I first came to Russian literature, as so many native English-speakers have, as a young person – finding myself astounded by Dostoyevsky’s ability in Crime and Punishment to evoke both terror, when Raskolnikov returns to the scene of his crime, and chagrin for Katerina Ivanova as she brandishes her “certificate of honour”. I relished the matro- and patronymics I found in Tolstoy, and vowed to one day write short stories like Chekov’s. But, also like so many other English-speaking readers, my subsequent knowledge of Russian literature has been spare. Editing and writing for this magazine has rejuvenated my interest in the vast scope of literature produced by this fascinating region and its diaspora(s). All of us working on this Russian Riveter hope that we can prompt the same enthusiasm in you for this Riveting Russian writing.
The reason for our eastward trek in this, the second edition of The Riveter magazine, is the centenary of the Russian Revolution, and the commemorative exhibition and programme of events taking place this summer at the British Library. More specifically, two British Library events in collaboration with our very own European Literature Network Riveter-in-Chief, Rosie Goldsmith.
In the afternoon of 3 August the Riveting Russian Translation Workshop brings together expert and aspiring Russian-to-English translators to discuss the literary translation of classical and contemporary Russian fiction, and to indulge in some in-depth text analysis. In the evening Rosie hosts Riveting Reads: Russian Literature Today, with celebrated Russian language writers, the Caucasian, Alisa Ganieva and Russian émigré Londoner Zinovy Zinik, alongside historian and novelist Boris Akunin and Ukrainian writer and satirist Andrey Kurkov.
Naturally, with such an impressive and varied line-up, reviews of their work take prime position in this, our Russian Riveter. We have also taken the opportunity to garner from our Famous Four their Riveting Reads: their recommendations of the books in Russian that are most important to them. We didn’t influence them at all in their choices – it was a completely free vote. However, three of them have chosen to recommend a work by Tolstoy!
It will likely come as no surprise to anyone who loves Russian literature that the work of Tolstoy still holds such sway, also demonstrated by the fact that articles from two of our contributors compare different translations of Tolstoy’s novels.
But Russian writing is not just about classic nineteenth-century authors, important as they are. We review a range of work, from surreal children’s writing of the modern day by the eminently versatile Anna Starobinets, to diaries written in Yiddish by Bella Chagall (wife of the Russian-French-Jewish artist), a collection by the twentieth-century humorist Teffi, Nobel-winner Svetlana Alexievich’s Chernobyl Prayer, as well as contemporary crime, gothic and speculative fiction.
The growing range of Russian literature now available to English readers is commented on in an article by Natasha Petrova about her ground-breaking publishing house Glas; and by translator Lisa Hayden’s roundup of this year’s Russian-to-English translations.
We also have the pleasure of offering our Riveting Reader a Russian fairy tale: Sister Vixen and the Grey Wolf by Alexander Afanasyev, translated exclusively for us by Katherine Gregor. We have some poems by Marina Tsvetaeva, too, and an extract from the award-winning novel of our special guest author, Alisa Ganieva.
All this riveting content has been selected, contributed and provided to you, our Riveting Readers, for free. It may be free but it has great value. We therefore hope you will cherish it and recommend it as riveting to all interested in European literature.
By West Camel