By Vasily Grossman, Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Yury Bit-Yunan
An NYRB Classics Original
Few writers needed to confront as a few of the final century’s mass tragedies as Vasily Grossman, who wrote with terrifying readability concerning the Shoah, the conflict of Stalingrad, and the fear Famine within the Ukraine. An Armenian Sketchbook, in spite of the fact that, exhibits us a truly diverse Grossman, outstanding for his tenderness, heat, and feel of fun.
After the Soviet executive confiscated—or, as Grossman continually positioned it, “arrested”—Life and Fate, he took at the job of revising a literal Russian translation of a protracted Armenian novel. the unconventional used to be of little curiosity to him, yet he wanted funds and was once obviously happy of an excuse to go back and forth to Armenia. An Armenian Sketchbook is his account of the 2 months he spent there.
This is via a long way the main own and intimate of Grossman’s works, endowed with an air of absolute spontaneity, as if he's easily chatting to the reader approximately his impressions of Armenia—its mountains, its old church buildings, its people—while additionally analyzing his personal strategies and moods. a perfectly human account of trip to a remote position, An Armenian Sketchbook additionally has the shiny attraction of a self-portrait
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Additional resources for An Armenian sketchbook
In a letter to his wife, he wrote, “I dream of finishing work and resting in silence. ” And in another letter he wrote, “But, you know, I really do find all this translation work very hard. It demands a great deal of strength, and it is emotionally difficult. I like to be myself, however difficult and complicated this may be. And this need to be myself only gets stronger over the years. ” The self-revelation of An Armenian Sketchbook seems, at least in part, to have been a reaction to the self-effacement required of a translator—even of a translator who treats his original text with considerable freedom.
It is upsetting to think that the world’s greatest literature has played its part in reinforcing this stereotype: of the Armenian as huckster, voluptuary, and bribe-taker. Why has Russian literature been so eager to appeal to the barrack room? Why has it inculcated such mindless, chauvinistic hatred? Now, after Hitler, it has become more important than ever to look at the question of nationalism—of nationalistic contempt and nationalistic arrogance. What a distance there is between the caricature Armenians of these jokes and the thousands and thousands of real Armenian peasants, soldiers, scientists, doctors, and engineers—each with their own complexities and idiosyncrasies.
What constitutes the kernel, the heart and soul of Yerevan is not its churches or government buildings, not its railway stations, not its theater or its concert hall, nor its three-story palace of a department store. No, what constitutes the soul of Yerevan are its inner courtyards. Flat roofs, long staircases, short flights of steps, little corridors and balconies, terraces of all sizes, plane trees, a fig tree, a climbing vine, a little table, small benches, passages, verandas—everything fits harmoniously together, one thing leading into another, one thing emerging from another.
An Armenian sketchbook by Vasily Grossman, Robert Chandler, Elizabeth Chandler, Yury Bit-Yunan