Gnedich by Maria Rybakova
Original title – Гнедич
Translator – Elena Dimov
Well time has flown I was off work last week and had hoped to post a few post but I was so busy , I didn’t get chance any way it is now August and I still have a few Spanish reads to do over the next few days but today is the first day of Woman in translation month and it seems fitting to start with a great find in a way. I was contacted by Glasgoslav books thanks to my friend Lisa at Anzlitlovers point them in my direction and one of the recent books is this unusual book by the Russian writer Maria Rybakova , who has written a number of novels which have n=been translated into a number of languages , but this is her first book to be translated to English, It was shortlisted for the Andrei Bely prize. Maria Rybakova is from a family of writers her grandfather and both her parents are writers he mother Natalie is editor of Banner a respect lit magazine in Russia
Homer says : youth is alway frightening ,
and the memory of it is the most dreadful or all.
Sing,goddess, it is your amusement
to sing our sorrows, our pain is your glory,
but when you come to me
pretending to be an ac tress
I will agree to suffer, said Gnedich,
and loooked in the mirror with one eye.
In the dark hole of glass he saw
either the cyclops or the hero lover,
then Homer, then suddenly no one really,
just fuinture and the sickly candle
The loss of his eye draws comparison with Homer world and words for Gnedich
Gnedich is the name of a Translator in the 19th century Russia. He was the first man to translate Iliad by Homer from Russian into English. The book is told in the style of Homers work in twelve songs or Cantos about Nikolai Gnedich’s own life. From his childhood where he had smallpox that leaves mark on the young man who drives him to a become a librarian but also to books, to him discovering Homer and reading him to deciding that his lifetime task was to work on the Iliad to bring it to a wider audience .All this at a back drop of when Russia as a country was at its height Imperial Russia is brought to life in Homeresque style as we see how one mans quest for the perfect Iliad is his own life’s work. From his own life his best friend also a poet .
Of course , he wanted
the girls to love him,
but they smelted of sweat and they cackler,
showing their blackened teeth,
and Gnedich decided to wait
until Moscow or Petersberg,
where goddesses would walk
in beautiful dresses: they would be the ones to love him,
but the later it appeared they also were afraid
to look at him
and Gnedich decided to wait a little more-
til his death
Sad he like the girls but they don’t like him thus driving more to his book and the work to translate it .
I said this was a unsual work and a perfect example of what we should all be trying to both read and promote during Woman in Translation month. A work by a female writer, but also a work that you would only find from a small press. Who else would bring a short novel in poetic verse in the style of Homer from Russian and that is no one. It is also a tale of the art and passion of Translators the unsung heroes of world lit that like Gnedich bring the great works to readers in whatever language. The power of the written word to drive one man to transform it into his own language is shown here . So my journey through some female writers in translation has started in Russia and we will next move west to Romania .
Have you a favourite Novel in Verse ?