THE RUSSIAN VERSION (2nd Edition) by Elena Fanailova

$ 14.00 $ 18.00

The Russian Version is a collection of poems that spans Russia’s post-Soviet era. Acclaimed journalist and poet, Elena Fanailova tells stories about the various social layers of a stratified and conflicted nation, reclaiming the poet’s role as social critic, while scrutinizing her own position as citizen and poet. Fanailova’s political lyricism casts personal pain into the net of historical suffering.

The Russian Version received the 2010 Best Translated Book Award for Poetry from Three Percent. In her citation for the award, Idra Novey, chair of the BTBA panel for poetry wrote: “The Russian Version obliterates the stereotype of what Great Russian Poetry should sound like. Fanailova has the candor and compassion of Akhmatova and a gift for striking metaphor that might bring Mandelstam to mind. She is also ruthlessly quick to fire ‘from the hip,’ as she says in the title poem, and her aim is impeccable.”

The Russian Version includes an introduction by Russian poet and critic Aleksandr Skidan. The 2019 second edition of The Russian Version (first published by UDP in 2009) includes a more recent long poem, “Lena and Lena.”

        PRAISE FOR THE RUSSIAN VERSION

She is doing something quite different: she assumes the role of the poet as broadcaster, who transforms suppressed and muted private worlds into a distressing signal, to disturb the smugness and cynicism of her contemporaries and compatriots—Russian intellectuals.

                    —Zinovy Zinik, Times Literary Supplement

The Russian Version is, in essence, a selected poems, and even the most casual reader (but who would want to be a casual reader of these works?) will notice the progressive expansion of the force field within Fanailova's work as it accumulates cultural material over the years and repeatedly rethinks its purpose. Perhaps it has always been the case that, regardless of what else is expected of the Russian poet, he or she must demonstrate courage. Perhaps that is what makes these poems Russian—their capacity to countenance the unshrinkable world.

                      —Lyn Hejinian

Spanning almost twenty years, these poems document the growth of a poetics and a politics sculpted by—and at times against—the recent history of Russia, its violence, its ambitions, its intimacies. But it is also the slower-moving current of Russian culture, from its folk tales to Tarkovsky, that gives these pieces their human depth. From her early atmospheric, lyric work to the later, looser quotidian pieces, there’s a wry eye in action here, informed by a ruthless truthfulness, but also by compassion and empathy, and all beautifully translated with a commitment to sound and rhythms that seem to bring the original to the surface.

                       —Cole Swenson

Here is a clear-eyed, unflinching poet, who is willing to see the world “in grease-paint made of crystals,” and to see it with the mask wiped off. “Are you pierced through to the bone / By the local tongue, / Never heard until the night guests come?” asks the poet. After you read this book, you will be.

                        —Eleni Sikelianos

Fanailova has the candor and compassion of Akhmatova and a gift for striking metaphor that might bring Mandelstam to mind. She is also ruthlessly quick to fire “from the hip,” and her aim is impeccable.

                         —Idra Novey