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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

Friday, Aug. 1


Bikers from all around the world will gather to take part in a parade, extreme shows and rock concerts during the International Biker Festival that revs its engines today and runs through Aug. 3 near Olgino Hotel, 4/2 Primorskogo Shosse.


The Peter and Paul Fortress will be turned into an open-air cinema today and tomorrow as part of the 5th International Short and Animation Film Festival. A huge screen across the fortress walls will air short films non-stop with board games, photo sessions and other activities also on offer for visitors. For more information, visit www.opencinemafest.ru



Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldnt miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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