Eight Russian Women Writers.

I’m a day late posting this (International Women’s Day was yesterday), but better late than never: Meduza highlights the work of “eight women who write literature in Russian but are poised to make major breakthroughs in English translation.” Even though I’ve tried to learn as much as I can about women writers, I had never heard of the first, Galina Rymbu (“Trained as a critic and political philosopher, Rymbu is also an editor and an active advocate for new literature. Thanks to translator Jonathan Brooks Platt, her work is on the rise in English as well as Russian”); needless to say, I was curious about her curious surname, and after some assiduous googling I figured out it was the equivalent of Romanian Rîmbu (I’m afraid I don’t know the etymology of that). The others are Alisa Ganieva, Anna Starobinets, Nariné Abgaryan, Linor Goralik, Maria Stepanova, Alexandra Petrova, and Guzel Yakhina; there are links to translations of their work at the Meduza site. I’m particularly excited about Stepanova’s Памяти памяти (In Memory of Memory, translated as Post-Memory by Sasha Dugdale and forthcoming from New Directions), having read about it at Lizok’s Bookshelf (“although sometimes the book feels almost addictively readable, it’s better to read in very small doses, to absorb, even try on, levels of meaning and significance”).


  1. Thaks for that! I found some poems by Goralik, some translated by her from Russian into Hebrew, others written in Hebrew. They each carry the power of a bomb.

  2. Yes, she’s amazing.

  3. Yakhina+Khamatova (in Russian)


  4. Thanks, an interesting talk.

  5. AJP Crown says

    I thought Starobinets an interesting surname. Perhaps it’s common in Russia.

  6. I thought Starobinets an interesting surname. Perhaps it’s common in Russia.

    Not common, no; I don’t know any others (though I’m sure there are some). It’s from Starobin, a town in Belarus.

  7. AJP Crown says

    Aha, thanks. I was of course wondering because of the French word for faucet or tap.

  8. My French has gotten so rusty I had to look that up (robinet).

  9. Interesting mix of ethnic names. Let’s see: Romanian, Avar, Belarussian, Armenian, Jewish, Tatar and two of the most typical (to the point of parody) Russian surnames (roughly Mary Stephens and Alexandra Peters).

  10. There’s a well-known — in certain circles — Russian physicist/cosmologist by the name A.A. Starobinsky. I suppose his ancestry goes back to the same town.

    He has a universe named after him. Well, a certain kind of cosmological model.

  11. @David L: Starobinsky is one of the pioneers of inflationary cosmology. I actually know him, albeit not all that well, from some time we spent together in Brazil. He’s a really nice and very interesting guy.

  12. Wondered about etymology of Starobin. Found 2 versions (folk etymologies rather): supposedly it means either 100 slavegirls or 100 rabbis, take your pick.

  13. Nariné Abgaryan

    The term “Abgar dynasty” is justified by the frequency of the name Abgar among the kings and by the special importance of the Abgar of the first and second centuries A.D. Armenian writers claim the rulers of Edessa as the Armenian successors of Abgar, son of Aršam, who transferred his capital to Edessa from Metsbin (Nisibis). There is little onomastic support for this theory. Some of the names are Iranian, others Arab (including Abgar itself; Moses of Xorene’s Armenian etymology as awagayr, “great man,” [tr. Da N. Tomaséo, Storia de Mosè Corenese, Venice, 1841, p. 146] is improbable).


  14. David Marjanović says

    Arabic (I’m guessing akbar)? That far north so soon?

  15. akbar

    ‘paunchy, potbellied’


    Abgar sgore

  16. Well, there were Arabs all through the Levant, and Greater Armenia wasn’t all that far north of them.

  17. John Cowan says

    The Letters of Abgar and Jesus very nearly became canonical. As for the name Apkar (Virginia of the baby-health test), ancestry.com (the best of a bad lot when it comes to personal name origins online) has nothing to say, but it attributes Apgar as an American surname to Epgert, a population concentration (I don’t know how big) in the Rhineland-Palatinate, and says that it appears in the U.S. as Apgard, Ebcher, Aepjer, and Apker as well. (Then again, Epgert may be another Bielefeld; {en,de}.wikipedia.org don’t mention it.

  18. David Marjanović says

    ‘paunchy, potbellied’

    Oh, like Wamba, king of the Visigoths.

  19. (Then again, Epgert may be another Bielefeld; {en,de}.wikipedia.org don’t mention it.

    Google has a map of it, complete with Schulstraße and Mittelstraße and Brückenweg and a company called Neptun Technologies. OTOH, its postal code is 57593 Kunkel, so it may only be an ex-community.

  20. There were administrative reforms in most (Western) German states in the 60s and 70s when many small villages and towns were merged into bigger municipalities. Quite often they are now Ortsteile, which may mean that they have their own council to which the municipal council delegates some responsibilities, and their names still show up on road signs.

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