Of Pisemskii’s six long novels — A Thousand Souls (1858), Troubled Seas (1863), Men of the Forties (1869), In the Whirlpool (1871), The Bourgeois (1877), and The Masons (1880) — I think, and let me know if I’ve missed something, that the only one you can find in English is A Thousand Souls, translated by Ivy Litvinov. I’ve been curious about her since I got excited about Pisemskii, and Sarah J. Young has a detailed post about her life, her original fiction, and her extensive work as a translator. There’s even a bibliography to go with it. Besides Pisemskii, she translated Chekhov, Dostoevskii, Goncharov, Gor’kii, Pushkin, Lev Tolstoi, A. N. Tolstoi, and some less famous names, like Elena Uspenskaia.
Litvinov (1889-1977) was a generation or two younger than Isabel F. Hapgood (1851-1928) and Constance Garnett (1861-1946), and must have been a contemporary of Juliet M. Soskice (whose dates I don’t have, but who was younger than her brother Ford Madox Ford, born 1873; married David Soskice in 1902; and published a translation of Nekrasov in 1917). If I’m not mistaken Litvinov published more original work than any of the other three. I guess Fred Whishaw (1854-1934) is another translator/writer, but he didn’t translate as much as Litvinov.
I have nothing of my own to say about events in Ukraine, but Alexei K. has a post with a literary connection and a theory about a Crimean political figure that I haven’t read or heard anywhere else.
I’ve been enjoying the Russian Language Blog for a while. It now has some new contributors, and I wanted to call your attention to a very useful recent post by Maria, a sort of meta–language study post about how to figure out how native speakers would actually say something, rather than put together some words that might be grammatically “correct” but sound unnatural. It works both as a practical guide and a theoretical caution, a reminder that even asking a native informant or searching ruscorpora.ru often can’t give you the final word on whether people would actually say X. It’s very useful to have this kind of advice from someone who’s both a linguist and a native speaker of Russian.
That’s not to take anything away from the other contributors to that blog – in particular I’m very grateful to yelena for her post about mnemonics and for answering my questions in the comments. Did you know Цирк Огромный, Купол Пестрый, Словно Радугу Вознес ты? It’s to remember царство, отдел, класс, порядок, семейство, род, вид (kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species).
It’s been a while since I’ve added anything to the nineteenth-century journal links in the right sidebar, but today you’ll find an entry for Книжки Недели (Books of The Week), a mostly literary monthly magazine that started out as a supplement to a newspaper called Неделя (The Week). The issues I’ve been able to link to so far are from the 1890s. If you browse the table of contents, you’ll see some very 1890s names (Avenarius, Fofanov, Bal’mont, Sluchevskii, Nadson, Solov’ev) and some names that go back half a century earlier (Goncharov, Polonskii, Aleksei Zhemchuzhnikov) and some familiar surnames that are the descendants of more famous people, like Gnedich’s great-nephew Petr Petrovich Gnedich (1855-1925) or A. A. Grigor’ev, the son of Apollon Aleksandrovich Grigor’ev. Zhemchuzhnikov, one of the creators of Koz’ma Prutkov, was born in the same year as Dostoevskii, Nekrasov, and Pisemskii, but outlived them all by 27 years or more.
As long as I was updating links on the right, I added a couple blogs that are in neither English nor Russian: Literatura Russa (Portuguese) and Rosja w literaturze (Polish). The Polish blog has several authors and can connect you to their individual book blogs.
- Via Robert Chandler on SEELANGS, here’s the table of contents of the latest New England Review. There are a lot of translations of Russian poetry and prose: Pushkin (Alyssa Dinega Gillespie), Dostoevskii (Michael R. Katz), and Chekhov (Rosamund Bartlett) from the nineteenth century, and quite a few more from the twentieth and twenty-first. Unfortunately most of it isn’t available online.
- Amateur Reader is seeing Hegel everywhere, including in Gertsen’s My Past and Thoughts (Былое и думы, published 1868). And here he is on Eugene Onegin (Евгений Онегин, written 1823-31). I always forget how over-the-top Nabokov’s translation is: “of the pampered senses joy,” “trample vernant blooms.” Google gives me 6 instances of “vernant blooms” on the whole internet, all this passage. I assume Nabokov’s train of thought must have been весенний = vernal, and вешний is related to весенний but less ordinary, so let’s stick a different suffix on and get “vernant.” But for my money “vernal” is already fancier and less comprehensible than either весенний or вешний, which are transparently connected to весна ‘spring.’
- In the years after the October Revolution, Aleksandr Chaianov “published (at his own expense) five short Gothic-fantastic tales in separate volumes with print runs of no more than 300 copies, mostly under the whimsical pseudonym ‘Botanist X,’” stories that are “indulgently intertextual, erratically citing Hoffmann, Pushkin, Karamzin, Catullus, and the occasional authority on agronomy.” From Muireann Maguire in a guest post at Writers No One Reads.
- Languagehat liked Gogol’s The Gamblers (Игроки, published 1842). My favorite Gogol play is Marriage (Женитьба, also published 1842), but reading LH’s post and being reminded of the deck of cards named Adelaida Ivanovna makes me want to give The Gamblers another try.
