European studies blog

146 posts categorized "Translation"

03 March 2023

New acquisitions: Rab-Rab Press

On until 18 March, the exhibition Editorial Tables: Reciprocal Hospitalities at The Showroom brings together publishers, artists, and curators with an interest in ‘independent, experimental and artist-led publishing, with a focus on intersecting feminist and decolonial perspectives’. We were glad to receive the back catalogue of one of the featured publishers, Rab-Rab Press, based in Helsinki and founded by Sezgin Boynik.

Cover of Rab-Rab: journal of political and formal inquiries in art

Rab-Rab: journal of political and formal inquiries in art, Issue 01 (2014). Awaiting shelfmark.

Rab-Rab Press publishes Rab-Rab: journal of political and formal inquiries in art, which is a platform for politically charged interventions in an art world that has surrendered to its ‘ideological blindness’, to the dominant language of ‘liberal capitalist paranoia’. The journal itself and the range of books published by Rab-Rab are seen as part of a “writerly” art practice that, according to the first issue’s opening article by John Roberts, stemmed from Conceptual art’s dismissal of the ‘intellectual division of labour’, the strict separation of the work of the art practitioner and the art critic.

Reprint of E. P. Thompson’s, The Railway: An Adventure in Construction

Reprint of E. P. Thompson’s, The Railway: An Adventure in Construction (Helsinki, 2020). Awaiting shelfmark.

Rab-Rab Press is also engaged in publishing, and often translating for the first time, out-of-print forgotten works. Twentieth century and contemporary political thought from across Europe finds a home at Rab-Rab, from the work of Slovenian sociologist Rastko Močnik to two lectures by the Polish-Georgian avant-gardist Ilia Zdanevich. There is a reprint of E. P. Thompson’s, The Railway: An Adventure in Construction, on the international labour brigades in Yugoslavia, and most recently a translation of the increasingly influential artist and thinker Karel Teige’s Jarmark umění, The Marketplace of Art.

Cover of Karel Teige’s Jarmark umění, The Marketplace of Art

Karel Teige’s Jarmark umění, The Marketplace of Art (Helsinki, 2022). Awaiting shelfmark.

Lastly, Rab-Rab’s focus also turns to surprising cultural political moments, whether that is the Archie Shepp-Bill Dixon Quartet playing the 8th World Festival of Youth and Students in Helsinki 1962 (Free Jazz Communism), Mao Zedong’s last meeting with the Red Guards in 1968 (The Conclusive Scene), or the release of London-based Practical Music’s LP, Albanian Summer: An Entertainment, in 1984 (From Scratch: Albanian Summer Picaresque).

With such an eclectic range of publications bringing lost writing and moments to light, we look forward to what Rab-Rab Press takes on next. In the meantime, there is still a chance to catch the exhibition.

Pardaad Chamsaz, Curator Germanic collections

24 February 2023

Marking one year since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine

24 February 2023 marks one year since Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine. While the British Library has been collecting digital and print material relating to Russia’s war against Ukraine since it began in 2014, the full-scale invasion has led to, and necessitated, the publication of new works, from diaries and speeches to books for Ukrainian children arriving in the UK.

This blog post brings together some of the items the British Library has acquired in the past year, as well as some of our ongoing activities to support and collaborate with Ukrainian colleagues, institutions and guests.

Photo of books from the Books Without Borders event

Photo from the Books Without Borders event courtesy of the Embassy of Ukraine in the United Kingdom and the Publisher’s Licensing Services Ltd

Children’s books presented by the First Lady of Ukraine, Olena Zelenska, at the British Library

In August 2022, the Library hosted the launch event for ‘Books Without Borders’ in partnership with the Publishers’ Licensing Services (PLS) and book print specialists Halstan, who funded and produced 16,000 Ukrainian language books for children arriving in the UK. We welcomed 40 children and their families to the British Library’s Learning Centre. The event was also attended by the Ukrainian Ambassador and the First Lady of Ukraine, who joined remotely to present the books and answer the children’s questions.

The books have been distributed to families and libraries across the UK, including the British Library (see References). 

Cover of In the Face of War

Cover of In the Face of War

In the Face of War

‘In the daily life of war, only something like photography – unfamiliar, auxiliary, almost mechanical – is capable of holding together sequences and memories.’ Day 16. Friday, March 11.

The Ukrainian artist, writer, and photographer Yevgenia Belorusets kept a diary during the first months of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. Writing from Kyiv, the diary, which included photographs, was updated in real-time and published by Spiegel (German) and ISOLARII (English). It formed the basis of the installation A Wartime Diary, which was exhibited alongside the work of Ukrainian artists Nikita Kadan and Lesia Khomenko in the exhibition This is Ukraine: Defending Freedom at the 59th Venice Biennale 2022. Their work also led to the publication of the pocketbook In the Face of War (also by ISOLARII), of which the Library holds a copy. Another edition of Belorusets’ diary will be published in early March with a new preface by the author.

Cover of the Ukrainian edition of Zelensky's speeches from the first month of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine

Zelensky’s speeches from the first month of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine 

Volodymyr Zelensky’s speeches and addresses (in Ukrainian and English)

‘Do not forget about Ukraine. Do not get tired of Ukraine. Do not let our courage go “out of fashion”.’ (Zelensky, Introduction, A Message from Ukraine)

Elected in 2019, President Volodymyr Zelensky has led Ukraine’s resistance to Russia’s full-scale invasion since February 2022. The British Library holds copies of Zelensky’s published speeches in Ukrainian and English translation. A separate English-language collection, A Message from Ukraine, was recently published by Penguin Random House. It includes 16 of Zelensky’s personally selected speeches from 2019-2022, as well as an introduction in which he reflects on how the months since the invasion have changed Ukraine and him personally. He ends with the words: ‘What will bring the end of the war? We used to say “peace”. Now we say “victory”.’

Mstyslav Chernov, Fire burns at a factory after a Russian attack in the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, 15 April 2022. Visual interpretation for Ukraine Lab.

Mstyslav Chernov, Fire burns at a factory after a Russian attack in the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine, 15 April 2022. Visual interpretation for Ukraine Lab.

Ukraine Lab

The Ukrainian Institute London is an independent charity dedicated to strengthening Ukraine’s voice in the UK and beyond. The Library has worked with the Institute on a number of projects and events, including Ukraine Lab (2022), an online writing residency for emerging writers from Ukraine and the UK. Working in cross-cultural pairs, the six participants explored global challenges related to environment, disinformation and war, through the prism of Ukraine and the art of storytelling. You can read their work here. As part of the project, the British Library led a collections-based workshop and hosted an online event (recording available).

Ukraine Lab was run by the Ukrainian Institute London in partnership with PEN Ukraine and the Ukrainian Institute as part of the UK/UA Season of Culture, funded by the British Council.

Cover of Andrey Kurkov’s Diary of an Invasion featuring the 'Russian warship' stamp

Cover of Andrey Kurkov’s Diary of an Invasion

Diary of an Invasion by Andrey Kurkov

‘At first we did not understand what war was. You can’t understand it until you see it and hear it.’

Diary of an Invasion by Andrey Kurkov, the critically acclaimed author of novels including Grey Bees and Death and the Penguin, brings together his writings and broadcasts from Kyiv. Kurkov interweaves his personal story with those of his compatriots, as well as political and historical commentary, in a remarkable record of life immediately before and during the full-scale Russian invasion.

Kurkov took part in an event hosted by the British Library to mark Worldwide Reading of Ukrainian Literature Day in September 2022. Organised by the Living Knowledge Network in partnership with the Ukrainian Institute London, a recording of the event is available to watch on LKN’s website.

Cover of Sanctuary Foundation’s book for Ukrainian children arriving in the UK, Hello / Pryvit

Cover of Sanctuary Foundation’s book for Ukrainian children arriving in the UK, Hello / Pryvit

A bilingual book to welcome Ukrainian children in the UK

Designed for Ukrainian children who have arrived in the UK in the past year, this bilingual book includes messages of welcome from British and Ukrainian celebrities including Bear Grylls, Tom Odell, Mel Giedroyc, Andriy Pyatov and Jamala. The book was created and published by the charity Sanctuary Foundation, who presented a copy to the British Library in December 2022. Sanctuary Foundation is working with LKN to distribute the books to local libraries around the UK.

N.B. The items featured in this blog post have recently been acquired by the British Library and some may not yet be available to Readers. We will update the shelfmark information and will flag their availability via Twitter as soon as they are ready to order.

References

Kolosok: ukraïnsʹka narodna kazka, illustrated by Adelʹ Hilevych (Kyiv, 2021), YF.2022.a.23583.

Pro bidnoho parubka i tsarivnu: ukraïnsʹka narodna kazka, illustrated by Iulii Kryha (Kyiv, 2021). YF.2022.a.23582.

Zhenchyk, zhenchyk nevelychkyi, illustrated by V'iacheslav Lehkobyt (Kyiv, 2021), YF.2022.a.23586.

Halyna Tkachuk, Bilka Kvasolia ta Opivnichnyii Pozhyraka, illustrated by Nataliia Kashchak (Kharkiv, 2019). YF.2022.a.24557

Valentyna Vzdulʹsʹka, Fotofan: mystetstvo fotohrafii dlia ditei (Kyiv, 2022), YF.2022.b.2327.

Misiats’ viiny: khronika podii: promovy ta zvernennia prezydenta Ukraïny Volodymyra Zelensʹkoho, uporiadnyk Oleksandr Krasovytsʹkyi (Kharkiv, 2022), YF.2022.a.22981.

Druhyi misiatsʹ viiny. YF.2022.a.22966.

Ukraine Aflame: War Chronicles: Month 1, compiled by Oleksandr Krasovytskyy; translator Ganna Krapivnyk (Kharkiv, 2022), YD.2022.a.4046.

Ukraine Aflame – 2. YD.2022.a.4047.

Volodymyr Zelensky, A Message from Ukraine (London, 2022), ELD.DS.739195.

Yevgenia Belorusets, Nikita Kadan, and Lesia Khomenko, In the Face of War (Berlin, 2022). Awaiting shelfmark.

Andrey Kurkov, Diary of an Invasion (London, 2022). Awaiting shelfmark.

Krish Kandiah and Miriam Kandiah, Hello / Pryvit! (Sanctuary Foundation, 2022). Awaiting shelfmark.

30 December 2022

An A to Z of the European Studies Blog 2022

A is for Alexander the Great, subject of the Library’s current exhibition

B is for Birds and Bull fighting.

C is for Czechoslovak Independence Day, which marks the foundation of the independent Czechoslovak State in 1918.

D is for Digitisation, including the 3D digitisation of Marinetti’s Tin Book.

E is for Annie Ernaux, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in October.

Examples of Fraktur letter-forms from Wolfgang Fugger  Ein nützlich und wolgegründt Formular manncherley schöner Schriefften ... (Nuremberg  1533) C.142.cc.12.

Examples of Fraktur letter-forms from Wolfgang Fugger, Ein nützlich und wolgegründt Formular manncherley schöner Schriefften ... (Nuremberg, 1533) C.142.cc.12.

F is for Festive Traditions, from songs to fortune telling.

G is for Guest bloggers, whose contributions we love to receive! 

H is for Hryhorii Skovoroda, the Ukrainian philosopher and poet whose anniversary we marked in December.

I is for our series on Iceland and the Library’s Icelandic collections.

J is for Jubilees.

Cover of Abetka, a Ukrainian alphabet book for children

Abetka (Kyïv, 2005). YF.2010.a.18369.

K is for Knowledge systems and the work of Snowchange Cooperative, a Finnish environmental organisation devoted to protecting and restoring the boreal forests and ecosystems through ‘the advancement of indigenous traditions and culture’.

L is for Limburgish, spoken in the South of the Netherlands.

M is for Mystery – some bibliographical sleuthing.

N is for Nordic acquisitions, from Finnish avant-garde poetry to Swedish art books.

O is for Online resources from East View, which are now available remotely.

Pages from Giovanni Bodoni and Giovanni Mardersteig, Manuale tipografico showing letters M and N

Giovanni Bodoni and Giovanni Mardersteig, Manuale tipografico, 1788. Facsimile a cura di Giovanni Mardersteig. (Verona, 1968) L.R.413.h.17.

P is for our wonderful PhD researchers, current and future.

Q is for Quebec with a guest appearance by the Americas blog featuring the work of retired French collections curator Des McTernan. 

R is for Rare editions of Ukrainian poet Taras Shevchenko’s Kobzar.

S is for Samizdat and the Library’s Polish Solidarity collection.

T is for Translation and our regular posts to mark Women in Translation Month.

Page from Alphabet Anglois

Alphabet Anglois, contenant la prononciation des lettres avec les declinaisons et conjugaisons (Rouen, 1639). Digital Store 1568/3641.(1.)

U is for Ukrainian collections and our work with Ukrainian partners.

V is for Victory – a contemporary Italian newspaper report of the Battle of Trafalgar. 

W is for Richard Wagner who wrote about a fictional meeting with Beethoven.

X is for... (no, we couldn’t think of anything either!)

Y is for You, our readers. Thank you for following us!

Z is for our former colleague Zuzanna, whom we remembered in February.

Church Slavonic alphabet from Azbuka, considered the first dated book printed in Ukraine.

Azbuka ōt knigi osmochastnye̡, sirěchʹ grammatikii (Lviv, 1574). Digital Store 1568/3641.(1.)

02 December 2022

He lived as he taught, and taught as he lived: Ukrainian philosopher and poet Hryhorii Skovoroda

On the night of 7 May 2022 a Russian missile completely destroyed a historic 18th-century building in the small Ukrainian village of Skovorodynivka, situated in a rural area, far from any infrastructure. This building housed the National Literary-Memorial Museum of Hryhorii Skovoroda – a Ukrainian poet and philosopher whose creative legacy consists of philosophical treatises, poems, fables, parables, and translations from Plutarch and Cicero. The house was where Skovoroda worked in the last years of his life. There he died.

The National Literary-Memorial Museum of Hryhorii Skovoroda after a Russian missile strike

The National Literary-Memorial Museum of Hryhorii Skovoroda after a Russian missile strike

Meanwhile this year we mark the 300th anniversary of Hryhorii Skovoroda’s birth on 3 December 1722 to a Cossack family in the small Ukrainian town of Chornukhy. It was a transition period for Ukraine and Ukrainian independence when some old traditions of the Hetman state, which had a wide autonomy, still existed. But this autonomy had been gradually limited by the Russian empire. Just before Skovoroda’s birth Ukrainian printing houses were forbidden by decrees of the Russian Tsar (1720) and the Synod (1721) to publish anything except reprints of old editions which were not supposed to differ in language and even accents from Russian. Certainly, none of Skovoroda’s works were published during his lifetime and thus could not become part of the scholarly discourse of that period.

H. Luk’íanov. Portrait of Hryhorii Skovoroda  1794

H. Luk’íanov. Portrait of Hryhorii Skovoroda, 1794

At the age of 11 Skovoroda was enrolled in the famed Kyiv-Mohyla Academy where he studied poetics, rhetoric and philosophy, as well as Latin, Greek and Hebrew; he read Aristotle, Plato, Plutarch, Cicero, and other classical authors.

From early childhood Skovoroda was musically gifted and he carried a love for music and church singing through his whole life. He played the flute, violin, bandura and harp. Later, in one of his parables Skovoroda wrote: “Music is a great medicine in sorrow, comfort in sadness, fun in happiness.”

At the end of 1745, eager to see foreign lands and to get to know a wider ‘circle of sciences’ Skovoroda travelled to Tokai (Hungary). In the following five years he visited Vienna, Bratislava, Budapest, possibly Rome, Venice, and Florence, where he met with scholars, studied philosophy and improved his knowledge of foreign languages. Biographers believe that he also attended German universities, in particular the University of Halle. The German roots of his mystical philosophy were thoroughly studied by Dmytro Chyzhevs’kyi, one of the best interpreters of Skovoroda’s life and thoughts. Chyzhevs’kyi’s book The Philosophy of H. S. Skovoroda was published in 1934 in Warsaw and also included an analysis of Skovoroda’s poetry. The well-known Ukrainian emigré poet Ievhen Malaniuk wrote that it is difficult to imagine the spiritual life of his generation without this book.

Cover of Dmytro Chyzhevs’kyi, Skovoroda: Dichter, Denker, Mystiker

Cover of Dmytro Chyzhevs’kyi, Skovoroda: Dichter, Denker, Mystiker, Harvard series in Ukrainian studies; vol. 18 (Munich, 1974) X.0800/445.(18.)

Chyzhevs’kyi also prepared a German edition of this book. It was supposed to appear in 1946 but was not published until 1974. Skovoroda: Dichter, Denker, Mystiker is different from the Warsaw edition. The author enhanced the biographical materials and added quotes from the texts of German mystics.

After returning to Kyiv in October 1750 Skovoroda taught poetics at the Pereiaslav Collegium, again studied at the Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, and from 1753–1759 worked as a tutor. Then he taught poetics, syntax, Greek, and ethics at the Kharkiv Collegium. His last attempt to teach there in 1768–1769 ended in a conflict with the bishop because Skovoroda’s course on the catechism differed from what was generally accepted. After that he left all positions and became a traveling philosopher and poet.

As a philosopher, he was not so much concerned with the creation of a general world-view. He reflected on ethical issues and mainly focused on the philosophy of happiness, what happiness is and whether everyone can achieve it. Freedom and happiness through knowing oneself were key themes for Skovoroda. He was looking for a new, better world and taught that there is no need to seek happiness in other countries, in other centuries. It is everywhere and always with us; as a fish is in water, so we are in it, and it is near us looking for ourselves. It is nowhere because it is everywhere, similar to sunshine – only open your soul.

Cover of Hryhoriĭ Skovoroda, The Garden of Divine Songs and Collected Poetry

Cover of Hryhoriĭ Skovoroda, The Garden of Divine Songs and Collected Poetry … translated by Michael M. Naydan (London, 2016) YKL.2018.a.13622

All of Skovoroda’s writings were preserved in manuscripts. They comprise a collection of poems, The Garden of Divine Songs, fables (Kharkiv Fables) and philosophical treatises often written in the form of dialogues. Only after his death was a dialogue ‘Narcissus. Know thyself’ partly published in St Petersburg in a collection, without specifying the author’s name. The first full edition of works (in two volumes) appeared as late as in 1961 during a short cultural thaw.

The most comprehensive and authentic collection of Skovoroda’s works was published in independent Ukraine under the guidance of the outstanding researcher Leonid Ushkalov. All texts were checked against their manuscripts and quotations were correctly distinguished from the actual author’s text. A detailed and professional commentary adds value to this edition.

At the British Library the most complete collection of Skovoroda’s works (translated into modern Ukrainian) is the two-volume edition prepared by the T. Shevchenko Institute of Literature in Kyiv (1994).

In his poetry Skovoroda developed the same philosophical themes as in his treatises and dialogues. But in the poems they often sound more expressive and emotional. In the ‘Eleventh Song’ from the collection The Garden of Divine Songs he wrote “The spirit in man is an abyss, wider than all the waters and heavens”. Skovoroda was the last and the most prominent poet of the Ukrainian literary baroque, a style characterised by the emphatic use of metaphors and symbols, a variety of rhythms and stanzas.

Wandering folk minstrels sang his poems as songs. They were translated into different languages. The British Library has a Polish translation of some poems made by Jerzy Litwiniuk in an anthology of Ukrainian poetry.

