Iphigenia in Tauris

The leading Germanist Roy Pascal’s translation of Goethe’s moving version of the Iphigenia-Orestes story was first broadcast on BBC radio in 1954 in a production by Val Gielgud (with Maria Becker, Marius Goring and Donald Wolfit) and again in 1966 in a production by H.B. Fortuin (with Irene Worth, Denys Hawthorne and Michael Hordern). It is now published for the first time. ‘This translation could have been written today,’ writes Martin Swales in his Introduction. ‘It has stood the test of time, and in that sense it is a classic.’

Goethe’s version of the Classical Greek legend speaks with particular urgency to us today. In this eloquent blank verse drama Iphigenia, daughter of Agamemnon, leader of the Greek forces in the Trojan War, in exile as a priestess in the barbaric land of the Tauri (Crimea), by her own unaided human efforts lifts the Tantalid family curse and ends the chain of revenge killings through the generations. Read more

A Doppelgänger; with Aquis submersus

This fifth selection of Denis Jackson’s definitive series of translations of the novellas of Theodor Storm includes the little-known late masterpiece A Doppelgänger, the dramatic story of an ex-prisoner’s struggle for rehabilitation, along with one of Storm’s most celebrated tales, Aquis submersus, a tragedy of passion and a powerful critique of the North German landowning Junker class.
Read more

Selected Poems

POETRY BOOK SOCIETY RECOMMENDED TRANSLATION

SHORTLISTED FOR THE WEIDENFELD TRANSLATION PRIZE 2014 AND THE ROSSICA TRANSLATION PRIZE 2014

Vladislav Khodasevich (1886–1939), deleted from literary history in the Soviet era because of his emigration in 1922 with his partner Nina Berberova, has since been welcomed in Russia into its 20th-century pantheon of poets, where he was long ago placed by Vladimir Nabokov and Joseph Brodsky.

Khodasevich is a modernist yet standing for continuity, relishing the verse forms of Pushkin. In the postrevolutionary era of the 1920s, in the sound and fury of poetic schools battling for supremacy, his restrained and understated tone was misunderstood.  Read more

Red Spectres: Russian 20th-century Gothic-fantastic tales

Russian writers from Pushkin to Bulgakov and beyond have produced outstanding ghost stories, supernatural thrillers, and other tales of the uncanny. In the first decades of the 20th century the Gothic-fantastic genre flourished in Russia, despite official efforts to stamp it out. Few of these stories have been translated or published outside Russia. This collection includes eleven vintage tales by seven writers of the period. Read more

Poems

January 2012 marks the centenary of the death, by drowning at the age of 24, of one of the major figures of early German modernism – the poet and short story writer Georg Heym, a member of the brilliant ‘Expressionist’ generation that included the painters Emil Nolde, Franz Marc and Wassili Kandinsky and the young poets who were to die in the First World War like Alfred Lichtenstein, Ernst Stadler and Georg Trakl. Read more

Poems & Prose

An undeniable aura surrounds the name of Georg Trakl, whose admirers included Rilke, Heidegger, Kraus, Kokoschka and Wittgenstein and the composers Berg, Webern and Hindemith who set his poems. He is the sombre visionary of the modern age; the autumnal, melancholy moods that predominate in his poetry herald the calamity of the First World War and its consequences. Neo-romantic, early modernist, his dense, vitally sensuous poetry marks the transition from Impressionism to Expressionism, transcending both categories. Read more

Beyond the Tweed: A tour of Scotland in 1858

This delightful account of a journey round Scotland with the artist Lepel as companion, from Edinburgh to Inverness and back via the West Coast and Western Isles, reads as freshly today as when it was first published. Fontane wrote it before becoming a celebrated novelist. From his years of working in Britain as a journalist he had developed a deep love of English and Scottish history and culture, of Shakespeare, Walter Scott and Scottish ballads (which he translated, going on to write his own), and this book is a product of those years.

Fontane has a born gift for painting landscape, townscape and their inhabitants in a few words and buttonholing the reader with a local or historical story. At the same time he shows keen political and social awareness – of the stirrings of Scottish nationalism, the beginnings of the tourist industry – and is critical of the romantic folklore version of Scottish history, pointing firmly to Scotland’s important scientific and intellectual achievements.

Fontane’s fondly but shrewdly observed, lightly knowledgeable portrait of Scotland when it was opening up to the wider world is not only a fascinating travel document but retains all its original qualities as a thoroughly entertaining and inspiring guide for today’s traveller. This translation, first published by Dent & Sons in 1965 and reissued by Libris in 1998, is now distributed by Angel Classics.

ORDER

‘Fontane’s amiably written account of Scotland’s most famous sights, richly stocked with anecdotal details, offers us a fascinating view of the country through foreign eyes at a time when the tourist industry with its attendant mythology was just beginning to take off.’ – Andrew Crumey, Scotland on Sunday

The Thief and other stories

The tales that Heym wrote in the last year of his life, the most powerful in German literature since Kleist, have a strong gothic flavour and prefigure the great era of the Expressionist film. An ageing, Apocalypse-crazed dropout who sees it as his God-given mission to steal and cut up the Mona Lisa, a sweet moment of memory in a corpse lying opened for autopsy, a released maniac who journeys homeward to murder his wife,  Read more

On Tangled Paths

In 1870s Berlin, an aristocratic officer in a glamorous cavalry regiment and a seamstress supporting herself and her invalid foster-mother with piecework defy convention by falling seriously in love.What might have been a simple tale of conflict between love and duty becomes, in Fontane’s hands, something more sophisticated. Read more

No Way Back

Hugh Rorrison and Helen Chambers follow their breakthrough version of Effi Briest with a new translation of another fine novel by Fontane, UnwiederbringlichNo Way Back (1891), set in Copenhagen and Schleswig-Holstein on the eve of the Prussian takeover of the territory in 1864.