- And here is Phillip Routh on Sologub’s The Petty Demon (Мелкий бес, published partially in 1905, fully in 1907): “Initially I took this to be a comic novel because every character and every encounter highlight the absolute worst in human nature; since people aren’t that bad, the results are absurd. Peredonov, the main character, is made up of a plethora of vices, with not one virtue thrown in. Some examples: ‘Everything that reached his consciousness was transformed into something vile and filthy’ and ‘He had no objects that he loved just as there were no people he loved.’ Despite his odiousness, women are in hot pursuit of him as a husband. This sadist (yes, he’s that too) is a schoolteacher in a provincial town, and the haphazard plot revolves around his bumbling machinations to be appointed to the post of inspector. At the midway point the author escalates the level of outrageousness by introducing an androgynous, pubescent boy and having him engage in sex games with a young woman; this comes perilously close to pornography. He also has Peredonov, who from the beginning was paranoid and superstitious, turn into a full-blown maniac. No longer did I find anything comic about this novel; the grimy desolation that pervades it had became dull and monotonous, and I went into skimming mode. From the Introduction I learned that Demon was enormously successful in Russia when it came out in 1907. Some critics credited Sologub with exposing the petty and vicious vulgarity of provincial life, and that, in Peredonov, he was presenting an individual with a spiritual void. I don’t buy this. Without real people, no point about life can be made. This isn’t a novel about moral corruption; rather, it’s a corrupt novel conjured up by a man with an odd and undisciplined mind.” I feel like I had Routh’s reaction to the novel in every particular but the opposite one overall. I felt the “grimy desolation that pervades” the novel, but to me that made it horrible and mesmerizing. Peredonov doesn’t seem human, and usually anything we can’t interpret as being about people is boring, but magically The Petty Demon works anyway.
The word плашмя caught my eye because it’s not one of the neuter nouns in -мя that beginning Russian students know so well, or a verbal adverb with a -я ending after an м like гремя. Instead it’s an adverb that means “with the flat, broad side down.” If you fall плашмя it can mean either face up (навзничь) or face down (ничком). It’s also possible to hit something with a sword плашмя (with the flat side of one’s sword). In Leskov an Old Believer offers his hand плашмя at an introduction, which I take to mean in an awkward or at least unconventional position for a handshake. That seems to be the only instance in Leskov, and Dostoevskii and Lev Tolstoi seem not to have used it at all. It’s used emphatically in a scene from Turgenev’s On the Eve (Накануне, 1860). The word became more common in the twentieth century and was used by Pasternak, Zamiatin, Bulgakov, Grossman, Dombrovskii, Shalamov, Solzhenitsyn, and Aksenov. According to Fasmer it is “probably connected to плоский [‘flat’]” and the Polish word płaski. He also gives ребром (from ребро ‘rib’) as the opposite of плашмя.
In Isabel Hapgood’s 1907 translation of the Turgenev passage, плашмя becomes “spla-ash, ker-flop”:
But louder and longer than all the rest, shouted Uvár Ivánovitch; he roared until he had a stitch in the side, until he sneezed, until he strangled. He would quiet down a little, and say through his tears: “I… think… that that knocked him out… but… he…. splash, ker-flop!”… And with the last, convulsively expelled word, a fresh outburst of laughter shook his whole frame. Zóya spurred him on still more. “I see his legs in the air,” said she…
“Yes, yes,” chimed in Uvár Ivánovitch,—“his legs, his legs… and then! and he went spla-ash ker-flop!”
“Yes, and how did he manage it, for the German was twice as big as he?” asked Zóya.
“I’ll tell you,”—replied Uvár Ivánovitch, wiping his eyes,—“I saw him seize the man by his belt with one hand, thrust under his leg, and then slap-dash! I hear: ‘What’s this?’… but he went splash, ker-flop!” (Russian text)
The “splash” is from context: Insarov has just carried out his threat to throw an impudent German into a pond. Hapgood deflates the hyperbole a little going into English: втрое больше ‘three times as big’ becomes “twice as big.”
- My last links post just missed Russian Dinosaur on Oliver Ready’s new translation of Crime and Punishment, or rather Ready’s introduction to it. It sounds like Ready has a lot to say about the effect Pisarev and Chernyshevskii had on the novel, but comes at them from a different angle than Joseph Frank.
- When I read Karamzin I missed all the fun stuff about marmots, and even if I’d paid attention to that animal I wouldn’t have realized a сурок is a whistle pig.
- It’s always sad to learn of a writer’s existence through an obituary. Regina Derieva (1949-2013) was a Russian poet who lived in Sweden from 1999 on. Donald Rayfield says “she has the ironic and curt observations of Anna Akhmatova, only ten times more acerbic, and she has the flow of similes and metaphors, inspired by extraordinary breadth of reading and of travels, of Josif Brodsky.”
- Alan Shaw translated Derieva’s poem “I don’t feel at home where I am” and composed music for it. You can read and listen to it here (the audio worked for me with IE as my browser, but not with Chrome). The Russian original is the first poem here.