Cover of The Complete Correspondence of Hryhory Skovoroda, Philospher and Poet

Cover of Hryhoriĭ Skovoroda, The Complete Correspondence of Hryhory Skovoroda, Philospher and Poet, translated by Eleonora Adams and Michael M. Naydan ; edited by Liliana M. Naydan; guest introduction by Leonid Rudnytzky (London, 2016) YKL.2018.a.21042

A special part of Skovoroda’s legacy are his letters. Most of them (79 letters) were addressed to his best friend Mykhaĭlo Kovalyns’kyi. They were written mainly in Latin and resemble the ‘Moral Letters to Lucilius’ by Roman philosopher Seneca or the Earl of Chesterfield’s letters to his son. Skovoroda advised his friend to read good books, to look for real friends, to listen to exquisite music and to look at the theatre of everyday life from above.

It was Kovalyns’kyi who wrote the first biography of Skovoroda in 1795, just after Skovoroda’s death. However, for almost a century this invaluable source existed only in manuscript and was known only to the philosopher’s friends and admirers. Hryhorii Danylevs’kyi referred to this manuscript in his detailed biography of Skovoroda in 1862. However, Kovalyns’kyi’s memoir was only published as a separate edition in 1894, in Kharkiv.

Cover of Leonid Ushkalov, Hryhoriĭ Skovoroda vid A do IA

Cover of Leonid Ushkalov, Hryhoriĭ Skovoroda vid A do IA (L’viv, 2019) YF.2019.b.2030

The first modern biography based on different archival sources, which helped to decode many controversial and unclear facts, was published by Leonid Makhnovets (1972). It was very important because various legends had arisen about Skovoroda, even during his own lifetime. The modern Ukrainian writer Valeriĭ Shevchuk wrote a comprehensive biography combined with an analysis of Skovoroda’s poetry, fables and letters (2008). Leonid Ushkalov’s scrupulous biography (2017) contains numerous references to works, people and the environment in which Skovoroda lived. It creates a vivid image of 18th-century Ukraine. Ushkalov also wrote a monograph on the literature and philosophy of the Ukrainian Baroque, largely based on the works of Skovoroda, and compiled a beautiful illustrated edition for children (2019).

The British Library contains books in different languages about Skovoroda, including a monograph by Elisabeth von Erdmann, a German professor of Slavic Studies, which places him in the tradition of philosophia perennis. This enabled a transparent and coherent reading of his writings in the contexts of the Baroque and Enlightenment eras and of Europe’s cultural and religious history.

Cover of Elisabeth von Erdmann, Unähnliche Ähnlichkeit...

Cover of Elisabeth von Erdmann, Unähnliche Ähnlichkeit: die Onto-Poetik des ukrainischen Philosophen Hryhorij Skovoroda (1722-1794). Bausteine zur slavischen Philologie und Kulturgeschichte. Reihe A, Slavistische Forschungen; n.F., Bd. 49 (Cologne, 2005) ZA.9.a.4768(49)

As well as his writings another no less valuable part of Skovoroda’s legacy was his way of life, with conscious rejection of the temptations of the world. He lived very simply, and had no family or permanent home. He gave priority to personal spiritual freedom, taught a true Christian attitude to life and showed how to be satisfied with the simple joys of life. In his own life Skovoroda followed what he taught. It can be said of him: “He lived as he taught, and taught as he lived”.

Nadiia Strishenets, Leading Researcher at the Vernadsky National Library of Ukraine and British Academy Fellow

References/Further reading

Dmytro Chyzhevs’kyi, Filʹosofiia H.S. Skovorody = La philosophie de Grégoire Skovoroda (Warsaw, 1934) Ac.1147.d.

Dmytro Chyzhevs’kyi, Skovoroda: Dichter, Denker, Mystiker, Harvard series in Ukrainian studies; vol. 18 (Munich, 1974) X.0800/445.(18.)

Hryhoriĭ Skovoroda, Tvory u dvokh tomakh, ed. Mykola Zhulynsʹkyĭ et al. Kyïvsʹka biblioteka davnʹoho ukraïnsʹkoho pysʹmenstva. Studiï; t. 5-6 (Kyiv, 2005) ZF.9.a.3589

Hryhoriĭ Skovoroda, The Garden of Divine Songs and Collected Poetry … translated by Michael M. Naydan ; with an introduction by Valery Shevchuk ; translations edited by Olha Tytarenko (London, 2016) YKL.2018.a.13622

Od Iłariona do Skoworody: antologia poezji ukraińskiej XI-XVIII w.. ed. Włodzimierz Mokry (Kraków, 1996) YF.2010.a.22281

Hryhoriĭ Skovoroda, The Complete Correspondence of Hryhory Skovoroda, Philospher and Poet, translated by Eleonora Adams and Michael M. Naydan ; edited by Liliana M. Naydan; guest introduction by Leonid Rudnytzky (London, 2016) YKL.2018.a.21042

Orest Khaliavskiĭ [i.e. Hryhorii Danylevs’kyi]. ‘Skovoroda, Ukrainskiĭ pisatel XVIII veka’, Osnova, 1862, No. 8, pp. 1–39 and No. 9, pp. 39–96 

Hryhorii Skovoroda: Vybrani tvory v dvokh tomakh / [Uporiadkuvannia, pidhotovka tekstiv ta prymitky B. A. Derkacha.] (Kyiv, 1972) X.989/26377

Leonid Makhnovets, Hryhoriĭ Skovoroda (Kyiv, 1972) X.519/15878.

Valeriĭ Shevchuk, Piznanyĭ i nepiznanyĭ sfinks: Hryhoriĭ Skovoroda suchasnymy ochyma: rozmysly (Kyiv, 2008) YF.2008.a.38916

Leonid Ushkalov, Lovytva nevlovnoho ptakha: zhyttia Hryhoriia Skovorody (Kyiv, 2017) YF.2017.a.17493

Leonid Ushkalov, Literatura i filosofiia: doba ukraïnsʹkoho baroko. Sloboz︠h︡ansʹkyĭ svit; 13 (Kharkiv, 2019) YF.2020.a.8355

Leonid Ushkalov, Hryhoriĭ Skovoroda vid A do IA (L’viv, 2019) YF.2019.b.2030

Elisabeth von Erdmann, Unähnliche Ähnlichkeit: die Onto-Poetik des ukrainischen Philosophen Hryhorij Skovoroda (1722-1794). Bausteine zur slavischen Philologie und Kulturgeschichte. Reihe A, Slavistische Forschungen; n.F., Bd. 49 (Cologne, 2005) ZA.9.a.4768(49)

Skovoroda, philosophe Ukrainien... : colloque tenu le 18 janvier 1973 à l'Institut d'études slaves de Paris à l'occasion du 250e anniversaire de la naissance de Skovoroda (1722-1972). Collection historique de l’Institut d’études slaves; 23) (Paris, 1976) Ac:8808.d/2[23]

Hryhorij Savyč Skovoroda: an anthology of critical articles, ed. Richard H. Marshall, Jr. and Thomas E. Bird (Edmonton, 1994) YC.2019.a.10287