Affable but unsophisticated Count Holk, Read more

Carsten the Trustee; with The Swallows of St George’s, The Last Farmstead, and By the Fireside

‘I value in particular,’ writes Eda Sagarra in her Introduction, ‘two features of Storm’s writing. First, his multiple perspectives, the way in which he seems to invite the reader to look over the shoulder, as it were, of the teller of the story, and judge accordingly. And secondly, his sense of place, his supreme sense that his native region, North Friesland, is as much the centre of the world as was Greece for the storyteller of The Odyssey.’

Theodor Storm (1817–88) has long been enjoyed in Germany as a supreme master of the novella Read more

Young Pushkin

Yury Tynyanov’s novel on the formative years of Russia’s greatest poet was first published in serial form between 1935 and 1943. Tynyanov pioneered a new kind of historical-biographical novel in Russia. ‘I begin,’ he wrote, ‘where documents leave off.’ In a blend of encyclopedic knowledge and creative imagination, he thrillingly brings early 19th-century Russia to life – Napoleonic invasion, rapid political change, and a vast gallery of characters, all representations of real life persons. Those who had a significant impact on Pushkin’s life include his unusual family, with its African blood Read more

Paul the Puppeteer; with The Village on the Moor and Renate

The narratives of Theodor Storm are among the outstanding achievements of classic German fiction. This third selection in Denis Jackson’s pioneering series of translations, which began with The Dykemaster (Der Schimmelreiter), contains three contrasting works of Storm’s middle period, the 1870s, when, in the words of Paul Heyse, he moved from ‘watercolours’ to ‘oils’. Paul the Puppeteer is a magical tale which speaks to all ages. Storm’s affectionate portrayal of the vanishing world of the marionette theatre also contains sharp social comment. The jeer in the Low German title of the story, Pole Poppenspäler, is that of solid, guild-dominated society at the travelling puppeteers and their gypsy-like way of life. The Village on the Moor arises directly out of Storm’s professional career: it is an account, told through an investigating lawyer’s eyes, of the case of a mysterious death out on the moor, the chief suspect being a girl of sinister aura with whom the young deceased was in love. Both these works are translated into English for the first time. Renate records the memories of an eighteenth-century Lutheran pastor and his love for a farmer’s daughter who is persecuted by the local community for alleged witchcraft; the clash between religious bigotry and spontaneous emotion drives one of the most moving stories in all Storm’s fiction.

The translator’s lively introduction and end notes, and six pages of maps, will add to the reader’s enjoyment of these stories.

ORDER

‘Finely balanced between potential tragedy and empathy for those caught up in the structures that cause it, Paul the Puppeteer is a tale of great charm and humanity, yet not afraid of taking sides. It is framed here by two novellas linked by intimations of sorcery …’ – Maren Meinhardt, Times Literary Supplement

‘Why does one bite one’s lip with anxiety when Paul breaks the puppetmaster’s best puppet, or when the local yobbos start to wreck the show? And why, when our now grown-up heroine, half-starving, sees Paul’s face and cries out his name in the icy town square of Heiligenstadt, does one find one’s heart swelling for a moment with relief and joy? – It’s Storm’s painterly eye, of course, that does the trick. He takes us to the places where it happens and we see them plain; we are there. One can almost smell the drains.’ – Nicholas Bagnall, Slightly Foxed

Selected Tales

The restless, alienated spirit of turn-of-the-century Vienna is brilliantly caught in these tales – hitherto not readily available together in English translation – by Hugo von Hofmannsthal, one of the major writers of the Early Modernist period and Richard Strauss’s librettist.

Powerful issues and emotions lie below the surface of these narratives – of a young aesthete’s crack-up as he wanders through a terrifying psychic landscape (The Tale of the 672nd Night); of an insubordinate soldier’s brutal nemesis during Field Marshal Radetzky’s Read more

The Ratcatcher: A lyrical satire

Marina Tsevetaeva (1891–1941) is acknowledged as one of the greatest of Russian poets. Like much of the most original Russian literature written since 1917, however, her narrative poem The Ratcatcher remained unpublished in Russia for some decades.

Tsevetaeva wrote this extraordinary work, which she subtitled ‘a lyrical satire’, in Prague and Paris in the mid-1920s. Using the story known to us as ‘The Pied Piper of Hamelin’, she pits Art against Philistinism in a critique of all social search for material prosperity (including that of the Bolsheviks). Even for the innovative Tsvetaeva, this is quite a new kind of writing – an explosion of clashing sounds, voices and rhythms, fuelled by anger and bitter sarcasm. At the end the Piper, who stands for the magical power of Art, takes a terrible toll on the children of the town of Hamelin – neat, comfort-loving, hypocritical and reluctant to pay its debts.

The critic D. S. Mirsky saw The Ratcatcher as ‘the first really successful attempt to emancipate the language of Russian poetry from the tyranny of Greek, Latin and French …’, and found in it ‘wit in the most imaginative 17th-century meaning of the word’. This peak of Tsvetaeva’s verse has hitherto been virtually unknown in English. Angela Livingstone, long associated with 20th-century Russian poetry and with Tsvetaeva in particular, brilliantly recreates its wild music.

ORDER

‘This translation is just dazzling;­ it inspires absolute confidence. I enjoyed and admired it most intensely … I should never have anticipated your skill with the cracklingly concrete, colloquial, immediate, and elliptical brilliance of this piece.’ ­ – Michael Frayn, letter to the translator

‘For the first time we have a readable Tsvetaeva which persuades us that she must have been a very great poet.’ – Lachlan MacKinnon, Times Literary Supplement

‘I think this is the very pinnacle of the art of translation; what translation of poetry should be but rarely is … Angela Livingstone’s version is so close in meaning to the original that I don’t see the liberties playing a major role here. Rhythm, rhyme and the meaning – everything is so much like the original, it’s almost … well, if not supernatural, then superb.’ – Nina Kossman

‘Reading Russian poetry in translation, I often have mixed feelings. The joy of discovery is quickly blotted out by vexation, and after a few dozen lines persistent annoyance sets in … Rarely, it is otherwise. In a finely tuned line of verse in the target language the style of the original begins to tremble with life, the incomparable music of Russian syllabo-tonic poetry, and then the original not only shines through the dense layers of a foreign linguistic element but seems to stand on a level with it, as if two brothers were comparing heights together. The first impulse is then to look at the translator’s name, and next, to go to the original to compare texts and admire the talent – of the poet or the translator? … Of both. This was my experience when this English translation of Tsvetaeva’s Ratcatcher fell into my hands … Hats off to Angela Livingstone!’ – Sergey Nikolaev, Rostov State University

Particles, Jottings, Sparks: The Complete Brief Poems

Witty, lucid and profound, Rabindranath Tagore’s ‘brief poems’ have not enjoyed the prominence they deserve. Originally published in the three separate volumes Particles (1899), Jottings (1927) and Sparks (posthumous, 1945), they are, however, central to his poetry and personality, and span his entire career. Whether in miniature fables, epigrams, ironic quatrains, or fleeting verses jotted down during his travels, the voice of the great Bengali poet is always spontaneous, friendly and accessible in these poems, and will win him new admirers.Translations can usually only select from Tagore’s vast oeuvre. But in the case of the brief poems it is possible to translate virtually his entire output in the genre, and this is what William Radice, the leading English-language translator of Tagore and himself a poet, here does for the first time. His versions splendidly rise to the challenge of Tagore’s infinite variety of mood and form. There is a full introduction, and the book concludes with some prose writings relating to poetry and the writing of the brief poems, also translated into English for the first time.

Out of print

‘I have found the same simple delight and wonder in these ‘brief’ poems as in Gitanjali or in Tagore’s dramatic masterpiece The Post Office, also translated by William Radice.’ – Kathleen Raine, Temenos Academy Review

‘People who do not know Bengali have much to thank William Radice for.’ – Khushwant Singh, The Telegraph, Calcutta

‘This collection of the Brief Poems of Tagore offers an accessible introduction to the Bengali writer’s work. Concise, aphoristic and profound, Particles, Jottings, Sparks is enriched by William Radice’s insightful approach … intricate and refreshing.’ – David Moses, Edinburgh Review

‘Many of these poems are wholesome light verse, but they display a playfulness and spontaneity that is like a breath of fresh air.’ – Debjanee Chatterjee, Wasafiri

The Return of Pushkin’s Rusalka

Pushkin’s last verse drama, Rusalka, first written two years after the Little Tragedies (Mozart and Salieri and the three other miniature dramas), in his most mature blank verse, has hitherto been taken as a near-complete fragment. The main lines of the plot are familiar from the operas and operettas popular in Russia and elsewhere in Europe from those that swept St Petersburg in the first decade of the nineteenth century to Dvořak’s Rusalka of 1901. In Pushkin’s storyline a wandering prince gets a village girl pregnant and abandons her, and she throws herself into the river. Years later the prince passes by again and a water-sprite appears to him – the daughter of his former beloved, now queen of the water-sprites, who has sent her daughter to meet the prince in order to take her revenge by enticing him to the bottom of the river. In this version, which breaks off as the approaching dénouement becomes apparent, Pushkin recreates the world of Russian folk romance, with extraordinary realistic vividness, and just as vividly haunting in its eerie effects. But examining Pushkin’s manuscript in the mid-1970s, the actor-director Vladimir Retsepter suddenly became aware that Pushkin had revised and completed the work, though not making a fair copy. His revision was breathtakingly simple and profound: by switching the position of one scene and cutting seven lines he transformed his miniature drama from a blood revenge tragedy to a bloodless moral tragedy, leaping ahead at a stroke to the Ibsen-Chekhov era. In the revised version the prince does not meet the water-sprite sent to drown him, but after being made aware of his beloved’s death which he has caused, is found by a search-party sent out by his wife and returns to his loveless home and marriage.

In the first of two essays accompanying the dual text – D. M. Thomas’s English translation first published in 1982 being revised by the translator both stylistically and to accord with Pushkin’s revised text – Vladimir Retsepter tells an absorbing literary story which begins with Pushkin’s first editor, his friend and literary executor Vasily Zhukovsky, in a hurry to publish in order to help Pushkin’s family after his death, failing to understand Pushkin’s manuscript revisions, and ends with his own battle with the Soviet and the post-Soviet academic literary establishments to take Pushkin’s revisions seriously in the absence of a fair copy. In a second essay he traces the two stages in the composition of Rusalka and considers the revolutionary nature of Pushkin’s revisions. This new text is now generally accepted as the latest state of Pushkin’s manuscript and therefore of no lesser status than the hitherto canonical text.

The facsimile reproduction of Pushkin’s manuscript included in this edition clearly shows his revisions marked in pencil and in ink. Each facsimile page is accompanied by a full-page interpretive drawing by the well-known Russian artist Mihail Chemiakin, who lives and works in the United States, and his further drawings, sketches and motifs decorate the book throughout.

