LITERATURE: FROM RUSSIAN TO ENGLISH
Years before I worked in radio and television, I earned a BA in Russian Literature from Harvard and an MA in Slavic Studies from Columbia University. To support myself and feed my hunger to be a writer, I did four books of translations from the Russian for two major publishing houses, Doubleday and Knopf.
Yevgeny Yevtushenko was Russia’s most charismatic young poet from the ‘60s to the fall of the USSR. An international star, his appearances filled stadiums from Russia to Madison Square Garden in New York. These are translations of some of his poems I did independently and in collaboration with distinguished American poets like John Updike, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Richard Wilbur, and James Dickey.
FROM DESIRE TO DESIRe
This volume of Yevtushenko’s love poems was published a couple of years after “Stolen Apples.” At the time, Yevtushenko was in hot water with the Soviet authorities for criticizing their arrest of the Russian novelist and future Nobel prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn. When I visited Yevtushenko in Moscow to work on my translations we were followed everywhere and threatened by the KGB, which, considering the nature of the book, was ironic, to say the least.
LEGENDS FROM INVALID STREET
A collection of tales of the lives of Russian Jews in rural Russia during and after World War II. Translating these sometimes ironic, often heart-breaking accounts of human suffering, written by Efrain Sevela in a kind of Yiddish-inflected Russian, was an unforgettable experience for me in learning to tell stories of my own.
THE DAY IS BORN OF DARKNESS
For some, the existence of a deeply-rooted criminal class in the Soviet Union came as a big surprise. In this novel, Mikhail Dyomin, a Russian expatriate I met in the early ‘70s, wrote from personal experience of a widespread, traditional “underworld” of thieves and murderers that in some ways rivaled the power of the Communist Party.