Posts Tagged ‘Luba Golburt’


Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

February: is it me or does it seem to roll around once every 9 months these days.  I’m just back from the Writers Unlimited festival in the Hague, where I was promoting the Dutch edition of my book.  It looks very different from the US edition.



There was a wonderful photographer who took all these wonderful photographs that subsequently appeared on a bulletin board, so I took some photographs of the bulletin board.  This one is my favorite because there’s just so much going on:

winternachten hamburger

Pictured, from left to right, are Abdelkader Benali, Elif Batuman, Maaza Mengiste, and David Van Reybrouck, floating over a giant hamburger.  We were discussing the internationalization of literature (in response to a super-smart lecture by Tim Parks).

I had been deposited at the theater directly from the Amsterdam airport, with only time to change my shoes.  This was all a wonderful surprise since I had misread the schedule and somehow thought the discussion wasn’t until the following morning.  But as you can see from the picture, I was playing it really cool.


A note on translations

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Although many different editions and translations were consulted and quoted in The Possessed, one doesn’t like to write a book about the universality of great literature without acknowledging the ingenuity and hard work of at least some of the translators on whom such universality depends.  I am particularly grateful to Peter Constantine, Rosemary Edmonds, James Falen, Constance Garnett, Robert A. Maguire, Vladimir Nabokov, Burton Raffell, John E. Woods, and, last but not least, Richard Pevear and Larisa Volokhonsky, whose magnificent translation has granted the English-reading world unprecedented access to Dostoevsky’s Demons.

As regards the small number of Russian translations I came up with myself, I would like to thank both Luba Golburt and Gregory Freidin for their help, while exonerating them from any inaccuracies, which are certainly my own doing.

Sad doesn’t have to mean hungry

Wednesday, May 28th, 2008

In my capacity as one of our prominent internet resources on Keith Gessen, I was recently contacted by Melony Carey, author of a column called “Food by the Book” (in the Muskogee Daily Phoenix), which combines book reviews with recipes from the books’ sociohistorical milieux.  Carey was working on a review of All the Sad Young Literary Men and wanted to know what the sad young literary men ate.  I wrote to Keith, asking what he cooked in grad school; in this way, I learned that Keith apparently didn’t cook a whole lot in grad school:

Oh gosh Elif! While I was in Syracuse I mostly took to dipping black bread into pasta sauce and calling it pizza. You are going to have to carry the load on this one, I’m afraid. If I think of anything else…. but I’m fairly certain that’s all I ate the entire time. That and coffee. And beer. I’m afraid. And yet here I am. 


Bread with [a] nail

Monday, February 25th, 2008

Could the world survive one more day without learning the further developments in the story of my beautiful friendship with the German literary establishment?  I thought it was safer not to find out.  


Me and Germany: a beautiful friendship

Thursday, February 21st, 2008

Why exactly am I so popular in Germany? I actually wrote about this phenomenon—the literary “big in Japan” effect—in my article about Franco Moretti (forthcoming, as “Abenteuer eines Mannes der Wissenschaft,” in a German-language n+1 anthology by Suhrkamp Verlag).  It sometimes happens that works virtually unknown in their country of production become inexplicably popular, or even canonical, in some other national literature.

In my article, I mentioned the example of Michel Zévaco’s Les Pardaillan: a family saga beloved by many Turkish schoolchildren of my parents’ generation, but completely unknown to any of the French people I asked, and also unknown to the former chair of the Stanford French and Italian department, who is not French but has written a well-received book on Proust.

PardayanlarA while after my article came out, I even received an email in Turkish from a student who was preparing for the TOEFL, and wanted me to help her locate an English translation of volume 2 of Les Pardaillan. (She had already read vol. 1 in Turkish.)  As far as I could determine, there is no English translation.

In short, Michel Zévaco is truly, by near-unamious international standards, a D-list writer, who has somehow made it onto the Turkish B-list; and I feel a certain affinity with him in that, while I remain totally unheard-of in my native USA, I am slowly but surely working my way onto the German literary C-list.  In the continuing saga of the Teutonic demand for my literary services…