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December 8th, 2016

An Excerpt from the main text of Strolls with Pushkin



This post is a part of the inaugural week of the Russian Library, a new series that seeks to demonstrate the breadth, variety, and global importance of the Russian literary tradition to English-language readership through new and revised translations of premodern, modern, and contemporary Russian literature.

Enter the Russian Library Book Giveaway here

Strolls with Pushkin

Eugene Onegin, Pushkin’s novel in verse, is one of the most influential works of Russian literature. In the below excerpt, the narrator “strolls” through Eugene Onegin, explaining why it’s a good thing that Pushkin was superficial, full of nonsense, and unconcerned with consequences.

Intrigued? For more context on Strolls with Pushkin, see the excerpt from Catharine Theimer Nepomnyaschy’s introduction: http://www.cupblog.org/?p=20320

December 8th, 2016

Thursday Fiction Corner: Between Dog and Wolf in Translation



This post is a part of the inaugural week of the Russian Library, a new series that seeks to demonstrate the breadth, variety, and global importance of the Russian literary tradition to English-language readership through new and revised translations of premodern, modern, and contemporary Russian literature.

Enter the Russian Library Book Giveaway here

Between Dog and Wolf

Welcome to the Columbia University Press Thursday Fiction Corner! This week Russian Library intern and Columbia Russian Literary Translation MA student Elaine Wilson delves into Alexander Boguslawski’s translation of Between Dog and Wolf.

Sasha Sokolov’s novel Between Dog and Wolf is intimidating in its complexity: time is non-linear, character names are inconsistent, register moves along a wide spectrum from peasant dialect to sophisticated, even Biblical style, and the language is filled with neologisms. It is highly intertextual, astoundingly rich in its reference to Russian literary tradition across the centuries. Space, time, life and death are all uncertain—rarely is any one of them clearly demarcated—and events are told and retold from differing perspectives. And that’s just the content.

The structure likewise poses a challenge: dialogue, monologue and third person omniscient narration coexist on the page with no breaks, no indentation, no typeset cues or even general conventions of reported speech, but rather flow freely along in a train of associative (and sometimes seemingly unassociated) thought. Sokolov’s writing style belongs in a category all its own, a genre Sokolov himself categorizes as somewhere between prose and poetry, or “proetry.” And speaking of poetry, there are plenty of poems throughout, too—complete chapters of poetry tucked among the “proetic” sections of the novel.

How can something like this find its voice in a foreign language? For a long time, publishers and translators asked themselves that very question. When the Russian version of the novel was first published in 1980, critics gave it a rather mixed reception, and many within the literary community—capable translators among them—balked at the idea of an English-language version, suggesting it could never be done.

And yet it could. Sokolov’s Between Dog and Wolf is being published in English for the very first time, and so the idea of the “untranslatable” returns to the realm of translation mythology. Or does it?

I am a student of translation. Russian into English literary translation, to be specific, and so I feel a personal kind of victory in the release of this novel, a sense of celebration in a triumph over apparently insurmountable linguistic odds. Yet for all my excitement I still wonder about the inevitable losses that occur when we bring a literary work from one language into another; in the back of my mind I can’t help but hear Nabokov denouncing the “sins” of our “queer world of verbal transmigration,”* crying out that all translation but for literal, scholarly renderings are false. (Though perhaps Nabokov would find the most egregious transgression of all to be the lack of exhaustive notes on the same page of the referenced text, an organizational decision specified by Sokolov himself.)

Nabokovian doubt on the value of translation aside, can translation of something like Sokolov’s convoluted work be done well? The novel is difficult, packed with myriad obstacles that translators don’t frequently face, much less all at once. Puns, peasant dialect, a general sense of disorientation—translator Alexander Boguslawski tackles these challenges by the best means possible: culturally conscious creativity, or what Philip E. Lewis calls “abusive translation.” When a translator must force an idea from a unique mode of expression in the source text into a new linguistic framework, the translator’s job is to convey sense and meaning while still communicating the uniqueness of the source form in the receiving language. Often what “works” in Russian won’t work in English, and so the translator needs to “abuse” the text, that is, creatively engage the receiving language so that it can carry the meaning, the humor/ irony/ sadness, etc. and the unorthodox medium of the source in its new linguistic code. Consider Boguslawski’s translation of the Russian dva sapoga para: “two boots of leather flock together.” This is a clever blending of the Russian subject and English idiomatic structure to convey the literal scene—two characters sharing a pair of boots—and the spirit of collaboration implied by the Russian proverb Sokolov uses to describe them. The Russian, literally “two boots are a pair,” folds into “birds of a feather flock together” to create an English-Russian proverbial hybrid.

Why not simply use the English idiom here? Wouldn’t the spirit of the proverb be enough to convey the characters’ sense of comraderie? A translator could take this easy way out, but more than just sounding trite, the imagery would be lost, deafening the line’s descriptive power in Russian. Boguslawki does not take the easy road, and thank goodness, for his solution is lovely: it retains the visual and sense of the Russian while infusing some “foreignness” into the English text, an “abuse” that works in service of conveying the character and style that we experience in Sokolov’s Russian.

So much for linguistic obstacles. What about literary density? Again, Nabokov’s cynicism echoes in the back of my mind: the translator of a text “must have as much talent, or at least the same kind of talent, as the author he chooses.”* Between Dog and Wolf is packed with references to past and modern Russian artists, particularly Pushkin, something which only a reader with comprehensive, arguably exhaustive knowledge of Russian literary tradition would understand. Careful Russian readers have trouble identifying everything that is layered within the story, so how can we expect anyone but the most meticulous scholar to identify these layers, much less translate such a text? Of course, Boguslawski’s friendly relationship with the author establishes him as the closest thing to a Sokolov specialist for this translation, but Nabokov’s standards still reach impossibly high; in the case of this extremely learned text, is anyone capable of translation? Or perhaps the “untranslatable” does not exist, but is it possible that scholarly translation and Nabokov’s towering footnotes are the only recourse? If so, are there “prerequisites” in literary pedigree for both translators and readers of these works?