Hryhoriĭ Skovoroda, 1722-1794: bibliohrafichnyĭ pokazhchyk (Kyiv, 2002) YF.2004.a.2767

Hryhorii Skovoroda, Povna akademichna zbirka tvoriv, ed. by Leonid Ushkalov (Kharkiv, 2010). YF.2012.a.18740

10 November 2022

The Curious Woodcuts in Hartlieb’s Late-Medieval Adventures of Alexander the Great

There are countless adaptations of the Alexander Romance, a collection of fantastical stories about Alexander the Great originally brought together in Greek, probably in the third century AD. Among the earliest adaptations to appear in print was Hartlieb’s Alexanderbuch. Nine editions of this German translation are known to have appeared from 1473 to 1514 at Augsburg and then Strasbourg. Each is enriched with woodcuts that depict, for example, Alexander’s first encounter with his man-eating horse Bucephalus, his meetings with naked philosophers, and his discussions with talking trees. By comparing the editions, it’s easy to see how the illustrations fall into three distinct categories and to begin to understand something of their development over time.

Johann Hartlieb (c.1410-1468) was a physician who wrote the Alexanderbuch around 1444 for his patron, Duke Albrecht III of Bavaria. His principal source appears to have been the popular Historia de preliis, which in turn was a Latin-language translation of a long lost Greek text made in the 10th century by Leo of Naples. That said, Hartlieb’s text begins with the phrase ‘Hereafter followeth the story of the Great Alexander, which was written by Eusebius’, and Hartlieb’s German adaptation is as a result often indexed under Eusebius of Caesarea in many reference works and catalogues.

Hartlieb’s text circulated in manuscript for three decades until Johann Bämler issued the first printed edition at Augsburg in 1473. His publication is illustrated with nearly 30 woodcuts, many seemingly inspired by the miniatures in a manuscript now at the Pierpont Library in New York (MS M.782). With the exception of the frontispiece portrait (see below), the same woodcuts then appear in three subsequent Augsburg editions (1478, 1480 and 1483) printed by Anton Sorg. Among them is the image of Alexander in a diving bell.

Woodcut showing Alexander in a diving bell

Alexander’s diving bell in the Sorg edition of 1483, IB.5949

The Greek Alexander Romance (Stoneman, Book II, Chapter 38) talks of a descent of 464 feet to the bottom the sea, but here the impression is of a rather cramped-looking Alexander being lowered into a fish pond.

The next group of early editions are all published in Strasbourg. (Unfortunately no copies can be traced of a further Augsburg edition of 1478 reported in the Incunabula Short Title Catalogue). These Strasbourg editions (1488, 1493 and 1503), whether issued by Martin Schott or Bartholomäus Kistler, are curious because they contain broadly the same woodcuts as seen in the Augsburg volumes, but they have been redrawn and printed in reverse.

Woodcut showing Alexander in a diving bell

Alexander’s diving bell in the Schott edition of 1488, IB.1178

The most obvious explanation is that they were created by copying or tracing the illustrations in one of the earlier Augsburg editions.

The last of these early Hartlieb editions also appeared in Strasbourg, but this time from the press of Matthias Hupfuff. Visually, this work is very different, with the text printed in two columns for the first time. The woodcut illustrations are also different, although the subjects are much the same. In the new woodcut of the diving bell, Alexander is still in an impossibly cramped vessel, but there is only one person on the shoreline instead of the usual three.

Woodcut of Alexander’s diving bell in the Hupfuff edition

Alexander’s diving bell in the Hupfuff edition of 1514, C.39.h.14

In common with other illustrations in this 1514 edition, the woodcut appears to have been extended, unsatisfactorily, by the addition of a piece from a different illustration. This opens up the possibility that the woodcuts were not made specifically for this edition, and were in fact being re-used.

Returning to Bämler’s first edition of 1473, several surviving copies contain a curious frontispiece portrait of Alexander with boars’ tusks rising from his lower jaw.

Alexander with boars’ tusks

Alexander with boars’ tusks in the Bämler edition of 1473. © National Library of Scotland

The source for this strange feature may ultimately lie in the Greek Alexander Romance, which tells us that ‘his teeth were as sharp as nails’ (Stoneman, Book I, Chapter 13). In Hartlieb’s German, this has become ‘Sein zen waren garscharpff als eines ebers schwein’ (‘his teeth were as sharp as those of a wild boar’). The portrait has the same features as one seen in a Hartlieb manuscript now at the Universitäts- und Landesbibliothek Darmstadt (Hs. 4256), and the two may have had a common model. It is replaced in other editions up to 1503 by a full-length portrait of a seated Alexander without tusks.

The British Library exhibition Alexander the Great: The Making of a Myth covers 2,300 years of storytelling about Alexander, and runs until 19 February 2023. Four editions of Hartlieb’s Alexanderbuch are on display, including a copy generously lent by the National Library of Scotland that shows Alexander with the mysterious boars’ tusks.

Adrian S. Edwards, Head of Printed Heritage Collections

Further Reading

Hellmut Lehmann-Haupt, ‘Book Illustration in Augsburg in the Fifteenth Century’. Metropolitan Museums Studies, 4.1 (1932), 3-17. Ac.4713.b.

Richard Stoneman (editor), Alexander the Great: The Making of a Myth [exhibition catalogue] (London, 2022). Awaiting shelfmark

Richard Stoneman (translator), The Greek Alexander Romance (London, 1991). H.91/1160

28 October 2022

The spirit of freedom, or an episode in the life of a private person in the time of transformations

28 October is a National holiday in the Czech Republic. Independence Day (Den vzniku samostatného československého státu) marks the foundation of the independent Czechoslovak State in 1918. It followed the publication of the Declaration of Independence of the Czechoslovak Nation by Its Provisional Government (Prohlášení nezávislosti československého národa zatímní vládou československou) on 18 October 1918. As soon as military defeat became inevitable, the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire started to disintegrate. The Allies supported the breakaway demands of the minority nations within the Empire. The 1918 ‘Autumn of Nations’ led to fundamental changes in the configuration of Central Europe.

The main author of the Declaration was the first President of Czechoslovakia, Professor Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk, sociologist, political scientist and philosopher.

Photograph of the reading of the Declaration

Reading the Declaration (Source: Wikipedia)

Although the whole process of independence revolutions in Central Europe had the American idea of national self-determination as its theoretical basis, the Czechoslovak Declaration of Independence or the Washington Declaration, as it is sometimes called, is evidently the most influenced by American political principles and President Woodrow Wilson’s 14-point programme for world peace:

We accept and shall adhere to the ideals of modern democracy, as they have been the ideals of our nation for centuries. We accept the American principles as laid down by President Wilson: the principles of liberated mankind, of actual equality of nations, and of the governments deriving all their jus power from the consent of the governed. We, the nation of Comenius, cannot but accept these principles expressed in the American Declaration of Independence, the principles of Lincoln, and of the Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen. (Digital copy)

Although the British Library is not among the lucky few who own one of only 50 copies of the first edition, the 1933 edition with parallel Czech and English texts is a really fine piece of Czech book culture.

