Notable Books: Russian Titles in English Translation, 2009-2019

Punctured Lines

The impetus for creating this post came from a recent Twitter discussion. We at Punctured Lines decided to accept a dare and came up with a list of notable Russian titles available in English translation from the last decade. This has been an opportunity to take stock of the years 2009-2019, both to remember the books we’ve read and to look back at those that we might have missed.

In this task, we relied heavily on Lisa Hayden’s blog, Lizok’s Bookshelf, where Lisa keeps chronological track of the English translations – our deep gratitude for creating and maintaining this resource. Our methodology for choosing among all those works was based on several factors. Rather obviously, for our purposes we only considered works by women. We also wanted to highlight writers whose names may not be very familiar to English-speaking readers but whose work we feel deserves wider exposure…

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Changing the rules of reality to get at the raw truth of an emotionally complicated experience

I’m deeply grateful to Jen Hinst-White of The Common for this thoughtful review of LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES:

The story drops an idea on the table and leaves the reader with something to puzzle out. It’s an example of Zilberbourg’s skill with brevity; even the longer pieces in this collection are just ten or twelve pages, stories to eat quickly and digest slowly. Some, like “Email” and “One’s Share,” are no longer than a paragraph. (This feels appropriate, given all the childrearing themes here. For parents of small children, sometimes an entire meal consists of small, stolen bites, chewed while doing something else. The same can be true for our reading and writing lives.)

The stories in this collection are so interrelated that questions provoked by one story are sometimes given context by another.

https://www.thecommononline.org/review-like-water-by-olga-zilberbourg/

My book is available from WTAW Press.

LIKE WATER gets a review in LARB, shared with Olga Livshin's poetry collection “A Life Replaced”

I’m delighted and grateful to Linda Kinstler and Los Angeles Review of Books for reviewing my book in a thoughtful piece that places it side by side with the book by my comrade and compatriot Olga Livshin.

What should one tell one’s children of a former life? How much should be passed down? How much can be? These questions also animate Olga Zilberbourg’s new book of short fiction, Like Water and Other Stories, her first collection published in the United States. …

One of Zilberbourg’s heroines, newly graduated from college and desiring to learn more about her heritage, goes to live with an elderly Russian woman in a nearby town. When that experience does not suffice, she goes to St. Petersburg, where she catches the flu, gets groped, and feels alienated and stonewalled by the city’s bureaucracy. “I was back in the United States within a month,” our heroine admits. She discovers that the city of her parents owes her nothing, that it is not required to open itself up to those who were deflected from its path.

https://lareviewofbooks.org/article/deflected-by-this-bitter-era-on-olga-livshins-a-life-replaced-and-olga-zilberbourgs-like-water-and-other-stories/

Podcast interview by Jennifer Eremeeva

Here’s a podcast interview I gave about LIKE WATER AND OTHER STORIES to Jennifer Eremeeva for the New Books Network. Listen to the audio below or go to Jennifer’s website or download the interview through searching for New Books Network on your favorite podcasting app!

A new generation of Russian emigres is blessed — or cursed — with the ease of long-haul flights and frequent flyer miles, Skype and FaceTime, Google translate, and regulations that seem anyway to be more forgiving about former citizens traveling to and fro. For them, the border has become far more porous than it ever was, and the choices are now more nuanced. However, there are still plenty of cultural minefields to navigate. To this generation that includes writers as disparate as Gary Shteyngart and Irina Reyn comes Olga Zilberbourg with a new collection of short stories, “Like Water and Other Stories.”

https://jennifereremeeva.com/like-water/

Therapy. Or Something

A short story from my book is up on Ravishly today. It’s a quick read, and I hope, an entertaining one. This story is from the book’s middle, a lighter one, and also deeply connected with the other pieces from the collection. Both new motherhood and the relationships between grown children and parents are major threads.

I brought my mother to therapy with me today. Mother butted shoulders with me to march into the therapist’s office a step ahead. “I have to tell you right away, I don’t see why my daughter needs therapy,” she said, stopping in the middle of the room, halfway to the couch. “She’s a little anxious and disorganized, but who isn’t? Frankly, I don’t believe in therapy.”

https://www.ravishly.com/therapy-or-something

Short-form interview with Olga Zilberbourg in Epiphany blog

I’m so grateful to Odette Heideman for her deep engagement with my work — she’d published a story of mine, The Green Light of Dawn, in Epiphany literary magazine some years ago, and we’ve stayed in touch since then. She asked thoughtful questions that were fun to respond to. Huge thanks to Kendra Allenby for the portrait!

Read the full interview in Epiphany blog.

Like Water is not a traditional novel, but it reads like a novel in a way, with the immigrant condition as a sort of blanketing narrative. Looking at Like Water as a whole, the immigrant-in-a-new-world is an archetypal character—male, female, young, old—all encompassed in one larger character. Did you sort through stories you had to find the ones that feel this connection? How did it come together?

Thank you for characterizing the book as a non-traditional novel! This is precisely the effect I was going for. My training is in comparative literature, and I’ve done some work in narrative theory. As a reader, I am always conscious about the way I look beyond the characters and the narrators of a book, searching for the consciousness of the implied author to guide my reading experience. Who is that person structuring the information on the page? What can I tell about her politics, about her ethical values, about the strengths and the limitations of her factual knowledge? These questions inform my analysis and appreciation of the text. 

http://epiphanyzine.com/features/2019/11/27/short-form-olga-zilberbourg