Proposal for collection of stories by Russian writer Andrey Dmitriev

Москва речка                                                                                                                                                        (c) Kostin
Just randomly stumbled across amazon's plan to invest millions in the translation of literature so I dug through the archives teeming with unpublished material and sent out a proposal to release a collection of translations by critically acclaimed Russian writer Andrey Dmitriev.

Here are some of the cover letters and intros:

Turn in the River 
by Andrey Dmitriev
Translated by Henry Whittlesey
(excerpt published by Two Lines) 

What if a young, sick Andrey hid on a ledge over beetling cliffs? His father, the police, the school matrons are looking for him, but he promised the head doctor he’d hide (so his dad won’t take him away). Maybe that ledge is even the boy’s favorite spot: little Andrey has been released from the stifling claustrophobia of his home in a bleak provincial city; he sits atop a mountain and is free to let his thoughts soar over the river, forest and countryside beyond.  No parents arguing, no classmates to tease him, nothing but peace as he carefully walks on the waves, listening to the dense sweltering air, peering into the trembling dove-covered mirage hiding the horizon, and asking who knows who: am I going the right way? Is it right that I am going? Am I allowed to go that far alone?
Or did Andrey become the head doctor at the TB boarding school on the mountain? Well, he probably didn’t do that, because Andrey Dmitriev, born in St. Petersburg, raised in Pskov and Moscow, studied cinematography in the capital and has written narratives and scripts ever since. But in this novella, the little boy and head doctor have to negotiate conflicts recurring frequently enough in Dmitriev’s work to conclude that the author himself has intimate experience with the fate of such torn protagonists. That is about the best I can give you in the way of biographical information to pique your curiosity. Otherwise, he lives both in Moscow off the main road from Sheremetyevo Airport to the Kremlin and in a village four hours north of the capital (see essay in New Madrid, Winter 2010).
Turn in the River interweaves the aforementioned plot of a boy hiding on a mountain ledge with a born-again Christian (woman) visiting a cathedral next to the school. The critically acclaimed novella is also the second part of a loose diptych with Voskoboev and Elizaveta (published by Arch Literary Journal, 2009), with pessimism and urban squalor yielding to optimism and spiritual regeneration. Whereas the earlier protagonists blew themselves up (Voskoboev and Elizaveta) or were sent (back) to jail (Steps and Golubev), here they reject materialism, walk on waves and implicitly save lives.
Andrey Dmitriev has been conferred the Apollon Grigorev award for his novel The Road Back, and Turn in the River was shortlisted for the Russian Booker prize. His recent novel The Peasant and the Teenager won the Russian Booker award. Many novellas and stories have been published in prominent Russian literary journals (Novyi Mir, Znamya, etc.) and in florilegia from the publishing house Vagrius. Translated into German, French, Czech and English, he is currently working on his fourth novel.

Волгоград                                                                                                                                    (c) Gorotscop

Voskoboev and Elizaveta
by Andrey Dmitriev
Translated by Henry Whittlesey
(excerpt published by Arch Literary Journal)

Voskoboev and Elizaveta tells the downward spiral of two couples who are neigbors in an army town in northwestern Russia.   Voskoboev, a pilot whose sole pleasure is the freedom he has in the sky, is suspended from flying.  The gradual realization that he will never fly again ultimately causes him to commit suicide, though the path to dynamite fluctuates and includes brief moments of absolute happiness. His wife Elizaveta was an optimistic child and tries flexibility, acceptance, rebellion to re-instill pride in her husband after his suspension.  On their floor in the prefabricated high-rise is another couple, Trutko and Galina.  No external circumstances affect their marriage, but they eventually separate when the eccentric Trutko begins to read the classics and enters into correspondence with a Moscow literary critic. Unfortunately Trutko has no talent for writing and tries to commit suicide as well, symbolizing in part the gloomy outlook at the end of the Soviet Union. 

Trutko is the author of parts of the story and arguably of the entire narrative.  This could account for the stylistic peculiarities such as clumsy repetition, abrupt transitions and the absence of syntactic smoothness (especially notable in lists that do not conclude with “and”).  On the other hand the narrator might be reflecting the unpoetic times, which changes in the nineties both in society and in Dmitriev’s writing (See Turn in the River, The Road Back).

Деревня                                                                                                                                                   (c) Matzas Rehak

by Andrey Dmitriev
Translated by Henry Whittlesey
(published by Madrid Journal)

This short story by critically-acclaimed writer Andrey Dmitriev takes place in a small, northwestern town far removed from the upheavals of urban Russia. In a seemingly timeless village, the life and psychology of a poor young man and his mother expose the hopeless prospects for its inhabitants.

In addition to the retention of the temporal relationships of the original Russian text, I have also attempted to recreate the internal assonance of the Russian to some extent.  Andrey Dmitriev is as recognized for his poetic style as for his non-condescending ability to represent failing lives sympathetically.  The narration in the translation of Steps tries to reproduce this aspect of Dmitriev's prose, albeit on the basis of my understanding of poetic narration in Steps.  One upshot of this, coupled with the lack of transposition in discourse, is that narration differs from discourse as sharply in translation as it does in Russian (which is not usually the case for linguistic and grammatical reasons).

Дивногорие                                                                                                                                                   (c) Innast

by Andrey Dmitriev
Translated by Henry Whittlesey

This story by critically-acclaimed Russian writer Andrey Dmitriev depicts the life of an ordinary young Russian in the countryside.  It is part of a series of short stories and novellas set in a small town and its environs where the disaffected young people are at odds with the harmony of nature.  For myriad characters, this experience involves one beautiful moment that crystallizes out of the hopeless situation.

The translation experiments with the direct recreation of the temporal relationships in Russian (no transposition) and the idea of having an English author serve as the backdrop for a new text (Poe in this case).

Henry Whittlesey
November 2015 


Post a Comment