St. Petersburg, Russia

Columbia University Press Takes Over Read Russia Translation Project

In News by Dennis Abrams

Columbia University Press has taken over a Read Russia project from Overlook Press to publish translations of over 125 modern classics from Russia.

By Dennis Abrams

Read RussiaAt Russia Behind the Headlines, Randianne Leyshon reports that “Read Russia, a nonprofit founded in 2012 to connect readers to Russia’s rich literary tradition, has partnered with the Institute for Literary Translation to fill in missing gaps in the library of Russian titles available in English. The goal of the 10-year Russian Library project is to translate 125 Russian works into English and publish at least 10 print and e-books per year. Books will be chosen and vetted by an editorial advisory board of academics and translators, and will be published by Columbia University Press. The project reboots a similar partnership to do the same with Overlook Press in 2013, when Russia was the Market Focus of BookExpo America.

Peter Kaufman, executive director of Read Russia explains that “Russian literature is … almost a natural resource. It’s like the ocean, and we’ve only explored part of it.”

The library is expected to present “the breadth and richness of the tradition,” and in addition to little-known classics will include modern works and even genre fiction, said Columbia University Press director Jennifer Crewe. Crewe added that she hopes that the library will help English language readers to “appreciate how funny Russian literature can be.”

“We know Gogol because he’s taught,” she told RBTH, “but some of the early 20th century works are really comic, and much less well known here.”

The editorial board will be finalizing the list of works; determining copyright availability and matching the translators to texts. Kaufman plans for the first set of books to be released by December 2016, just in time for Russian Literature Week.

Leyshon reports that according to UNESCO’s data warehouse, Translationum, over the last 35 years more than 40,000 English language books have been translated and published in Russia, the U.S. has seen only 3,390 Russian books translated into English.

“We could say that English speaking readers have been under-served in translation,” says Kaufman. “A lot of people have this view of Russian lit of being long, depressing, macabre, but it also can be short and depressing and macabre. It reflects a history that is full of war and religion and faith and famine, crises, and at the same time…it’s the full spectrum.”

To read more, and to see what titles are suggested for the series, click here.

About the Author

Dennis Abrams

Dennis Abrams is a contributing editor for Publishing Perspectives, responsible for news, children's publishing and media. He's also a restaurant critic, literary blogger, and the author of "The Play's The Thing," a complete YA guide to the plays of William Shakespeare published by Pentian, as well as more than 30 YA biographies and histories for Chelsea House publishers.