Words without Borders and SF Mistressworks
I’ve recently discovered a new online magazine called Words Without Borders. It publishes stories, poems, graphic stories, etc. that are English translations of works originally written in other languages. (Always near and dear to my heart because I feel my exposure to non-English literature is spotty at best.) Unfortunately, the percentage of women authors featured in the magazine is as strong as I would have liked.
Many of the translations can be viewed side-by-side with the story in its original language. Here’s the page for None of Your Business by Natalia Klyuchareva. I’m fascinated that the original Russian story is so much shorter than the translation. (I think perhaps the end of the story is missing. Otherwise, Russian is a marvelously concise language. Possibly both.)
This is a rather grim story of a boy with alcoholic parents who one day locks his parents out of their flat and refuses to let them back in. Remarkably, it sticks and his parents go on to freeload from friends until they drift away.
Everyone was waiting for Yurka to break. The longer this didn’t happen, the less they sympathized with him. The Krivovs had already attracted the general sympathy.
They lived by migrating among their numerous relatives. They drank, complained about the “monster,” and drank again—until their hosts, out of their wits over their drinking, showed them the door. Then they went on their way. Little by little they moved so far from their own home that even old lady Faya, who knew everything about everyone, lost track of them.
And life goes on for the son who was only in middle school when he evicted his parents – he takes in a lodger and makes ends meet, barely, but the weight of his parents is always in him and something that he carries alone.
The story is rich and grounded in detail, but at the same time almost magical:
When he got back from vacation, Gerka had a gut feeling that something was very wrong. Sparks of a scandal filled the air. Even his hair seemed electrified and stood on end, and his hands, magnetized, stuck to each other.
In the end, family ties are inescapable, and redemption of the parents and the child is, at best, illusion.
On another topic, there’s been a lot of discussion around the internets about the dreadful lack of women in the SF Masterworks series (there are more titles by Philip K. Dick than all women combined) and now there’s a blog devoted to SF Mistressworks (dreadful name, I know.) The only thing I take umbrage with is that young adult SF is not allowed. *shakes cranky old man fist of internet rage* Of course, looking at both proposed Mistressworks list and the Masterworks list, there’s a couple that when I read them I thought they were YA ….