Grigory Ryzhakov – Russian Writer

Books vs War: Russian Literature as a bridge between cultures

The Winners of 2014 ReadRussia Translation Prize (photo credit: Russian Institute of Translation)

War tears nations apart and it takes more than long negotiations and ultimate truce to mend broken peace, – magic glue, perhaps. Literature like any other form of art can be this mending glue. Literature unites people of different nations, faith and age, provides insight into history, psychology, sociology, cultural and family values of a given nation.  And it is the translator who interprets words of one culture to another. The cultural peacemaker.

I had been invited to attend the III International Congress of Translators of Russian Literature, which took place in Moscow last week (4-7 September 2014). It was such a delight to meet translators from fifty five countries who gathered to speak about their work at the Foreign Literature Library, in Moscow. The congress was organised by the Russian Institute of Translation, an organisation that provides grants to publishers who wish to publish classical and modern Russian books in translation.

The finale of the congress was a ceremony featuring an announcement of 2014 ReadRussia Translation Prize, which took place at Pashkov House overlooking the Kremlin.


Pashkov House in Moscow

The prize featured four categories.

  • contemporary fiction written after 1990. The Winner – Marian Schwarz (USA) and her English translation of L. Yuzefovich’s Harlequin’s Costume.
  • 20th-century fiction written between 1900 and 1990. The Winner –  Alexander Nitzberg (Austria) and his German translation of M. Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita
  • 19th-century fiction written between 1800 and 1900. The Winner – Alejandro Ariel Gonzalez (Argentina) for his Spanish translation of F. Dostoevsky’s The Double
  • poetry (classic and contemporary). The Winner – Liu Wenfei and his Chinese translation of Alexander Pushkin’s poems.

At the congress I had presented a talk on promotion of modern Russian literature outside Russia. Why are new Russian authors not so well known as Russian masters? It’s all simple – in our world that is over-saturated with information one has to promote one’s art. So, amongst others I had suggested putting some effort into the following areas:

  • discoverability (making sure the information on Russian books contains right metadata and it is search-engine optimised)
  • promotion (via social media and book recommendation websites)
  • book giveaways (to attract new readers and reviewers)
  • contacting bloggers and Russian expats who love reading (word-of-mouth is best promotion)
  • educational efforts (book festivals, literary events at schools, libraries, meetups and online conferences with Russian authors,etc.)

Over the last couple of years I have been promoting Russian literature via my blog. I have received so many emails from you about new Russian reads, so I am happy that this hobby of mine is useful.

If you are looking for other sources about Russian books, here are useful links:

Meanwhile, I’ll keep introducing you to Russian literature. My WIP is a systematic guide/catalogue of new Russian books. Watch this space.


update: The Reader’s Mini Guide to Modern Russian Books is out now on Amazon Kindle/paperback here.


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