Pages from Declaration of Independence of the Czechoslovak Nation... in Czech and English

Prohlášení nezávislosti československého národa zatímní vládou československou, osmnáctého října, MDCCCCXVIII. (Declaration of Independence of the Czechoslovak Nation by its Provisional Government, October Eighteenth, MDCCCCXVIII). Prague, 1933. 5549.e.44

The links between the two nations and the presidents were promoted and emphasised in Czechoslovak society through imagery, such as, for example, this postcard published on the website of the US Embassy in the Czech Republic.

American political thought was of great importance for building a new nation state. Changing the focus from global political transformations to individuals, I tried to imagine a 30-year-old Czech banker and Doctor of Law, who, while on a state mission to London, came to the British Museum Library to work in its Reading Room. His name was Vladimír Dědek (1889-1941) and he is also known as an editor of research volumes on history and a translator from English. It would be good to learn more about his life, but for now I can only offer you his letter to the British Museum written in clear handwriting, where he thanks colleagues for their help and offers a donation: Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography in his translation into Czech.

Letter from Vladimír Dědek to the British Museum

Letter from Vladimír Dědek to the British Museum

Letter from Vladimír Dědek to the British Museum

BL archives, DH4, vol. 91, 1918-1920.

The book, which is signed by Dědek, is held in our main printed books collection (a digital copy is available through the National Digital Library of the Czech Republic).

Title page of Benjamin Franklin. Vlastní životopis. Přeložil Judr. V. Dědek signed by Dědek

Benjamin Franklin. Vlastní životopis. Přeložil Judr. V. Dědek. (Prague, [1918]). 10884.aaa.6.

In the preface to the book, having cited Franklin’s words about freedom, Dědek concludes that “the spirit of free America, great in the history of mankind, is blowing from these lines” (p. 24). However, in the words of the father of the nation, Tomáš Masaryk, “freedom is a hard responsibility” (Hovory s T.G. Masarykem. Věk mladosti / K.Č.; ZF.9.a.2782).

Katya Rogatchevskaia, Lead Curator East European Collections

20 October 2022

Annie Ernaux’s time in London

On 10 October 2022, the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to the French author Annie Ernaux “for the courage and clinical acuity with which she uncovers the roots, estrangements and collective restraints of personal memory.”

A major literary presence in contemporary France, and the author of more than 20 books, Ernaux has been writing since the 1970s, and is no stranger to literary recognition. Her autobiography Les années won both the Prix Marguerite Duras and the Prix Francois Mauriac in 2008 as well as the Italian Premio Strega in 2016; it was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize in 2019 when it was translated into English by Alison L Strayer – on this occasion Ernaux gave an interview to the Institut Francais in London. She had also received the Prix Renaudot for La Place. In 2017, Ernaux was awarded the Marguerite Yourcenar Prize for her life’s work. The British Library holds her books both in French and in English translation, from the earliest, Les armoires vides (1974) to the latest, Le Jeune Homme (2022).

Cover of Annie Ernaux, Ecrire la vie with a portrait of the author

Cover of Annie Ernaux, Ecrire la vie (Paris, 2011). YF.2012.a.18786

As brilliantly demonstrated by Elise Hugueny-Leger in an article from 2018, Ernaux has been the subject of academic publications since the early 1990s, and notably, very early on, in the English-speaking world, via a chapter by Loren Day in Contemporary French Fiction by Women: Feminist Perspectives (1990) and Diana Holmes in French Women's writing 1848-1994 (1996). She has since become an academic subject of study in her own right, while slowly becoming more accessible to the general public, through her becoming more prominent in the media and, also, through a change in her style. She is now a figurehead of contemporary French Women writers, but one of Ernaux’ wishes is that her books “may be read and received by a great number of readers who don’t necessarily have a university background” (E Hugueny-Léger).

Melding the biographical and the sociological, deploying an array of autobiographical novels, illustrated photographic diaries, and biographical narratives, some of her publications are referred by Michel Tournier’s term “Journaux extimes,” because, despite being in the format of a personal journal, they focus on the external and on the observation of the author’s surroundings. Ernaux’s genre is difficult to define in one word, but it is based on and around her life, and her experiences, and what she observes, recounted in a deliberately pared down and at times clinical voice. “Her work is uncompromising and written in plain language, scraped clean,” said Anders Olsson of the Swedish Academy on Thursday as he announced her accolade.

Cover of Annie Ernaux, Le jeune homme

Cover of Annie Ernaux, Le jeune homme (Paris, 2022) YF.2022.a.24142

Annie Ernaux was born in 1940 to working-class parents in Normandy. In 1958, she spent a summer looking after children in a summer camp and her sexual awakening during that time is recounted in Memoire de fille (2016). In 1960, she left home to study in Rouen. In the following years she married, had two sons, and qualified as a secondary school teacher. In 1974 she published Les armoires vides, a fictionalised account of the illegal abortion she had undergone ten years earlier. Ernaux continued to teach until she retired in 2000, and now devotes herself to writing.

In 1960, Annie Ernaux had spent several months as an au pair in London looking after two boys, Jonathan and Brian Portner. During this stay, she started writing her first novel, which remains unpublished. In the anthology Ecrire la vie, a few pages are devoted to this period in Ernaux’s life, with photographs and extracts from her diary.

Annie Ernaux portrait

Annie Ernaux in the 1960s. Photo credit: L’Inventoire 

The following touching and surprising story, which is recounted on the website Annie Ernaux, focuses on the author and her work and, through its largely bilingual construction, attempts to bring her work to the attention of the anglophone world. The site is maintained by Elise Hugueny-Léger (University of St Andrews) and Lyn Thomas (University of Sussex).