Vladimir Retsepter is Artistic Director of the Pushkin State Theatre Centre, St Petersburg, founded in 1992 with the aims of encouraging the performance of Pushkin’s drama both in Russia and abroad, organising Pushkin festivals, and developing a series of monographs and editions, the Pushkin Premiere series, in which The Return of Pushkin’s ‘Rusalka’ was published in 1998.

ORDER

‘A sensational, performable extension of Pushkin’s dramatic oeuvre – Pushkin’s answer to Shakespeare.’ – British East-West Journal

‘A welcome addition to the small library of translations which give the reader an insight into the world of Russia’s greatest poet.’ – Diana Myers, Times Higher Education Supplement

The Bridegroom; with Count Nulin and The Tale of the Golden Cockerel

This book contains three verse narratives by Russia’s supreme poet. Each is a masterpiece of its own genre – and plays with that genre in an entirely Pushkinian way. The least known of them, The Bridegroom, in the stanza form of a wildly popular German Romantic ballad that swept Europe, is far more modern than a Romantic ballad. Count Nulin is a comic tale of Russian country life, as light as a soufflé, has the spontaneous brilliance of Eugene Onegin. The eerie, ironic Tale of the Golden Cockerel transforms the fairytale genre with its bitter subtext of Pushkin’s relations with the tsar.Antony Wood continues the endeavour he began in his much-admired versions of Mozart and Salieri and Pushkin’s other Little Tragedies – to render Pushkin’s style in compelling English verse. His introduction and end-notes place the poems in context, discuss the problems of translation, and give a glimpse of Pushkin’s life and world.Each poem opening has a drawing by a modern Russian artist.

ORDER

‘The Pushkin translations in The Bridegroom convey the flavour of this largely untranslatable writer … One has the rare feeling of reading the thing itself.’ – John Fuller

‘The translator deserves a vodka toast for his witty and nimble translations of these three Pushkin verse tales.’ – Boyd Tonkin, Independent

‘Lively, elegant and swift – all that I imagine Pushkin to be.’  Christopher Logue‘Antony Wood has produced a superb, crystalline rendering of “The Tale of the Golden Cockerel”, which is attentive to lexical and rhythmical repetition and sharp in its sparse imagery.’ – Oliver Ready, Times Literary Supplement

‘… an outstanding translation of “Count Nulin”. one of Pushkin’s greatest comic poems, a parody of Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece set in the depths of the Russian countryside … There is nothing in English poetry quite like this translation; even Byron’s Don Juan seems, in comparison, heavy-footed.’ – Robert Chandler, Rossica

The Surprise of Being

Fernando Pessoa (1888–1935), Portugal’s greatest poet since Camões, is a central figure of European Modernism and its perception of a collapse of the post-Romantic ‘I’ and of Western culture. Deeply introspective, seeking objectivity through ‘depersonalisation’, he wrote in various distinct personae. This selection is the first in English to concentrate entirely on poems written in Pessoa’s own name.

Jaime H. da Silva writes in his Introduction: ‘The translators have poetically presented a faithful version of the most confounding of Pessoa’s personae. Moreover, they have organised a collection which is representative of Pessoa’s themes and styles, and shows an evolution in his poetry and a summing-up. Insight into Self and into Self’s self-deceptions becomes the constant of those poems which deal with the problem of Being and Non-being… It is naïve, even primitive, awe, not understanding, that Pessoa magically conjures…’

The main body of these translations was awarded the British Comparative Literature Association’s Translation Prize for 1985. With others now added, they are published in parallel with the original texts.

ORDER

‘The translators are faced with a daunting task indeed – to render this most brilliant and complex of poets into inventive, readable English. This they have done admirably.’ – Daniel Pires and Margaret Tejerizo, New Comparison

‘A welcome compilation … The Surprise of Being is undoubtedly indispensable.’ – John Pilling, PN Review

The Slavs beneath Parnassus

Miodrag Pavlović, the senior figure in Serbian poetry today, is less well known to the English-speaking world than his compatriots Vasko Popa and Ivan V. Lalić, although he has been widely translated into other European languages. This volume, containing fifty-seven poems, is the first substantial selection of his work in English. Pavlović’s poetry is rooted in Serbian historical mythology, which treats the tragic fate of the young Christian Serbian kingdom at the Battle of Kosovo in 1389 as a grand sacrifice that saved medieval Christendom from the Ottoman yoke. The poems in this selection were written before events of the late 1990s demonstrated to the outside world how very much alive medieval events and the Kosovo issue still are in the Balkans.

Pavlović’s first collection 87 Poems, published in the last year of Stalin’s life, caused a political and literary furore, playing a major part in the launching of the modernist movement in Yugoslavia with an effect that might be compared in English terms to the first impact of the poets of the Great War and The Waste Land combined. In his next collections, he went on to link Serbian historical mythology with his own time, and the present volume selects from this major body of work as well as 87 Poems.

Pavlović’s interpretation of history and myth is in line with the major impetuses of international modernism, and he finds inspiration in T. S. Eliot, Yeats and Valéry in giving a sharply contemporary treatment and a broad European context not only to the mythologised heroic moment of Balkan history but also to the tradition of Ancient Greece, still keenly felt in the Balkans, and to themes from the New Testament and early Christianity.

The translations in this volume were prepared in close association with the poet.

