On “Rivers, A Story”

Translator’s Note

The text of “Rivers” that appears here is an excerpt from the opening of Evgeny Grishkovets’s book, published in Russia by Machaon Publishers in 2005, which is also titled Rivers: A Story (in Russian: Реки, Повесть). The subtitle is important, in my reading, because it suggests the nature of what is to come: not quite a novel, or an autobiography, but in some ways more personal than either. A story is something that can be shared out loud, a narrative woven for the delight of listeners and changing upon the whims of the teller.

Evgeny Grishkovets, 2008
BY Dmitry Rozhkov
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Evgeny Grishkovets, a prolific fiction writer, is also well known in his native Siberia for his accomplishments in theatre, radio, and music. He is an entertainer, a raconteur, and I kept this in mind as I got caught up in the minutiae of refinement in my translation. While the expressions “ra-a-rely” and “oh-so-far” have a sing-song quality that seems at odds with the overall voice, their dissonance comes directly from the source text (“ре..e.. дко, редко” and “далеко-далеко”) and disappears when one imagines the phrases rendered out loud.

Here, then, is the “arduousness” of translation — something remarkably close to “ardor.” So many disparate elements put pressure on the writer that a translator must admit as the task of translating is unnatural: to seek those once-organic pressures out and ask them to exert some force in return. To translate, one needs the mind of a puzzle enthusiast, learning not to cave in to frustration at the many pieces that may not fit, and recognizing the moment of clarity that comes (as if from nowhere, and from everywhere) when one finally does.

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