RTÉ, Binghamton, Bergelson, and the TLS

On Saturday, November 4, RTÉ Radio 1’s The Book Show, presented by Sinead Gleeson, broadcast a stellar episode on the Russian Revolution, which featured some readings from 1917 and my Babel translations, as well as from Teffi’s Subtly Worded. It was especially thrilling to hear one of my favorite American authors, George Saunders, discuss Babel’s influence on his work. The other guests were Maria Alyokhina of Pussy Riot, comedian and writer Viv Groskop, and Maria Stillmark of Trinity College Dublin.

Yesterday I gave a talk and taught a class at Binghamton University on the 1917 anthology, exactly one hundred years to the day (November 7, according to the Gregorian calendar) after the Bolshevik takeover. Many thanks to Sidney Dement for the invitation and for all the kindness he showed me during my stay! It was a bittersweet experience — probably the last of my 1917-related events.


While at Binghamton, I received an exceedingly generous review of the book from Max Cairnduff, who runs the indispensable literary blog Pechorin’s Journal. A comradely salute, Max!

I should also note that a major work by one of the authors I included in 1917, David Bergelson, has just been translated from Yiddish into English. Judgment (1926-29) is a gripping expressionistic novel set in a shtetl on the Ukrainian-Polish border during the Russian Civil War; Harriet Murav and Sasha Senderovich’s rendition is very effective indeed. I was asked to review it for In geveb, a terrific journal of Yiddish studies, by its equally terrific Editor-in-Chief, Madeleine Cohen.

And, of course, general interest in Russian literature won’t wane after the anniversary year closes. Some Russian names are here to stay. Case in point: this week’s TLS carries my longish piece on Joseph Brodsky and Vladimir Nabokov.


4 thoughts on “RTÉ, Binghamton, Bergelson, and the TLS

  1. It really is a very good book, so thanks from this particular reader for all the work it must have required.

    I read the first story from your Red Cavalry translation last night, my first introduction to Babel I think and it looks like he and I will definitely get along. Unlike sadly Teffi, where I seem to be the only person who just can’t connect with her (and god knows I’ve tried). Sometimes the chemistry just isn’t there between reader and writer.

    Judgment sounds interesting. I read Singer’s The Magician of Lublin a little while back (which will definitely feature on my end of year list but didn’t get much attention comments-wise, either too esoteric or I messed up the review). A hugely impressive work and a shame I couldn’t get my enthusiasm for it across better. I think you’d like it Kaggsy.

    Can one subscribe to your blog for new posts? I don’t see it as an option but it would be nice to do so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Max, thank you again for your kind words — and for this rich comment! I’m so glad Babel’s Red Cavalry has swept you up — and I hope it keeps you enthused throughout its relatively short ride. As to Teffi, I’m sure you’re right: it’s a matter of taste. But don’t give up on her altogether; she tends to grow on readers. All three recent volumes — Subtly Worded, Memories. and Tolstoy, Rasputin…, are full of sharp, insightful writing, and the last two offer exciting accounts of unexpected situations (like dinner with Rasputin!).

      I’m also glad to hear you like Singer’s Magician! It deserves more attention.

      Last and perhaps least, I’m not much good at these things, but I’ve found instructions on following WordPress blogs: https://en.support.wordpress.com/following/


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