ORDER

‘In Miodrag Pavlović’s poems the remote past exists as immediately and as intensely as modern Belgrade. Yet his voice and technique are wholly modern and original. And that seems both natural and inevitable. It takes a black, dislocating sensibility like his to cope with a surreal inheritance in which violence and discontinuity are the only certainties.’ – A. Alvarez in his Foreword

‘In The Slavs beneath Parnassus, translated with an admirably helpful and lucid introduction by Bernard Johnson, the poet gives a synoptic view of his own people’s history, at once conquered and conquering, Christian and pagan … always close to folk tale and song, simple, moving and brilliant, a reminder of what our own culture no longer possesses.’ – Martin Dodsworth, Guardian

‘The appearance in English translation of so important a contemporary Serbian poet as Miodrag Pavlović is particularly welcome … Bernard Johnson has lent his versions an iambic flavour which adequately reflects the trochaic ambience of the original more or less free verse, preserving its individual qualities and atmosphere. One can hardly ask more from any translation … Pavlović’s poetry will surely convince English readers that Serbian poetry has much to say to the world.’ – E. D. Goy, Scottish Slavonic Review

Deutschland

T. J. Reed’s translation – first published in 1986 – of Heine’s satiric masterpiece is the only English version to shape up to its outrageous rhymes and rhythms with anything like matching vigour and conviction. It is reissued with facing German text and updated further reading, with the introduction and notes of the first edition succinctly and entertainingly summarising the issue of Heine’s time and his comic achievement, and with added comment on his place in a new united Germany.

Written four years before the 1848 Revolution, Heine’s Deutschland can be enjoyed today just as it was by its first readers – as a brilliantly funny read. In this ‘verse travelogue’ Heine comments on the homeland he sees again after years of exile. Bull’s-eyeing a number of targets – bourgeois lethargy, rampant Prussianism, phoney medievalism, German idealist philosophy – Europe’s wittiest poet delightfully introduces the reader to ‘Germany’s current ferment’ – and to the idea that the value system of the German middle class helped to maintain social injustice and political oppression.

ORDER

‘That rare phenomenon, ironic political verse, light in manner but not in matter.’ – D. J. Enright, Observer

Deutschland is brilliantly entertaining and retains its relevance for the modern reader through its classic consideration of the fraught relationship between revolutionary ideals and their practical consequences … T. J. Reed reproduces the comic associations created by rhyme and succeeds beautifully in recreating the pointed, epigrammatic effect of the terse rhythm. This bilingual edition is a fitting tribute to Heine – in Reed’s memorable phrase – that “passionate defender and outrageous taker of liberties”.’ – Anita Bunyan, Jewish Chronicle

‘Reed’s version is brilliantly successful, at times achieving what one might have thought impossible: English verse as witty and precise as the original.’ – Forum for Modern Language Studies

Horace

Corneille’s Horace (1640), together with its author’s Le Cid, launched French classical tragedy. It is a darkly gripping play which speaks directly to our own time. Corneille takes his plot from pre-Republican Roman history – the legendary episode of the triple combat between two sets of brothers to decide a war between Rome and Alba. Horatius’s sister, Camilla, is betrothed to his opponent Curiatius, and his wife Sabina is Curiatius’s sister. The scene is set for a clash between heroic male commitment to state interests and female values which give prime place to individual feeling.

Horace, containing pointed allusion to contemporary French military ambitions, has the power to challenge and disturb modern audiences with its unflinching reckoning of the personal cost of national glory.

This translation was commissioned by Damned Poets Theatre Company for a production at the Lyric Theatre Studio, Hammersmith in October 1996. The distinguished poet Alan Brownjohn compellingly recreates the rhetoric and passion of a neglected but magnificent work.

ORDER

‘Corneille’s rhyming alexandrines have been superbly translated by Alan Brownjohn into a flexible blank verse which captures the nuances of meaning, but sounds as natural and flows as smoothly as prose. The language is discreetly updated, dignified but not pompous.’ – Maya Slater, Times Literary Supplement

‘Alan Brownjohn’s blank verse pentameters are clear and fresh without losing the patterning of Corneille’s emotional algebra.’ – Paul Taylor, Independent

‘Damned Poets’ highly effective production at the Lyric Studio, Hammersmith under Sydney Blake’s strong direction does full justice to the grandeur of the theme, as Alan Brownjohn’s specially commissioned translation brilliantly conveys the nobility and passion of the original in contemporary English …’ – Brian G. Cooper, The Stage

Selected Poems 1954–94

Gennady Aygi, a potent underground presence for three decades, is now accorded leading status in Russia and many Eastern and Western European countries. Born in the Chuvash Autonomous Republic, he was encouraged by Pasternak to write in Russian in the late 1950s, since when he has lived and worked, often precariously, in Moscow. ‘Like Hopkins with English,’ Edwin Morgan has written, ‘Aygi forces the Russian language to do things it has never done before.’ The language of his free verse is disjunctive, subconscious, anti-rational. His poetry is at the confluence of avant-garde European modernism and the traditional culture of his near-Asiatic homeland. His themes – stillness, communion between human and non-human worlds, memory, birth, sleep – provide room for deeply felt responses to both private and public events.

This first substantial presentation of Aygi’s poetry to the English-speaking world, with original texts and facing translations, and the translator’s critical introduction, end notes and close readings of three poems, draws on each of the mature poem-sequences.

