Marian Schwartz and Mikhail Shishkin Tomorrow

It doesn’t often happen to me that I’m in the position to read a book stereophonically, but it’s happening now with Mikhail Shishkin’s masterpiece Maidenhair, which came out at the same time in English (translated by Marian Schwartz) and in German (translated by Andreas Tretner), both of whom are accomplished translators whom I count among my friends. So here I am reading both at once. Which is interesting. But not as interesting as the book itself, a hefty multi-layered international adventure saga that circles around the stories being told to an immigration officer in Zurich, Switzerland (where Shishkin lives). If only I could read the book in Russian too, I’d have the perfect triangulation going on in my head. But for those of you who would like an easier path into this hilarious novel, which has all the marks of a classic in the making, why not come out to hear Schwartz and Shishkin read tomorrow at Columbia University? Shishkin translates from German to Russian too – in fact, I just heard a rumor that he’s just translated a book by Robert Walser, so you know you will be hearing from me in the Q&A. Marian’s no slouch either: she’s known for her translations of Nina Berberova, Mikhail Bulgakov, Ivan Goncharov, and Mikhail Lermontov, and is also a past president of the American Literary Translators Association. Oh, and if you need any more convincing, Maidenhair was just shortlisted for the Best Translated Book Award. It was published in 2012 by Open Letter Books. This event is sponsored by the Harriman Institute and will be held in 702 Hamilton Hall (that’s the first building on your left as you enter the Columbia University campus from the Amsterdam Ave. 116th St. entrance). Free and open to the public. Hope to see you there.

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