I see a miraculous convergence of coincidences. First there is a writer and translator, Anthony Rudolf, who reads Mémoire de fille the year after its publication. He is struck by the mention of the Portners, in Finchley, as among his acquaintances there is a certain Jonathan Portner, a dentist located a few miles away. Informed by Anthony Rudolf, Jonathan Portner tells his daughter Hannah about this discovery. Now Hannah Portner is studying French with Elise Hugueny-Léger, a lecturer at the University of St. Andrews, whose thesis focuses on my work and who has participated in many conferences I have attended. Thanks to Elise Hugueny-Léger, Hannah has read and loved one of my books, Journal du dehors, which inspired her to create a beautiful text about Paris and Madrid: Journal de deux voyages. Observation et mise en mots du réel. Things could not have come full circle in a more wonderful way… From one woman’s writing – it was in the summer of 1960, au pair with the Portner family, that I started a novel – to another woman’s writing… 

Some might say that this observation of life as a wonderful circle might be uncharacteristic. But the impression, the mark left by London on Ernaux is also recorded in her usual clean, sharp and yet somewhat poetic style:

‘L’Angleterre, Londres anesthésiant et doux, eaux éternellement couleur d’étang, maison des Portner, feutrée. Si j’ai eu vingt ans là-bas, je ne m’en suis jamais vraiment aperçue.’ (Mai 1970)

“London, London soft and narcotic, waters eternally the colour of marshes, The Portners’ house, hushed and elegant. If I ever were twenty there, I never realised”. (May 1970)

Sophie Defrance, Curator Romance Collections

References/Further reading

Annie Ernaux, Les armoires vides (Paris, 1974) X.908/29849.

Annie Ernaux, La place (Paris, 1983) X.958/33342

Annie Ernaux & Marie, Marc, L’usage de la photo (Paris, 2005) YF.2006.a.37419

Annie Ernaux, Les années (Paris, 2008) YF.2008.a.14343

Annie Ernaux, Mémoire de fille (Paris, 2016) YF.2016.a.23982

Annie Ernaux, Le jeune homme (Paris, 2022) YF.2022.a.24142

Contemporary French fiction by women: Feminist perspectives, edited by Margaret Atack and Phil Powrie (Manchester, 1990) YC.1991.a.445

Elise Hugueny-Léger, ‘Annie Ernaux’, French Studies: a Quarterly Review, 72 (2018) 256-269. ELD Digital store, doi: 10.1093/fs/kny014 

D. Holmes, French Women’s Writing, 1848–1994 (London, 1996), pp. 246–65. DRT ELD.DS.419322

 

28 September 2022

Cassandra by Lesia Ukrainka: a UK premiere

Last November, the British Library, in partnership with the Ukrainian Institute London, hosted an event to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of Ukrainian writer and poet Lesia Ukrainka. Alongside a captivating panel discussion, Olesya Khromeychuk, Director of the Ukrainian Institute London, announced the winner of the Institute’s inaugural Ukrainian Literature in Translation Prize. First prize was awarded to translator and poet Nina Murray for her translation from Ukrainka’s poetic drama Cassandra.

Print of Cassandra by Francis Legat after George Romney

Francis Legat after George Romney, Cassandra Raving (Shakespeare, Troilus and Cressida, Act 2, Scene 2) first published 1795, Print. The Met

First published in 1908, Ukrainka’s drama retells the story of the Trojan war through the eyes of Cassandra, the fiery prophetess who persists in fighting for the truth when no one will believe her. An extract from Nina Murray’s translation of Cassandra appeared in the second issue of the London Ukrainian Review in August, and the full text will be published by Harvard University Press next year.

Cover of Lesia Ukrainka, Cassandra: A Dramatic Poem. Translated by Nina Murray

Cover of Lesia Ukrainka, Cassandra: A Dramatic Poem. Translated by Nina Murray. Awaiting publication. 

The publisher’s website describes the forthcoming work as follows:

Cassandra: A Dramatic Poem encapsulates the complexities of Ukrainka’s late works: use of classical mythology and her intertextual practice; intense focus on issues of colonialism and cultural subjugation—and allegorical reading of the asymmetric relationship of Ukrainian and Russian culture; a sharp commentary on patriarchy and the subjugation of women; and the dilemma of the writer-seer who knows the truth and its ominous implications but is powerless to impart that to contemporaries and countrymen.

This strongly autobiographical work commanded a significant critical reception in Ukraine and projects Ukrainka into the new Ukrainian cultural canon. Presented here in a contemporary and sophisticated English translation attuned to psychological nuance, it is sure to attract the attention of the modern-day reader.

Poster for the Live Canon and the Ukrainian Institute London production of Cassandra

Poster for the Live Canon and the Ukrainian Institute London production of Cassandra

Ukrainka’s Cassandra has astounding relevance at this time of war, and Live Canon and the Ukrainian Institute London will present the play for the first time on the UK stage, in Nina Murray’s award winning translation. Directed by Helen Eastman, the production will run from 4-16 October 2022 at Omnibus Theatre. For more information and to book tickets, visit the Theatre’s website. There will be a post-show Q&A on Sunday 9 October (free to ticket holders). 

Additional reading and resources

Lesia Ukrainka at 150: A journey through the British Library collections (Part I) 

Lesia Ukrainka at 150: A journey through the British Library collections (Part II) 

Olga Kerziouk, ‘Lady on Banknotes’, European Studies Blog, 1 August 2013 

Recording of ‘The Unknown Feminist of Fin-de-siècle Europe: Lesia Ukrainka’ which was held at the British Library in November 2021 

The London Ukrainian Review 

Sasha Dovzhyk, ‘Subverting the Canon of Patriarchy: Lesya Ukrainka’s Revisionist Mythmaking’, The Los Angeles Review of Books, 25 February 2021 

Lesia Ukrainka: Fin-de-siècle Ukrainian Feminism (short film), Ukrainian Institute London, 2020 

Lesya Ukrainka. Life and work by Constantine Bida. Selected works, translated by Vera Rich. (Toronto, 1968). X.900/3941. An electronic copy of Vera Rich’s translation of Cassandra is available. 

Lesia Ukrainka, Cassandre: Poème dramatique. Traduit de l'ukrainien, préfacé et annoté par Andry Swirko. (Brussels, 1973). X.909/27847.

Lesia Ukrainka, Dramatychni tvory (Kyiv, 2008). YF.2009.a.24435

26 September 2022

Maylis de Kerangal and Shumona Sinha in conversation at the Institut francais

The Institut français regularly addresses issues and perspectives on women’s rights through events, film screenings and discussions.

On Tuesday 27 September, it will host a conversation between acclaimed writers Maylis de Kerangal and Shumona Sinha, together with translator and author Lauren Elkin, and Russell Williams, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the American University of Paris. Kerangal and Sinha will be discussing their newly translated short novels, Eastbound (translated by Jessica Moore) and Down with the Poor! (translated by Teresa Lavender Fagan).

Photo of Maylis de Kerangal and Shumona Sinha

Maylis de Kerangal by Francesca Mantovani © éditions Gallimard, and Shumona Sinha © Patrice Normand

Published in France one year after Kerangal’s award-winning novel Naissance d’un pont, (Birth of a Bridge), Eastbound (originally published as Tangente vers l’Est) tells the story of Aliocha, a very young and desperate Russian conscript bound for Vladivostok, who hopes that a chance encounter with a French woman on the train will offer him a chance to flee. The short novel was born as a radio story, ‘Lignes de fuites’, written for France Culture and broadcast in August 2010, which was inspired by a real-life trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway between Novosibirsk and Vladivostok.