ORDER

‘The most original voice in contemporary Russian poetry, and one of the most unusual voices in the world.’ – Jacques Roubaud, Times Literary Supplement

‘It is a pleasure to find a book where difficult Russian poems not only have been translated without any errors, but also work as English poems … This is a thought-provoking volume, and Peter France and the publishers have done all lovers of poetry a major service.’ – Andrew Reynolds, Journal of European Studies

‘Aygi’s neologisms pose a challenge for any translator … France translates as literally as possible … This policy of judicious accuracy, honed, no doubt, by his many conversations with the poet, allows France to convey Aygi’s often startlingly beautiful verbal effects … This reasonably priced, impeccably produced book is a model of its type.’ – Michael Pursglove, Translation and Literature

The Galosh and other stories

In his prime, Mikhail Zoshchenko was more widely read in his own country than Pasternak or Solzhenitsyn. His short stories give expression to the bewildered experience of the ordinary Soviet citizen struggling to survive in the 1920s and ’30s, beset by an acute housing shortage and scarcity of consumer goods, ubiquitous theft and corruption, and an impenetrable new ideological language. Written in the semi-educated language of the man and woman in the street, they enshrine one of the greatest achievements of the people of the Soviet Union – their gallows humour.Housing-block tenants who reject electricity because it illuminates their squalor too harshly, a young couple who live in a bathroom, a theft-hit community in every one of whose members a sniffer-dog sniffs out traces of anti-social misdemeanours, a railway-line manager making a speech against bribery who lets slip his secret love of the backhander – Zoshchenko doesn’t simply make fun of his characters, as previous translators have assumed. This ‘temporary substitute for the proletarian writer’, as he called himself, has much sympathy for his close-to-life characters, prominent among them his narrator-figures in whom self-interested materialism coexists with a poignant faith in the revolutionary project.Jeremy Hicks’s translations of sixty-five of Zoshchenko’s short stories – many of them new in English – reveal a more subtle writer than has previously been on view, and one belonging most definitely to the classic Russian comic tradition.

ORDER

‘Hicks has breathed new life into Zoshchenko, providing, in many places, some of the best translations of his stories to date.’ –Gregory Carleton, Slavonica

‘Jeremy Hicks, the translator and editor of this unique, and so far the most comprehensive, collection of Zoshchenko’s short stories, describes at some length Zoshchenko’s idiosyncratic and discordant mixture of propaganda cliché, newspaper-speak, corrupted loan-words, confused party slogans, sentimental endearments, obscenities, garbled Marxist doctrines and snatches of colloquial speech spiced with malapropisms and tautology … All this turns the translator’s task into a high-wire act that Hicks performs with the utmost linguistic inventiveness.’ – Zinovy Zinik, Times Literary Supplement

Hans and Heinz Kirch; with Immensee and Journey to a Hallig

Theodor Storm’s fictional achievement goes well beyond the celebrated Novelle Der Schimmelreiter (The Dykemaster in Denis Jackson’s translation published in Angel Classics). This selection of three more of his most impressive narratives, two of them appearing in English for the first time, represents three stages in the development of a German writer whose best work ranks with that of Thomas Hardy. Immensee (1850), a love-story whose powerful atmosphere is heightened by all-pervasive symbols and folksong-like verse, has long been a favourite of both the German- and English-speaking worlds. Journey to a Hallig (1871) is the free-roving story of a journey in more than one sense, both a magical evocation of the German North Sea coast in high summer and a layered account of an inner journey back into an old man’s past. Hans and Heinz Kirch (1882), one of Storm’s masterpieces, is a tragic tale of father-son conflict set among the Kleinbürger mercantile community of the German Baltic seaboard.

Denis Jackson’s absorbing introduction and end notes, and maps to two of the stories, will enhance the reader’s enjoyment of this poetic, eloquent fiction which is so strongly rooted in time and place.

ORDER

‘The three stories chosen illustrate the development of Storm’s style from the early period when he  “painted in watercolours” to the more realistic later period when he “began to paint in oils”. Particularly welcome is the translation of Hans and Heinz Kirch, one of Storm’s major works, here rendered into English for the first time. The translator’s introduction provides a brief but informative survey of Storm’s life and work and places it in the context of the turbulent politics of the time … Useful maps and 30 pages of end notes are an excellent guide for English speakers unfamiliar with German history and culture. What impresses most of all, however, is the outstanding quality of the translations, which contrive to read like natural English and yet capture beautifully the sense and rhythm of Storm’s German.’ – Forum for Modern Language Studies

The Dykemaster (Der Schimmelreiter)

Der Schimmelreiter (1888), here translated as The Dykemaster, is one of the most celebrated works of classic German fiction. Denis Jackson’s new translation, the first for many years, sets out to recreate the full impact of Theodor Storm’s masterpiece – a task in which no previous English version has succeeded. The Dykemaster is the tale of a visionary young north Frisian Deichgraf of the eighteenth century, creator of a new form of dyke. The short-sighted and self-seeking community with which he is at odds turns him into a phantom, seen riding his grey along the dyke whenever the sea threatens to break through. The rationalistic storyteller, in a sophisticated narrative structure, belongs to a later age, and what he relates is a veiled critique of the dyke officials of his own day.

The eerie west Schleswig-Holstein coast, with its vast hallucinatory tidal flats, hushed polders and terrifying North Sea, is the setting for a tale which grips from first page to last with its dynamic tensions and shifts of focus, mood and pace. Storm’s dense narrative further invites the reader to ask whether progress is possible, how the historical record is established, what parts are played by the rational and the irrational in human existence.

ORDER

‘this tremendous tale, with which Storm took his conception of the Novelle, as epic sister of drama, to unprecedented heights …’ – Thomas Mann

‘This is a marvellous work … There is nothing better in German fiction prior to the work of Thomas Mann.’ –Kirkus Reviews

‘Translations of the high standard of this one are more than ever in demand.’ –  Mary Garland, editor of The Oxford Companion to German Literature

Brigitta; with Abdias, Limestone and The Forest Path

Thomas Mann found the nineteenth-century Austrian writer Adalbert Stifter ‘one of the most extraordinary, the most enigmatic, the most secretly daring and the most strangely gripping narrators in world literature’. Yet he is little known to the English-speaking world; translations of mostly single works have only occasionally appeared, and major works remain untranslated. He was for a long time grossly undervalued by Germanists. Stifter is far ahead of his time in portraying the diseased subconscious and the influence that the earliest years have on a person’s development. Helen Watanabe-O’Kelly’s masterly new translations constitute the most substantial selection of Stifter’s richly symbolic narratives to appear in English.

