Moscow in the 1930’s by Natalia Gromova

Moscow in the 1930’s by Natalia Gromova

Russian fiction

original title – Последняя Москва.

Translator – Christopher Culver

Source – review copy

Well its a second visit to the Russia this woman in translation month , This time we have a historic novel about writers. Natalia Gromova is from a russian military family , she has lived in Moscow since an early agee and got a job at 16 working in the state historical library whilst finishing her studies , she has work for the Soviet encyclopedia in the past but since the mid 90s has been writing books that she use the historic archives to put together historic novels from original diaries , letters and articles of the time .

Alexander Fyodorovich served Russian literature like a priest: literature had completely replaced religion for his generation. But neither literature nor culture , as it became clear later, could save them from the chaos of revolution and then all ugly realities of Soviet life. many of these high-born gymnasium teachers and university professors looked at the complex issues of society and politics with disgust, and the consequences of this naturally fell on the heads of their children, who swept into the maelstrom of history.

I loved this passage about how literature took over religion in some in the 30’s

Moscow in the 1930’s is set during those pre war years of Stalin rule , we are drawn into a world of house and place that arent there anymore .This stitches together the diaries of writers like Olga Bessarabova, Vavara Grigiryena  are the two main sources for this work  well-known and now even forgotten to paint a picture of a world of writing at the time the friendships . People like Maria Belkina a well-known writer in her time but now forgotten to us in english. I loved the way Natalia brought us behind the doors of these writers as they discuss the works of the day and the writers Bulgakov who at the time was working on his own masterpiece that was set also in Moscow the Master and the Margarita during the 30’s .Daniil andreyev is another character who is in the story he was even in the book arrested by Stalin it turns out a lot of his great works were destroyed by The state secret police .

The more I read , the more colourful a picture I got of an old Moscow home . There were more than enough of these in the past. TO a degree, these Moscow homes were literary figures in themselves: fro the Rostovs happy home on Provarskaya street in War and Peace to the home of Gromeko family on the Arbat in Doctor Zhivago. Here the doors were always wide open, the house would teem with guests, a number of relatives would be resident, and holidays would be regularly celebrated, with Christmas festivities for children and adults

In her diary, Olga Bessarabova described the Dobrov home in the same way

An open door for the writer of the day to spend time with Olga and her family .

This is one of those books you need a notebook next to you as you read to note the names of the writers mention and their works . I did this and then looked to see what is available not much but I still have some to check out further Andreyev for example his later book roza mir , rose of the world came out in the late 90’s. Natalia Gromova brings a long gone Moscow to life , this is one of a number of books she has written using the same technique of real diaries and setting as a frame for her novels .I found this compelling if a slow read so much to absorb makes it a book that I will be rereading and discovering again.

 

Advertisements

What’s going on in the world of translation !

Well it’s been a while since I round-up some Gems and news I’ve come across in the world of translation .So after a week away from the blog it seemed a nice way to ease myself back into the old routine .First of is one of two new publishers that have crossed my path in recent times A publishing house called Deep Vellum ,set in Texas ,they have three title coming soon I believe ,the first is a collection of short stories from Mikhail Shishkin ,I shall be reviewing The light and the dark by him soon and from that could see his short stories being quite tasty pieces ,Sergio Pitol the Mexican writer and translator is the second writer ,he has won the prestigious Cervantes prize in the past .Lastly they are publishing A member of the Oulipo group of writers Anne Garreta ,she was first member  to be  born and chosen to join the group after it was founded ,She has won the Prix Médicis in 2002 for her book not a day

the_missing_year

Next up is a remind I think but their first book is due very soon and it is the New York based New vessel Press the first book is The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra by Pedro Mairal a man who was a mute spend six decades paint the history of his village on the shores facing Uruguay ,when his sons die they find these scrolls .This reminds me rather of the story of the outsider art of the American Henry Darger who spent year writing an epic saga called the Vivian girls .The book is due out as an Ebook on the 15th July one for the Dairy I think !!.

This week saws the winner of the Oxford Weidenfield Translation prize announced –

Tess Lewis for Lukas Bärfuss, One Hundred Days (Granta)
Louise B. Popkin for Mario Benedetti, Witness (White Pine Press)
Sam Taylor for Laurent Binet, HHhH (Harvill Secker)
Frank Wynne for Alonso Cueto, The Blue Hour (Heinemann)
Philip Boehm for Herta Müller, The Hunger Angel (Portobello)
Mike Mitchell for Jean-Pierre Ohl, The Lairds of Cromarty (Dedalus)

hunger angel

The winner  was The Hunger Angel by Herta Muller  here is my Review  .I may also draw your attention to another book from the shortlist  ,here is My review of The Blue Hour ,A book overlooked I feel as it is better than the more well-known Red April also set in Peru .

20130529-164953.jpg

Also a reminder for the forthcoming Thomas Bernhard week .I have a specially commissioned  piece this Thursday that I have been lucky to get from another writer about his love of Thomas Bernhard .

The New Moscow Philosophy by Vyacheslav Pyetsukh

Source- Review copy

Translator – Krystyna Anna Steiger

Vyacheslav Pyetsuka is a Russian writer ,he is a trained historian ,he taught  russian and world history until the avant grade nature of his fiction lead to him losing his job ,he has since published numerous books in Russia ,and has had a number of his short stories translated ,notably in the new russian writing collection from Penguin .This book came out in Russia in 1989 and is new from Twisted spoon the czech based publisher .

The novel is set over course of a weekend and we follow it from friday to monday as the members of a collective household in Moscow gather and discuss what happened to the old women that had a flat in the building and who will get the space that is now free she isn’t there any more this book has echo’s of crime and punishment by Dostoyevsky ,like that book there is a large cast of people involved in the story telling process fourteen in all .The book is like a russian doll it becomes more and more as we move along we find out that the disappearance of  Alexandra Sergeyevena Pumpianskaya (don’t you just love that name ) may have more too it than first thought ,hence the echo to C&P was this a murder ,well we never know this isn’t a crime book it is a book about russian life ,art and philosophy as the tenants talk we see the previous hundred year of russian life and art mention in snippets .

Though it may seem speculative at first if not futile, investigating the relationship between life and what we call literature would be useful at this point .The relationship in question is extremely abtrusive undertaking, but is tempting  to try nonetheless .First it’s tempting to ascertain to what degree literature is a game and to what a book of fates , a textbook of life .

The opening of the second part “saturday”

Now this book is a must for any Russian lit fan ,as follows of this blog know I m russian lit light my self  but slowly working on this ,so I found this a book that sent me rushing to google at times to find out about this and that as I went a long ,so it gave me more of a passion to discover more russian Literature old and new and any book that makes you do that is always worth picking up .I think the other echo with C&P is the time when C&P was written Russia was a land of uncertain futures and this book in 1989 is the same this is just the time the new age of russia was happening .We also see how important space and station can be in a large city as the people in the building argue over this vacant space .all this and a lengthy discourse between two of them on the nature of what is evil .I must say the translator Krystyna Anna Steiger ,has manage to keep together what is a complex and mutlilayered book ,still hugely readable in English .

Have you a favourite new russian writer ?

October 2017
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  
%d bloggers like this: