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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, Oct. 24


SPIBAs ongoing Breakfast with the Director series continues today, featuring Tomas Hajek, Managing Director of the Northwest Division at Danone Russia. Hajek will be discussing collaborations between businesses from different cultures. The meeting is at 9 a.m. at the Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel and all who wish to attend must confirm their participation by Oct. 23.


Get your gong on at Sounds of the Universe, a concert at the city planetarium this evening incorporating six different gongs to create relaxing songs that will transport you upwards into the stratosphere. Tickets are 700 rubles ($17).



Saturday, Oct. 25


AVA Expo, the eighth edition of the event revolving around all things pop culture, returns to Lenexpo this weekend. Geeks, nerds, dweebs and dorks will have their chance to talk science fiction and explore a variety of international pop culture. Tickets for the event can be purchased on their website at avaexpo.ru.



Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the clubs website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit Neophobia at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBAs Marketing and Communications Committees round table discussion on Government Relations Practices in Russia this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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