The ugly heroine of the love-story Brigitta makes a barren corner of the Hungarian plains bloom. Limestone tells of a repressed priest whose single erotic encounter determines his behaviour for the rest of his life. Abdias is the epic, Job-like story of a Jew raised in the North African desert and driven out into the harsh world by his father at an early age. The hero of The Forest Path, another product of an alienated childhood, is a comic counterpart to the tragic Brigitta; this story is here translated into English for the first time.

ORDER HARDBACK

ORDER PAPERBACK

Stifter, like Kafka, has a modern appeal in that his narration is as much a veil as a window; the reader, like the characters, must learn how to see.

‘Four of Stifter’s stories, richly evocative and brushed with mystery, are presented here in wonderful new translations.’ – Publishers’ Weekly

‘The novellas of Stifter have a special quality of poetic realism which has no real equivalent in English …’ – Brian Fallon, Irish Times

‘These versions are so good that you are never aware of the translator’s presence.’ – Idris Parry, PN Review

Charcoal Sketches and other tales

On his death in 1916, Henryk Sienkiewicz, author of panoramic historical novels such as With Fire and Sword and The Deluge, enjoyed a towering reputation; he is still the most celebrated Polish novelist. The three novellas in this selection, less well-known than his novels, nevertheless display their author at his best: his narrative mastery, his engaging irony, and his brilliance at bringing history to life. Charcoal Sketches is a headlong satire on village life in Russian-ruled Polish territory after the failure of the Insurrection of 1863/64, its targets a negligent, absentee squirearchy and an administration that uses the Tsarist system to feather its own nest at the people’s expense. The brawny Bartek in Bartek the Conqueror, a hero of the Franco-Prussian War but no match for the Germans in the post-war peace, embodies the fate of the Polish peasantry in the west in the face of Bismarck’s ruthless Germanisation policy; but even in this story humour is present, in the ludicrous brainlessness of the ‘hero’. On the Bright Shore, depicting the class largely absent from the first two stories, is a deliciously observed study of manners and morals among the expatriate Polish gentry on the French Riviera in the 1890s.

These three narratives are not otherwise available together in English. Adam Zamoyski’s new translations present Sienkiewicz’s comic vision, largely overlooked by earlier translators, to the full.

ORDER

‘The three novellas in this selection … display their author at his best; his narrative mastery, his engaging irony, and his brilliance at bringing history to life.’ – Polish Heritage

‘Zamoyski’s sprightly translations demonstrate that the passage of a century cannot disguise the wit or lessen the bite of these novellas.’ – Publishers Weekly

Selected Short Fiction

Arthur Schnitzler is best known for his plays, such as La Ronde and The Game of Love, but his short fiction, in which the pulse of early twentieth-century Vienna can be felt as in no other writer, is no less masterly. Characteristic of this observer of the late Habsburg world of balls, adultery and duels is an ironic, bitter-sweet tone reminiscent of another doctor-turned-writer, Anton Chekhov. Schnitzler’s intuitive understanding of the human psyche was much admired by his contemporary Sigmund Freud, and the primary focus of his stories is on the volatile, turbulent inner lives of his characters as revealed in dreams, unconscious sexual impulses, and psychopathic states. This volume containing thirteen stories provides the balanced selection of Schnitzler’s short fiction that has long been needed. It ranges from short comic tales to dense novellas such as Lieutenant Gustl, Fräulein Else, and the superbly atmospheric late, dramatic tale of love and sudden death The Duellist’s Second. Some narratives – as told, for instance, by a deluded bank clerk, or the jealous admirer of another man’s wife – are distinctly ambivalent in implication; others feature characters in threshold situations which force them to reappraise their entire lives.

These stories, a number of them translated into English for the first time, brilliantly display the social and psychological awareness of their author, whom today’s reader is likely to find distinctly modern.

ORDER

‘… masterly psychological observation, characteristically Viennese wit and a vigorously amoral attitude towards erotic situations.’ – Charles Osborne, Sunday Telegraph

‘Stiff-backed duellists, hysterical adulterers, sinister mesmerists and lecherous dwarves haunt the Freudian Vienna of this mixed collection. Formally adventurous monologues link individual neuroses with a wider social pathology.’ – Guardian

‘Schnitzler was a considerable short-story-writer, as well as a skilled practitioner of the Novelle … collectively these stories show the fingerprints of a master hand.’ – Brian Fallon, Irish Times

Five Tales

Nikolay Leskov, in whom his contemporary Leo Tolstoy could find no fault other than that he had ‘too much talent’, is the most perfectly Russian writer of the nineteenth century. His tales, told with enormous zest, never for a moment relaxing their hold on the reader’s attention, raise anecdote to art. Leskov conveys a unique and memorable image of the Russia he knew – wayward, undisciplined, anarchic, violent and perverse, yet underpinned by a profound spirituality and sense of national identity. This selection of short works – none available in English for many years, and two of them never previously translated – captures Leskov’s rumbustious humour at its best, together with his hilarious yet sensitive examination of Russian attitudes. In particular it highlights the fascinating contrasts he detected between the spirit of Russia and the mores and culture of her West European neighbours. The longest tale in the volume, An Iron Will, measures a feckless Russian iron-founder against an imported Prussian engineer; its epigraph is ‘Rust eats iron’. The other tales colourfully portray the author’s countrymen’s mystic and majestic urge towards the best and worst extremes of human behaviour.

