Odessa in London: Caroline Eden’s BLACK SEA

I’m writing from London, where next Tuesday, at Pushkin House, Robert Chandler and I will launch Lev Ozerov’s Portraits Without Frames, a remarkable, entirely original collection of poems that we’ve co-translated with Irina Mashinski and Maria Bloshteyn. The Financial Times have just published an excerpt from one of the most moving poems in the volume, a portrait of the Soviet Yiddish poet Leyb Kvitko, who was executed on August 12, 1952, a date about which I’ve written here.

Robert, Irina, Maria, and I have been working on this project for years, and the launch will surely be a powerful, cathartic experience for me . For now, I’m enjoying morning work sessions on Teffi and afternoon strolls about town. London has put on its most characteristic face, or at least the one I most enjoy — sporadically sunny and drizzly, chilly but not really cold. Perfect weather for long walks, and for reading in the evenings.

I should add that my reading material could not be more soothing, a bright ray of southern light in the autumnal north. Yesterday, my friend Caroline Eden presented me with a copy of her newly released Black Sea: Dispatches and Recipes Through Darkness and Light. Far more than a cook book, it is a magnificent omnium gatherum of historical and literary anecdote, seasoned with the flavors and scents of Ukrainian, Romanian, Bulgarian, and Turkish food and drink.

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Naturally, Odessa, the Pearl of the Black Sea, comes first — how could it not? — and Caroline was kind enough not only to quote from my translations of Isaac Babel, but also to serve up a meaty chunk of my version of Eduard Bagritsky’s rip-roaring poem “Smugglers.” She also got the Odessan culinary scoop of a lifetime — Babel’s favorite dishes, courtesy of his grandson, Andrei Malaev-Babel: “scrambled eggs with tomatoes and aubergine caviar ‘on ice.’” How I love that “caviar,” the very mention of which uncorks a flood of Proustian memories!

To give you a taste of Black Sea’s kaleidoscopic splendor, here are two pages — the first “a short mediation on [Sergei Eisenstein’s] The Battleship Potemkin,” the second a recipe for a “Potemkin Cocktail.”  (The location photography is by Theodore Kaye, and the food photography is by Ola O. Smit.)

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Here’s to London and Odessa!


4 thoughts on “Odessa in London: Caroline Eden’s BLACK SEA

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