At the beginning of October, 2019, Nancy Au and Olga Zilberbourg celebrated the publication of their books Spider Love Song and Other Stories and Like Water and Other Stories. The E.M. Wolfman General Interest Small Bookstore of Oakland, CA, generously hosted their conversation. Nancy grew up in San Francisco and writes about three generations of Chinese-American families. Olga grew up in the Soviet Union and Russia and immigrated to the United States, where she landed in San Francisco. Each of their story collections center on immigrant relationships and complex family dynamics. Following up on their in-person conversation, the authors unpacked their lived experiences and approaches to craft in the email exchange documented here.
I really enjoyed talking to Eric Molinsky of Imaginary Worlds podcast about The Magician of Emerald City, the Soviet version of the Wizard of Oz. This podcast episode is about what’s gained in translation, and Eric found me through the essay I wrote last year for Lit Hub.
Translation so often as seen as a reductive process, a process of loss, and that’s really unfortunate. In this episode, Eric makes a good case–and the one that personally I find to have much better backing–that translation is a process of addition, that it really is a huge boon to the readers and writers out there. Please enjoy this episode and subscribe to the series. Eric does such an excellent job.
Huge thanks to Rita Chang-Eppig for organizing and leading this delightful conversation for GrottoPod about the joys of reading across borders and languages. Tune in here or find us on a podcast reader of your choice!
“What can international literature teach us about our collective past, present and future in these chaotic times? In the latest GrottoPod Gabfest, producer and Grotto fellow Rita Chang-Eppig talks to Jesus Francisco Sierra, Mathangi Subramanian and Olga Zilberbourg about the appeal of international literature, its necessity in our increasingly connected world, and our favorite authors and books, including Akram Aylisli’s Farewell, Aylis! (translated by Katherine E. Young), Perumal Murugan’s One Part Woman, Wendy Guerra’s Revolution Sunday (translated by Achy Obejas), and Yoko Ogawa’s Revenge (translated by Stephen Snyder). “
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/
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!
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
Thanks to Sam Cohen and Write or Die Tribe for allowing me the opportunity to tell stories behind the stories.
Each of your characters feels like a real person when reading the collection, and the first-person narratives make the stories even more convincing. Is there any part of yourself reflected in these characters, or are their thoughts and words entirely fictionalized?
There are lots of versions of me in this book. One of the most personal—by which I mean the least crafted—stories in this collection might be “Practice a Relaxing Bedtime Ritual,” about a mother watching her son thrash in his crib after she’s given him an albuterol inhaler for his asthma. This piece started its life as a Facebook post, I believe.https://www.writeordietribe.com/spotlight-series/interview-with-olga-zilberbourg
My interview with Maddie King of Bloom.
by Maddie King
Olga Zilberbourg is a Russian-American writer who lives in San Francisco and was born during the Cold War. She has three published collections in Russia: The Clapping Land, published by Vremya Press in 2016, The Keys from the Lost House, published by Limbus Press in 2010, and Coffee-Inn, published by Neva Press in 2006.
Like Water and Other Stories, published by WTAW Press in 2019, is Zilberbourg’s first collection of short stories to come out in the United States. Previously, her work has appeared in Alaska Quarterly Review, Narrative Magazine, World Literature Today, Confrontation, Feminist Studies, Tin House’s The Open Bar, Epiphany, Santa Monica Review, and other print and online publications.
I read Like Water and Other Stories in the early days of August, and no other time of year could have better suited. This collection, so fittingly-named, pools stories of…
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