The Untranslated.

The Untranslated has been around since 2013; how am I just learning about it now? The About page says “The purpose of this blog is to bring to a wider attention significant literary works not yet translated into English,” and that’s so far up my alley it might as well be living in my house. Muireann Maguire linked, on Facebook, to the recent post The Virtuosi: Five Translators Whose Names are Hallmarks of Quality, which of course intrigued me, and I was stunned by the opening passage:

I have to confess that I don’t read works in English translation that often. The main reason is neither my language purism nor snobbishness but the prosaic lack of time: in order to maintain seven reading languages besides my native Russian and near-native English, I have to devote the bulk of my reading time to works of literature written in or translated into those languages, which is often a logistical, managerial and mental torment. The very nature of my blog presupposes a tangential role for English-language translators: they are rather the intended audience of The Untranslated, than its subject matter. Ideally, I would love them to read a review of some humongous, linguistically dazzling, arcana-laden novel (and there are quite a few reviewed here) and say: “Yes, I wanna do it!” Of course, you might wonder skeptically:”Is there still anyone left who can pull it off?” Are there human beings capable of translating such bemusing behemoths as Los Sorias and El Troiacord? such a paragon of untranslatable wordsmithery as Remember Famagusta? such unjustly underappreciated, uncomfortable, mesmerising masterworks as The Absolute Marshal and Corporal? The answer is yes.

And then when I clicked on the Remember Famagusta link I discovered there was an important Russian writer I’d never even heard of:

The English-speaking audience might have heard first the name of Alexander Goldstein from one of the most important contemporary Russian writers Mikhail Shishkin. During his talk at the Harriman Institute, Columbia, he actually said the following:

For me now the top of Russian literature is Alexander Goldstein. […] I’m sure in fifty years here at Columbia University and other American universities all professors will consider our time, our epoch, the epoch of Alexander Goldstein. And we, writers, will be just contemporaries of Alexander Goldstein. We just shared with him the epoch. […] And if you asked me, “What Russian writers are important and genius nowadays?” I would say: “Read Alexander Goldstein”.

[…] I’m not sure that Goldstein is really the genius Shishkin would like him to be, but upon reading his first novel Remember Famagusta, I was totally sold on the idea that there had not been a better stylist writing in Russian in the past century, except maybe Andrei Bely, Vladimir Nabokov and Sasha Sokolov.

Wow! I now want to read Goldstein (or Goldshtein, to better represent the Russian Гольдштейн), and of course I’m subscribing to the blog’s RSS feed. The five translators The Virtuosi focuses on are Adrian Nathan West, Charlotte Mandell, Brendan Riley, Isabel Fargo Cole, and Oliver Ready; see the post for extended samples of the work of each. And don’t miss the section on The Great Untranslated.

Comments

  1. Thanks a lot for this generous mention! I will do my best to keep informing my readers about the hidden treasures of world literature up for grabs for the adventurous spelunkers aka literary translators.

  2. I have been following The Untranslated since almost the beginning and can confirm that, along with The Complete Review ( http://www.complete-review.com/) it is one of the essential websites for anyone interested in modern literature.

  3. David Marjanović says:

    Huh, there’s a vertebrate paleontologist named Mikhail Shishkin.

  4. I came across The Untranslated a few months ago and intended to write a comment drawing your attention to it somewhere here, but it got long and I never finished it. In preparation, I checked to see if you’d ever covered it before, and found that you had actually linked to and quoted this post in this post, but without mentioning the blog as a whole.

  5. I’ve been enjoying The Untranslated’s posts for a year or two (or three?) now and keep meaning to get to the Goldstein book on my shelf! I particularly appreciate the “Virtuosi” post for recognizing Oliver Ready’s very fine work.

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