Trifecta: Kurkov, Voloshin, and Coulette

I haven’t posted a thing here in what feels like ages. It’s only been a month and a half, in fact, but what a month and a half it’s been! In February, Jenny and I learned that we were both finalists for the inaugural Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize from the National Book Critics Circle, which made us the first married couple to be shortlisted for any NBCC award — and this fact drew some attention from the Literary Hub and the Los Angeles Times. Last Thursday, I was stunned to learn that my translation of Andrey Kurkov’s Grey Bees won. I mean it: stunned. The news reached me over Twitter in Los Angeles, in the office of my old colleague Peter Winsky, who’s now teaching at the Slavic department at USC. I was about to give a reading from My Hollywood and Other Poems and couldn’t believe what I saw on my phone. Jenny and I were visiting LA with our twins and my wonderful sister in law, and we had all just been to Disneyland, the setting of Jenny’s brilliant story “Anaheim,” which begins with an unexpected win. Well, this whole prize thing felt about as real as the puppets of It’s a Small World to me… But as with the finest of Walt’s fantasias, it made me want to believe.

To make matters even more fantastic, just days earlier The New Criterion ran my essay on Alexander Voloshin, whose mock epic of “Russian” Hollywood, On the Tracks and at Crossroads, I’ve been translating and posting here for about a year now. And a few days before that, The Orange County Register published a beautiful biographical article on one of my favorite LA poets, the unjustly neglected Henri Coulette, by Erik Pedersen, with whom I’d shared my reflections on Coulette’s Angeleno style and his legacy. Do give it a read.

What does all this prove? Perhaps this: For all their differences, Kurkov, Voloshin, and Coulette each managed to capture, uniquely and convincingly, a time and a place in their work. There’s no expiration date on writing as perceptive and evocative as theirs.


10 thoughts on “Trifecta: Kurkov, Voloshin, and Coulette

  1. Well, first of all, congratulations on both of your nominations/prizes – so well deserved and glad your wonderful translations are getting this recognition! As someone whose reading is very dependant on the work of translators, I salute you both! And your mention of It’s a Small World brings back memories of my visit to LA when I was 15 – that was the first thing which met us when we entered Disneyland!

    And thank you for the links – off to check them out!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Boris, once again, your breakthroughs speak to an alchemy of timeless kindness at work through you and Jenny. Congratulations to you both, and to the authors whose lives and legacies you are touching.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Many congratulations Boris! It was wonderful to read the news of NBCC award when it was announced. I loved both Grey Bees and The Books of Jacob and they were very well-deserved nominations. I estimate at least half of my reading wouldn’t be available without the stellar work of translators such as Jenny and yourself and all the poorer without it. Looking forward to burrowing into the New Criterion piece when I can spend some time on it.

    Liked by 1 person

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