Contemporary Russian novels for translation

Title To be avoided at all costs Perhaps Strongly recommend Not read/don’t know Rating
Goluboe salo (SOROKIN) 0 1 3 0 2.25
Norma (SOROKIN) 0 1 3 0 2.25
Psalom (Fridrikh GORENSHTEIN) 0 1 2 1 2
30-aya lyubov’ Mariny (Vladimir SOROKIN) 0 1 2 0 2
Pokhoronite menya za plintusom (Pavel SANAEV) 1 1 3 0 1.6
Banan ( Mikhail IVANOV) 0 1 1 1 1.5
Stepnaya kniga (Oleg PAVLOV) 0 1 1 1 1.5

Survey results

The table above shows the most popular books from Question 1 of my surveyA publisher wishes to publish in English Russian fiction from the last 40 years. He would like to publish something worthwhile, and also not lose money. Which of the following would you recommend?

As can be seen, Question 1 elicited 5 answers.

This multiple choice question named 19 different works of 15 different authors.  These were derived from original discussions with the publisher, a query on SEELANGS here, and my own knowledge.  I posted a link to the survey on SEELANGS here  and RUSSIAN-STUDIES here and also sent it around some of my own contacts.

Question 2 was:  If there are any books or authors not listed in Q1 you would like to suggest, please give details below. Thank you!

There were 8 answers to this question, naming a variety of authors and works.  Vladimir Sorokin was the only writer to be named more than once (twice in fact);  there was also a further nomination for Fridrikh Gorenshtein.

There was one expression of support for the publisher in response to Question 3:  Please give any other comments on this survey or the subject-matter below. Thank you!


Clearly Sorokin and Gorenshtein are the favourites here.  That applies to both Q1 and Q2.   It was interesting to see that some well-known writers such as Olga Slavnikova and Dmitri Bykov attracted very little support.  As at December 2015, this lack of enthusiasm for Bykov seems quite widespread.

About Vladimir Sorokin

Sorokin would certainly be the practical recommendation.  At the technical level of putting the right words in the right order so you want to read more he’s a very very good writer.  A couple of his books have been translated into English, and a lot have been translated into French and German so it’s easy to find out something about him.  One could look at Den’ oprichnika (Der Tag des Opritschniks/Journée d’un Opritchnik) or Goluboe salo (Le lard bleu/Der himmelblaue Speck) as being the most immediately appealing perhaps–there’s lots of useful stuff on  [Oops!  The first of these has just been published in English, and no-one picked me up on it…]  Sorokin certainly suffered some problems with the authorities on account of the second of these, and also with an opera he did the libretto for, so there’s publicity material as well.

About Fridrikh Gorenshtein

You can see my views of that wonderful book Psalom (together with something about Gorenshtein in general) here, and also read about some of the issues to do with publishing him in English here.

Personally, I think you might need to be a US publisher of Jewish material with some kind of captive market to bring it off.  Or a US publisher of heavyweight literary fiction, but those possibilities seem to have been prejudiced by the unfortunate experience with Poputchiki.

Finally, anyone who knows what ‘original’ of Psalm 88 Gorenshtein had in mind is invited to let me know!

For the record

The remaining books listed in Q1 were (in descending order of popularity): Latunnaya luna (Asar EPPEL’), Pervoe vtoroye prishestvie (Aleksei SLAPOVSKY); Eltyshevy (Roman SENCHIN), Malaya Glusha (Mariya GALINA), Pers (Aleksandr ILICHEVSKY); Tsvetochniy krest (Elena KOLYADINA); Schast’e vozmozhno (Oleg ZAIONCHKOVSKY), Kroshki Tsakhes (Elena CHIZHOVA), Lyogkaya golova (Ol’ga SLAVNIKOVA); Evakuator (Dmitri BYKOV), Orfografiya (Dmitri BYKOV), Spisannye (Dmitri BYKOV).  I’ve posted something about Kroshki Tsakhes here.

If anyone is interested in the complete results of the survey, feel free to write to me.  I think that Academia Rossica would also like me to mention their translation grants !

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One Response to “Contemporary Russian novels for translation”

  1. Tsvetochniy krest/The cross of flowers | Notes of an idealist Says:

    […] book by Elena Kolyadina hardly received great support when this blog did a survey of contemporary Russian novels for translation, and it was also being remaindered during my recent […]

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