Out of print

‘If you want to understand the Russians, read Leskov.’ – Mikhail Gorbachev

‘The translator has acquitted himself admirably – the translations never read like translations.’ – Gordon McVay, Times Higher Education Supplement

Six German Romantic Tales

This selection of short fiction embodying some dominant concerns of German Romanticism takes the reader into a world of strange potency and inner logic.

Ludwig Tieck gives a fairy-tale form to horror stories that delve darkly into the unconscious. Eckbert the Fair is a compelling study in paranoia and retribution; The Runenberg a story of the mind-destroying power of Nature. In Kleist’s The Betrothal on Santo Domingo, conflict and persecution during the slave revolt of 1803 on Haiti symbolise a world-view in which evil seems destined to prevail over good. The Earthquake in Chile, despite its brevity perhaps the most epic of all Kleist’s stories, presents an extraordinary pile-up of cataclysmic events, at the high-point of which the horror is turned on its head.

E. T. A. Hoffmann’s The Jesuit Chapel in G. and Don Giovanni, the latter containing a celebrated and influential interpretation of Mozart’s opera, show the conflict between art and life and the Romantic vision of the artistic vocation.

ORDER

This volume of new translations contains several works which, though highly characteristic of their authors, are not readily available elsewhere in English.

‘All the varieties of the German Romantic movement are here: magical, musical, political and aesthetic.’ – Stephen Plaice, Times Literary Supplement

‘These tales are not only fascinating in themselves, and for the insight they give into the Romantic imagination, but are also essential reading for anyone interested in the development of the German Novelle.’ – Michael Hulse, London Magazine

The Bachura Scandal and other stories and sketches

Jaroslav Hašek was a humorist and satirist of a rare order long before he wrote his celebrated novel The Good Soldier Švejk (1921–3). This selection of 32 pre-1914 stories of Prague life – most of them translated into English for the first time – revels in the twisted logic of politics and bureaucracy in the Czech capital which was also an Austrian provincial city.

The sad fate of an idealistic mission to protect the morals of country girls arriving in Prague for the first time; an Austrian returning from abroad, where his left kidney has been replaced by a pig’s, in serious trouble with Customs because the importation of pigs has become illegal; a Prague barber, in full flow against the Turks, the Serbs, the Hungarians, the Eyeties, who is over-enthusiastic with his razor… With unabashed relish, Hašek documents the Disorder Principle in life.

ORDER

‘These stories are very readable and offer a good cosmic insight into many aspects of Austrian (and Bohemian, Hungarian and Bosnian) bureaucracy, alcoholism and general human folly.’ – David Short, Slovo

‘In these animated translations Hašek emerges as a prankster who carries his “what if” musings to absurdist heights.’ – Fran Handman, New York Times

‘Many of these stories have a fine satirical edge.’ – Colin Johnson, Yorkshire Post

 

From the Reminiscences of Private Ivanov and other stories

Vsevolod Garshin was the outstanding new writer in Russia between Dostoyevsky and Chekhov. This ‘Hamlet of his time’ gave voice to the disturbed conscience of an era that knew the horrors of modern war, the squalors of rapid industrialisation, and a politically explosive situation culminating in the assassination of Alexander II. His novellas and short stories make an immediate impact on the reader, often with the almost sacred and terrifying quality of a confession. He moves away from the broad canvas and solid objectivity of the realist novel towards the fragmentary and fleeting, impressionism and modernism.

This selection, the most substantial in English for nearly a century, contains the best of Garshin’s fiction – sixteen stories, almost all the published work completed in a tragically short life. The epic title-story on the Russo-Turkish War of 1877–78; The Red Flower, Garshin’s haunting masterpiece set in a lunatic asylum; the compact war story Four Days which pioneers stream-of-consciousness technique; masterly and moving stories such as Artists and Orderly and Officer; the semiotic tour de force The Signal; the reworked legend Haggai the Proud, here translated into English for the first time; a handful of fables, including the allegory on the revolutionary movement Attalea princeps – the thematic and stylistic variety is impressive.

ORDER

‘Garshin’s supreme gift is an acute moral intelligence steadied by the economy of his style . . . The effect is well caught by Peter Henry and his colleagues. This volume should win a wide readership for Garshin.’ – Henry Gifford, Times Literary Supplement

‘As this ably translated collection shows, Garshin is a powerful, innovative writer of unusually broad stylistic range … He also shows a surprisingly modern insight into human psychology.’ – Olga Wickerhauser, New York Times Book Review

‘full of simple, disturbing phrases … full of revelations.’ –  Alan Brien, New Statesman

The Silver Dove

Bely’s The Silver Dove, published four years before its author’s celebrated Petersburg (ranked by Nabokov with Proust, Kafka and Joyce), is the first modern Russian novel. Breaking with Russian Realist tradition, a pioneering Symbolist work, it reaches subconscious layers of experience through images of the surface world, capturing ‘the living rhythm of the soul’. At the same time, its vividly drawn characters, elemental landscapes, and richly wrought, Gogolian style are immediately accessible to the Western reader. This brilliantly faithful new translation makes Read more

The Gypsies and other narrative poems

Alexander Pushkin’s reputation as Russia’s greatest poet rests on more than Eugene Onegin. This selection of five of his finest narrative poems displays his essential qualities – his stylistic fluency, ironic poise, parodic playfulness and endless ability to surprise, his creation of poetry out of everyday language.

The Gypsies, the anti-Romantic tale of a city-dweller whose search for ‘unspoiled’ values among gypsies ends in tragedy, is modern Russian literature’s first masterpiece – and a source for Bizet’s Carmen. The ballad The Bridegroom turns this Romantic genre into a whodunit filled with sexual dread and subconscious terror. Count Nulin, a deliciously comic tale of country life, stands Read more