London, United Kingdom, January 24, 2016 --(PR.com
Maria Rybakova portrays the private world of the first Russian translator of the Iliad, the romantic poet and librarian Nikolai Gnedich (1784-1833). She builds the plot around Gnedich’s translation of the Illiad into Russian. The narrative progresses from the adult Gnedich’s memories of his childhood on a small country estate in Ukraine in the first Song, through his illness and his discovery of the magnificent Greek epic about the siege of Troy, a work that was to change his life forever, to the completion of his translation, representing a final victory over all that life threw at him. The translation truly was a titanic task, one that continued for almost twenty-two years (1807-1829).
Like the Iliad itself, the novel consists of twelve Songs or Cantos, and covers the life of Gnedich from his childhood to his death. It depicts the lives of Gnedich and his best friend, the poet Batyushkov, who is slowly losing his mind, and incorporates tropes from their poetry and from Greek mythology, as well as magnificent images of imperial Russia and of the Homeric world. The space occupied by the novel thus extends from snowy Russian villages to aristocratic St. Petersburg salons, magnificent Italian landscapes, and the austere Greece of Homer’s heroes.
Gnedich opens with a striking allusion to Homeric Greece; allusions such as this, which crop up throughout the novel, will be a source of great joy for those who admire the ancient Greek poem: “The rage that killed so many/the wretched rage of Achilles/who knew that he would perish/ that he would perish young.”
The novel is conceived in spectacular fashion: Rybakova’s style resembles a movie projection with stop-cards at the key moments in Gnedich’s life. We are party to some of his long conversations with his friend, in particularly striking settings. This lends a novelistic effect to the tale, which chronicles Gnedich’s life for a period of over twenty years. The narrative is frequently interrupted by streams of consciousness and reminiscence by the protagonists. At the same time, the novel continues the traditions of Russian classic literature, with its attention to detail and to the characters’ psychological traits.
Since Gnedich spent almost his entire life translating Homer’s epic poem, Maria Rybakova has chosen verse as the most suitable stylistic means of recreating that life. To the English-speaking world, this genre of poetic biography is best exemplified by Ruth Padel’s Darwin – A Life in Poems.
Gnedich was released in June 2015 by Glagoslav Publications, a publishing house specializing in the publication and worldwide distribution of Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian literature, in order to promote the culture of the Slavic countries to the Western world and provide a basis for better understanding between the Slavs and the West.
About the Author:
Maria Rybakova was born in Moscow. She studied Greek and Latin in Russia, then in Germany and subsequently in the USA, where she is now teaching the subject. Her first novel, Anna Grom and her Ghost, was published in 1999. Several novels and short stories followed. Maria Rybakova has received numerous literary awards in Russia, including the Students' Booker Prize, the Eureka Prize, the Sergei Dovlatov Prize, the Antologia Award, the Russian Prize and the Globus Award. Her novels have been translated into German, Spanish and French. Gnedich is the first of Rybakova’s books to appear in English.
About the Translator:
Born in Vladivostok, Russia, Elena Dimov is a translator of Russian. She holds an M.S. in Oriental Studies from Far Eastern University and a PhD in History from the Russian Academy of Sciences. She is currently studying Russian bard poetry and translating Russian literature into English, including works by Joseph Brodsky and Maria Rybakova.
What if the biographers of poets pastiched their subjects by writing their lives in their favoured verse forms? Maria Rybakova, a professor of Classics in the US and the author of prose fiction in Russian, pulls off a version of this feat in Gnedich, a slim novel in twelve cantos composed in blocks of syllabic verse enlivened by flourishes of dactylic hexameter. -Andrew Kahn, Times Literary Supplement
Review copies are available upon request.
Author: Maria Rybakova
Publisher: Glagoslav Publications
Extent: 116 pages
Format: paperback, hardback, e-book