Sinha, who was born and grew up in India, started learning French at the age of 22 and moved to Paris a few years later. She has translated and published several anthologies of contemporary French and Bengali poetry. Her first novel, Fenêtre sur l'abîme, was published in 2008. Down with the Poor! is Sinha’s second novel. Originally published as Assommons les pauvres! in 2011, it won the Prix du roman populiste 2011 and the Prix Valéry-Larbaud 2012. Sinha’s work addresses themes of immigration, exile, and identity, and poetry (‘Assommons les pauvres!’ was the title of a prose-poem in Charles Baudelaire’s Petits Poemes en prose. In very short chapters, Sinha’s Assommons les pauvres! describes the work of a translator working with migrants somewhere in a suburb of Paris:

‘Les mots s’ajoutaient aux mots. Les dossiers s’entassaient. Les hommes défilaient sans fin. On ne distinguait plus leur visage ou leur corps.’
Words were added to words. Files piled up. An endless procession of men. You could no longer distinguish their faces or bodies.

Both novels tell stories of separation, of exile, of fleeing by different means and of searching for one’s place in the world. They both touch upon the very act of translating – emotions into words, or without words (Eastbound is a novel without dialogues), of writing when one is not in one’s country (Sinha is an acclaimed exophonic writer, i.e. one who writes in a language that is not their own), or of the different ways that one can flee, physically or not, the infinite confinements and boundaries imposed by the world.

Join us for what promises to be a fascinating exploration tomorrow evening at 6:30 pm at the Institut français du Royaume-Uni

Sophie Defrance, Curator Romance Collections 

References

Maylis de Kerangal, Naissance d’un pont, (Paris, 2010) YF.2011.a.20739; English translation by Jessica Moore, Birth of a Bridge (London, 2010) H.2018/.7466

Maylis de Kerangal, Tangente vers l’Est (Paris, 2011) YF.2013.a.23272; English translation by Jessica Moore, Eastbound (London, 2022) [on order]

Shumona Sinha, Assommons les pauvres! (Paris, 2011) YF.2013.a.26285; English translation by Teresa Lavender Fagan, Down with the Poor! (London, 2022) [on order]

31 August 2022

Women in Translation Month 2022 (Part 2)

August is Women in Translation Month, a 2014 initiative aimed at celebrating and promoting women writers in translation, as well as their translators and publishers. As in previous years, we are highlighting a selection of books from across the European collections that we have recently enjoyed. We hope you enjoy them too.

Cover of Lize Spit, The Melting

Lize Spit, The Melting, translated by Kristen Gehrman (London: Pan Macmillan, 2021) ELD.DS.611746.

Chosen by Marja Kingma, Curator Germanic Collections

‘It wasn't a good day, but at least there's a story in it.’ Lize Spit consoled herself as a child with writing when life was against her. After a long, hard struggle she entered the literary world in Flanders and the Netherlands with her debut novel Het Smelt, or The Melting. It is part coming-of-age novel, part thriller about a young woman who takes revenge on her childhood friends for things done to her 13 years before. Spit doesn’t pull any punches, doesn’t flinch from cruelty. Just how good it is can be seen from the number of languages Het Smelt was translated into: Arabic, Bulgarian, Catalan, Danish, German, French, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Croatian, Norwegian, Polish, Spanish, Czech, Swedish and English. The English translation is by Kristen Gehrman, who translates from Dutch into English, German and French.

Cover of Contemporary Georgian Fiction

Contemporary Georgian Fiction, translated and edited by Elizabeth Heighway (Champaign, Ill., 2012), Nov.2013/1985

Chosen by Anna Chelidze, Curator Georgian Collections

Published in 2012, this volume brings together stories by 20 prominent contemporary Georgian writers. It affords a view into a vibrant literary world that has been largely inaccessible to English-speaking readers. Written over the last 50 years, the selection of stories offers a very broad mix of writers with different literary styles. Some of the writers are well known, while others have only recently entered the literary world. Among them are five female authors, all from different generations and backgrounds, and each with a distinct authorial voice. They have achieved success in a number of literary competitions and have been awarded literary prizes, both Georgian and international. Some have previously been translated into other languages, for others this is their first published translation. Their names are: Mariam Bekauri, Teona Dolenjashvili, Ana Kordzaia-Samadasvili, Maka Mikeladze, and Nino Tepnadze. They succeed in creating powerful images of Georgia and its inhabitants, seen from different perspectives. The variety of contexts reflects changes in Georgian society in recent years, while the variety of narrative styles highlights the challenges presented to the translator, Elizabeth Heighway.

Cover of Madeleine Bourdouxhe, A Nail, a Rose

Madeleine Bourdouxhe, A Nail, a Rose, translated by Faith Evans (London, 2019) ELD.DS.439385 and Marie, translated and with an afterword by Faith Evans (London, 2016) H.2018/.7905

Chosen by Sophie Defrance, Curator Romance Collections

After years of neglect, the fiction of Belgian author Madeleine Bourdouxhe is undergoing a revival with new editions of her work appearing in the UK, the US and Germany. In her stories, Bourdouxhe explores the themes of resistance, but also the life, routine, sexuality, and ennui of women in the 20th century. First rediscovered in France with the reissue of La femme de Gilles in 1985, she has since become something of a feminist icon. Faith Evans’s recent translations of two of Bourdouxhe’s books into English put her works into their historical, political and stylistic context. She also shares with us her translator’s impressions, feelings and reasoning; and perhaps even more surprisingly, as it is so rare, the author’s impressions at being translated.

Cover of Iryna Shuvalova, Pray to the Empty Wells

Iryna Shuvalova, Pray to the Empty Wells, translated by Olena Jennings and the author (Sandpoint, Idaho: Lost Horse Press, 2019). Awaiting shelfmark

Chosen by Katie McElvanney, Curator Slavonic and East European Collections

Presented in dual-language format, Pray to the Empty Wells is Ukrainian poet Iryna Shuvalova’s first book-length collection of poems in English. Drawing heavily on Ukraine’s folk culture and themes ranging from memory, the natural environment and Russia’s war in Ukraine, Shuvalova’s poems are meditative, intimate, unflinchingly direct and often visceral. The collection is beautifully translated from Ukrainian by Olena Jennings and Shuvalova, and forms part of Lost Horse Press Contemporary Ukrainian Poetry series.

Shuvalova will be appearing in the Worldwide Reading of Ukrainian Literature event at the British Library on 7 September, along with a host of other award-winning Ukrainian writers and translators. The event is free to attend and will also be live streamed on the LKN website.

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