Russian Literature in English:
Translations of Russian Fiction · Book Reports & Excerpts · Literary Blogging
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Margarita Khemlin’s Klotsvog, in which one Maya Klotsvog tells her life story in a uniquely chatty voice, reads as a sort of personal confession that also speaks vividly about the dangers of being Jewish in the Soviet Union and the long-term legacy of trauma caused by World War II.
“Klotsvog is a devastating, bleakly comic novel about life in the Soviet Union. Published in Russian in 2009, it has been skillfully rendered by Lisa Hayden, whose English versions of complex novels like Eugene Vodolazkin’s Laurus have established her reputation as an exceptionally thoughtful translator.”
-Phoebe Taplin, Los Angeles Review of Books
Zuleikha, which won Russia’s Big Book and Yasnaya Polyana literary awards, tells the story of the transformation of a Tatar woman who is exiled to the Siberian wilderness in the 1930s.
“The unfolding of [Volf Karlovich’s transformation] is exquisite and credit must go to both the author and translator Lisa C. Hayden for the work they have done to imbue it with such tenderness and power.”
-Ann Morgan, A Year of Reading the World
Longlisted for the 2019 Warwick Prize for Women in Translation
Solovyov and Larionov, Vodolazkin’s debut novel, examines the lives of Larionov, a Civil War general who fought the Bolsheviks, and Solovyov, a modern-day historian who’s trying to understand why the general was not executed after the war. I particularly love the novel’s humor and structure.
“Lisa C. Hayden’s translation is all but invisible. The writing comes across as extremely adept yet relaxed. Often, it can only be described as beautiful. It allows the reader to stay in the story, in the characters’ heads, and in the flow of ideas without the nagging distractions of strained equivalencies. From the first page, I knew this was going to be a very well-written book, and then, because it did not seem translated, had to remind myself that indeed it was. I cannot read Russian and have no idea if the original manuscript is as well written as the translation, but Solovyov and Larionov as I read it is one of the finest novels I have read in years.”
-J. Madison Davis, World Literature Today
When Innokenty wakes up in the hospital, he has no idea who he is or where he’s been. His treatment brings back memories of his past that raise questions about history, love, and identity. (I hope I’m not the only reader who gasped upon learning what happened to Innokenty.)
“The brutal reality of the Bolshevik Revolution is painted in the small frame of Innokenty’s life, but retains the same (and perhaps greater) force of wider, more grandiose narratives chronicling the upheaval. Lisa Hayden’s translation reads beautifully and carries the poignancy well.”
-Meagan Logsdon, Foreward Reviews
Longlisted for the 2019 EBRD Literature Prize
Levental’s story of Masha Regina, a high school student from a small city who moves to St. Petersburg so she can study at an arts school, creates a portrait of an ambitious and opportunitistic filmmaker who uses her own life – and family – as artistic material.
“It’s a cerebral work that urges its readers to consider the limits of ambition, the price of making art... This genre-defying novel takes on the limits of talent and ambition, fate and art in contemporary Europe.”
Finalist for the 2017 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize
One of my favorite books, Laurus is set in the Middle Ages but the novel’s language and characters occasionally spiral through time. Vodolazkin combines playfulness, meditativeness, journeys, and the plague as he examines history, religion, and what it means to live. Laurus both challenges and comforts.
“Translator Lisa Hayden had a tall order before her — Vodolazkin’s book in Russian overflows with Old Church Slavonic, contemporary slang, obscenities, bureaucratese, literary language. In translating, she avails herself of the contemporaneous Middle English Bible for much of the syntax and archaisms, but also a range of slang, curses, and other vocabularies. The result is a wonderful, at times almost Monty Python–esque blend of biblical vanisheth, synne, and pryde, right alongside shithead, jeez, and Brownian motion.”
-Janet Fitch, Los Angeles Review of Books
Winner of the 2016 Read Russia Prize for Best Translation of Contemporary Russian Literature
Finalist for the 2016 Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize
In The Women of Lazarus, Marina Stepnova twists the family saga genre to offer a story that begins shortly after the Russian Revolution and continues on to our post-Soviet times, presenting, through the family and their friends, individual (and very lively!) angles on history, science, and morals.
“[The characters’] name changes ingeniously reflect the complex interrelations between characters, but they also make the novel trickier to read. Recognizing this, Lisa Hayden, whose brilliant translation does Stepnova’s writing justice, provides a list of names at the end.”
-Phoebe Taplin, Russia Beyond the Headlines
Addendum to a Photo Album is a brief saga of the births, deaths, and disappearances within the eccentric Mandrykin family. Following patriarch Malach, a Cossack captain, his wife Annushka, and his many sons, all born with sideburns, it details their fraught relationships, particularly when sitting for family photographs.
“Each unhappy family is funny in its own way too, and rendered in thick, lovely language, Lisa Hayden’s translation does not fail to deliver the humor its original surely demands.”
-Patty Nash, Asymptote
I’m a literary translator who focuses on Russian fiction and lives on the Maine coast. I particularly enjoy novels with unusual language and welcome inquiries regarding books that have already been edited and published in Russian. I also enjoy writing book reports for publishers, translating samples, and speaking (in Russian or English) to groups about translation and Russian literature. I’m open to other suggestions, too. Just ask.
My background includes earning an MA in Russian literature from the University of Pennsylvania and living for six years in Moscow, where I worked for several NGOs and traveled throughout Russia, as well as to Ukraine, Belarus, and Azerbaijan. My portfolio from working in corporate communications and as a freelance writer includes hundreds of texts such as journalistic and informational articles, training materials, and brochures.