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Cult Classic Yury Mamleyev Translated for the First Time

Seminal novel given English translation for the first time.

Published: April 11, 2014 (Issue # 1805)



  • Yury Mamleyevs book comes encased in a fretwork matryoshka.
    Photo: Haute Culture books

  • A detail of the intricate box.
    Photo: Haute Culture books

  • The suede cover of the new publication.
    Photo: Haute Culture books

Dostoevsky. Gogol. Mamleyev?

While better known in Russia than in the Western world for his metaphysical realism, dissident author Yury Mamleyevs most famous novel is about to be published in English for the first time by Haute Culture Books.

Mamleyev first began writing in the 1960s while teaching mathematics in Moscow, where he cultivated an underground following. He hosted meetings with other intellectuals to discuss philosophy and psychoanalysis, and the group began to refer to themselves as sexual mystics.

Outside of this immediate circle of fans, his literature started to garner attention through Samizdat, the secret circulation and publication of literature in the Soviet Union. It was during this period of time that he wrote his most famous work, Shatuny, or The Sublimes, as it is translated in Marian Schwartzs English version.

It was a novel that stunned the underground literary world of the Soviet Union. Part philosophy, part esoterica and laced with humor, the book quickly became a cult classic and excerpts of it slowly leaked through the cracks in the Iron Curtain.

Mamleyev emigrated to the United States in 1974 and taught Russian literature at Cornell University in New York before returning to Russia in 1993, now splitting his time between Moscow and Paris.

The books impact on Russian literature is clear: Vladimir Sorokin and Victor Pelevin both credit Mamleyev as an inspiration and Grigory Ryzhakov called the book literature in its boldest, art in its pure sense uncompromising and limitless. While not only bringing a relatively unknown author the credit deserved in the English-speaking world, the new translation hopes to inspire a generation of English writers.

The novel revolves around an assassin waiting for death but other characters include an intellectual group seeking immortality and a professor hoping for salvation through more traditional methods. Many of Mamleyevs characters are characterized as feeble-minded men who often contemplate the incomprehensible.

On the one hand, the novel may be read as reflecting modern hell, wrote Professor James McConkey of Cornell University. However, very deep down, this book offers, in fact, a religious vision, and its comedy is earnestly lethal. Yet, in view of its ironic estrangement and dynamic lure another remainder of Dostoyevsky [The Sublimes] can be read as a sort of metaphysical detective story.

His prose is devoid of actual eventsbut it holds something else instead: an eternal thing that has forever that has forever been part of man, but which nobody likes to be confronted with, wrote Vladimir Spakov in The Petersburg Book Journal. The mirror he holds up to us has turned black, reflecting our dark side. To do so, it needed a writer capable of standing at the abyss without falling or of telling the more frightful among us who pretend to be civilized: there are monsters hiding inside of you!

Haute Culture offers handmade, uniquely designed and bilingual copies of Mamleyevs classic made of suede or leather and housed in a 3D printed matryoshka. Part of the profits will go towards donating e-books to schools and universities around the world.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Wednesday, Aug. 20


AmCham gets back to business after a summer hiatus with todays EHS Committee Working Group Meeting. Check their website for more details.



Thursday, Aug. 21


Time is running out to see the fantastic creations on display at the 2014 Sand Castle Festival on the beach at the Peter and Paul Fortress. Adhering to the theme of Treasure Island, visitors can wander amongst larger-than-life interpretations of pirate life or attend one of the workshops held to educate a future generation of sand artists. The castles will remain on the beach until Aug. 31.



Friday, Aug. 22


Get ready to pledge allegiance to the flag during National Flag Day, paying tribute to when, 23 years ago today, the iconic hammer-and-sickle was replaced with the tricolor that now flutters in the wind. Petersburgers will be treated to a free concert on Palace Square, a military parade and a culminating air show featuring Russias Russian Knights stunt pilots.



Saturday, Aug. 23


Uppsala Park plays host to Fairy Noon today, a performance of five separate fairy tales ranging from folk classics to more haunting selections. There will be three different renditions of the tales throughout the day and tickets start at 500 rubles ($13.80) for adults and 300 rubles ($8.30) for children.


Classic Finnish cartoon characters the Moomins expect to receive a warm welcome from Russian fans during todays Moomin Festival at the Pearl Plaza Shopping Center at 51 Petergofskoye Shosse. Become a kid again or introduce a new generation to the beloved creation of Finnish writer Tove Jansson.



Sunday, Aug. 24


The tortured genius of Dutch master Vincent van Gogh gets his day in the centers Konnushnaya Ploschad during Make Art Like Van Gogh, a daylong celebration of the artist that will allow amateur artists to try and replicate the work that made the famed painter world-renowned.


Experience a variety of dances highlighting the diversity of the world around as at the final day of the Ethno-Dance International Dance Festival that has been at the St. Petersburg Humanitarian University of Trade Unions this past week. Tonights performance will feature Egyptian dancers accompanied by local orchestras.



Monday, Aug. 25


Today kicks off the Elena Obraztsovoy International Competition for Young Vocalists in the large hall of the Shostakovich Philharmonic. Talented youngsters will showcase their range over the next six days before a winner is chosen on Aug. 30.



Tuesday, Aug. 26


Love movies but hate all those words? Then check out Rodina Cinema Centers Factor of Consensus film forum this evening. Silent movie classics from the beginning of the 20th century will be screened and accompanied by a pianist, who will provide the soundtrack for the ongoing action. The screenings begin at 7 p.m. Check Rodinas website for more details.



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