Sunday, October 28, 2007

A New Translation of Bunin

Leila Ruckenstein's review of Graham Hettlinger's COLLECTED STORIES OF IVAN BUNIN in today's Washington Post Book Review is a good one:
It is both shameful and understandable that few Americans know the writings of Ivan Bunin. Although he won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1933, his works were banned in his native Russia until after his death in 1953, and for decades he labored, sometimes in extreme poverty, in exile in France. Also, his prose is notoriously difficult to translate; as Graham Hettlinger notes in an illuminating introduction to this volume, Bunin is acclaimed for his short stories but always called himself a poet.

Fortunately, Hettlinger's fluid new translations should help us rediscover an author who, like Chekhov, evocatively portrayed the vanishing world of Russia's large estates after the emancipation of the serfs in 1861. Born in 1870, Bunin witnessed as a child the disintegration of his aristocratic family's own estate. After the 1917 Revolution, he fled the Bolsheviks, never to return. Written between 1900 and 1944, almost all of the 35 stories in this collection -- ranging from imagistic sketches and folk legends to tales of obsessive love and eroticism -- are aching recreations of Bunin's homeland.
You can buy it here, from