

Nov 17, 2011, 2:58pm Top

I haven't heard of Gelasimov, but am something of a Russophile, so will make every effort to check him out.

I recently read an ebook by an Irish writer called Sean Armstrong. It's about a man with depression and has the rather unattractive title 'We're Fu*ked', but I have to say, I've never read anything like it before. It is very heavy going in places, so depending on your headspace it may not be the ticket, but one of the things I really liked about it was the mass of top quality literary references which double as recommendations, a bit like the way Henry Miller does. I looked up one of the writers he mentions, Leonid Andreyev, who I'd never heard of, and bought some short stories 'The Little Angel', which had three of the best short stories I've ever read!

Edited: Nov 17, 2011, 3:48pm Top

3: I saw that recommended on another list - I keep seeing it come up - going to see if it is available for my e-reader.

ETA: Wherever did you find it? I have searched all the usual places. I have a B&N "Nook" e-reader. I have not found it listed at Powells or BN or the library. Even Google turns up nothing. Maybe I need that accent on the e.

Nov 17, 2011, 6:56pm Top

I got it on Amazon in the UK. It might only be for Kindles, which would be a shame, as it struck me as being quite important just because it's so different to the usual consumerist nonsense.

Nov 18, 2011, 7:40am Top

Jargoneer, thanks - I've now done just that! Well, pre-ordered it, anyway.

Mar 8, 2012, 10:49pm Top

Mar 17, 2012, 12:56pm Top

I recommend The Brothers by Finnish writer Asko Sahlberg, published by the wonderful new Peirene Press.

Mar 28, 2012, 12:03pm Top

Every book I've reat that was translated from Russian I've disliked. I don't care for translations in general.

Mar 28, 2012, 1:01pm Top

Ironically, Atlas Shrugged reads like a bad Russian translation, even though Rand wrote in English, although it was obviously her second language.

Mar 30, 2012, 6:41am Top

#9 - as a translator from Russian, I am discouraged by your remark!

The percentage of translated fiction published in English is purported to be a mere 3%. Contrast this with French, where the figure is 40%. Cultural insularity is frequently offered as an explanation of translation's meagre influence on the English corpus. There are efforts underway to raise the bar and get more work translated into English, and to erode a status quo that amounts to nothing less than cultural imperialism.

Translation enriches the literature available in English. My favourite books in English are translations. I adore Elias Canetti's Auto da Fe, which I could never have read if it hadn't been translated from German, and the translation is very fine indeed. Or Bohumil Hrabal's work - I do not know Czech, so I need to read it in translation; James Naughton's translations of Cutting it Short and The Little Town Where Time Stood Still are utterly brilliant. Robert Chandler's translation from Russian of Grossman's Life and Fate is a masterpiece in and of itself.

Yes, there are poor translations into English out there, just as there is bad writing in English. But don't write off translation - you might as well just close the door on the world!!!

Mar 30, 2012, 7:14am Top

There are more nations which publish in English than there are which publish in French, which may be one reason for the disparity.

Mar 30, 2012, 12:25pm Top


Well said! Such dismissals are lamentable. To skip Babel or Chekhov because they're translated is a reading life not worth contemplating.

Your reference to 3% leads me to suspect you're already familiar with Chad Post's work, but if you're not you may enjoy his blog/publishing house over at Three Percent

Mar 30, 2012, 12:48pm Top

12: Were more nations conquered by England than by France? Might be a reason for the disparity.

Mar 30, 2012, 1:00pm Top

The British at one point ruled a quarter of the planet. The French never managed more than about 5%. The British Empire still remains historically the largest empire ever.

Mar 30, 2012, 1:12pm Top

Chad Post has devoted a great deal of time and effort over the last five years (at least) discussing and analyzing the issues surrounding translation of books into English. This editorial summarizes some of his main points. More economics than imperial history.

His analysis provides ammunition for those who would suggest that American publishing and readers are insular and ignorant.

Mar 30, 2012, 2:26pm Top

16: American readers insular and ignorant! Bah! Heresy to our fine literary tradition. Now back to Snooki's novel and the Wit and Wisdom of Larry the Cable Guy

Mar 30, 2012, 5:11pm Top


It's not just American readers - we have the same problem on this side of the Atlantic. It's an uphill struggle!

13 and 16 (Beardo): Indeed, life without Chekhov would mean life without a great many other writers of short stories who have been inflluenced, directly or indirectly, by this master!

I've recently become familiar with Three Percent, although I cited the figure from Laurence Venuti's work, principally The Invisibility of the Translator. To be honest, I can't remember where Venuti got the figure. Fortunately, there are a few initiatives out there to bring fine translation to the English-language reader!

Mar 30, 2012, 5:15pm Top

16: Just read the editorial. No, I haven't seen it before. Thanks for flagging this for me - it's brilliant that he's undertaken the task. A big job!

May 29, 2012, 11:42pm Top

Kyril Bonfiglioli:


Never heard of him. I'll have to check him out. A fascinating take on highbrow mysteries.

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