The salty speech of the city’s inhabitants is wonderfully rendered in a new translation by Boris Dralyuk, who preserves the characters’ Yiddishisms (“He doesn’t talk much, but when he talks, you want he should keep talking”) and imbues the dialogue with hard-boiled language reminiscent of Dashiell Hammett (“Buzz off, coppers… or we’ll flatten you”). Although Babel mostly lets characters speak for themselves, the narrators’ descriptions can be as luxurious as the stolen jewels given to Benya’s sister on her wedding night, or as surprising as a slap in the face.
I owe Andrew Katzenstein a tray of stolen jewels and a bottle of Bessarabian wine. L’chaim!
Last week’s TLS (17 March) carried my own review of a new translation of Adam Mickiewicz’s Forefathers’ Eve, “the most thoroughly romantic work by the bard of Poland, that most thoroughly romantic of nations.”
And I’m very proud to share Ainsley Morse’s review of Eugene Ostashevsky’s The Fire Horse: Children’s Poems by Vladimir Mayakovsky, Osip Mandelstam and Daniil Kharms (NYR Children’s Collection), which appeared in LARB exactly a week ago. Ainsley contextualizes this vibrant collection beautifully.