To silence this existential questioning I could turn again to literary and translation theory for inspiration, but I don’t need to. A novel’s complexity notwithstanding, translation is ultimately a dialogue between cultures and an exchange of ideas. And even though things are certain to get left by the wayside as they move from one linguistic and cultural framework to another, the receiving language and audience still gain. Perhaps readers won’t or possibly can’t identify all that the author has folded into the text, but this is an invitation to study, to revisit the story and look closer.. No matter how deep the reader chooses to go, reading a text in translation is an entry point into another literary tradition and culture that was previously closed; exhaustive research can be nice, but ultimately we have reason to celebrate because one group has gained insight into another, and that is a beautiful thing.

*Nabokov, Vladimir, (August 4,1941). The Art of Translation. The New Republic.
Retrieved from https://newrepublic.com/article/62610/the-art-translation

December 7th, 2016

Announcing the Columbia University Press Spring 2017 Catalog



Columbia UP Fall 2016 Catalog

We are proud to announce our catalog of new books coming in Spring 2017! In her introductory letter, Press Director Jennifer Crewe lays out her hopes for the books in the catalog and lists a few highlights:

Dear Readers:

Our spring list represents the effort we make at Columbia University Press to bring fresh perspective and invaluable expertise to the global issues that affect our lives. With books on environmental sustainability, the rise of religion, national security, ethical labor practices, corporate accountability, racial injustice, and the historical roots of society and culture, our list responds to and clarifies our political moment.

This season’s most notable trend is the strengthening partnership between our publishing house and the scholars and resources of Columbia University, which has resulted in books that showcase the unique strengths of Columbia’s leading researchers. In Building the New American Economy (p. 1), the Columbia professor Jeffrey D. Sachs presents a visionary plan for sustainable growth. In The Activist Director (p. 6), Ira M. Millstein creates a new model of responsible corporate governance. And Natalie Robins’s biography of Diana Trilling, The Untold Journey (p. 2), is the first book to make extensive use of the Diana Trilling archives and Lionel Trilling’s journals at the Columbia Library.

By More Than Providence (p. 15) is an expansive and instructive history of American strategy in the Asia Pacific, part of a new series on American–East Asian relations generously funded by a Columbia University graduate. Written by the grandson of the first African American scholar to earn a Ph.D. from Columbia, Down the Up Staircase (p. 19) shares a poignant story of American mobility complicated by race. It is the first work to receive support from a member of our new Publisher’s Circle, founded to ensure the publication of significant scholarship regardless of its cost. Our Kenneth J. Arrow lecture series continues with Paul Milgrom’s Discovering Prices (p. 38), which offers a more workable theory of auction design for today’s markets. These books are the rich result of the collaborations and cooperation we hope to increase in the coming years to guarantee that our best thinkers continue to contribute meaningfully to the world.

Thank you for your support,

Jennifer Crewe
President and Director

December 7th, 2016

Excerpt from Catharine Theimer Nepomnyaschy’s introduction to Andrei Sinyavsky’s Strolls with Pushkin



This post is a part of the inaugural week of the Russian Library, a new series that seeks to demonstrate the breadth, variety, and global importance of the Russian literary tradition to English-language readership through new and revised translations of premodern, modern, and contemporary Russian literature.

Enter the Russian Library Book Giveaway here

Strolls with Pushkin

Anglophone readers, and perhaps Americans in particular, have a hard time understanding the centrality of Pushkin to Russian culture. The most tempting comparison is to Shakespeare: after all, Pushkin and Shakespeare are the generally acknowledged “great writers” of their respective languages; both wrote not only lyric poetry but also longer, more complex works; both popularized plots that continue to energize the writing of others; both are taught in schoolrooms and authored phrases that have entered everyday speech. And, Pushkin really liked Shakespeare, a fact that seems to give an added imprimatur to the comparison. But to me, at least, Shakespeare has never felt as immediate as Pushkin. He’s much further removed temporally, of course, having been born in 1564 to Pushkin’s 1799, and that makes his language more removed from the modern idiom as well. And I suspect that Shakespeare’s Englishness contributes to this sense of distance for me as an American. But more than anything, it’s Pushkin’s ubiquity in Russian life that lacks an appropriate analog in the Anglophone world.

This ubiquity both motivates and makes possible Andrei Sinyavsky’s book Strolls with Pushkin. Sinyavsky wrote the book while in Dubrovlag, part of the Soviet gulag system (the “lag” in both words in short for “lager’” or “camp”). He explains that while politics and camp conditions were proscribed topics, it was entirely permissible to fill his bimonthly letters to his wife with musings on Pushkin. After all, what could be more innocent? Nevertheless, the resulting book would prove to be Sinyavsky’s most controversial, as Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy explains in her masterful introduction. Following a biography of Pushkin that begins with his birth and continues, in the form of an overview of the cult of Pushkin, past his death and up to the time when Sinyavsky was writing, Nepomnyashchy offers the following invitation to the text:

It is precisely the boundary between the revered and the irreverent Pushkins that Sinyavsky transgresses from the very beginning of his Strolls with Pushkin. He sets off on his meanderings through the “sacred verses” of the poet with the Pushkin of pushkinskie anekdoty as his companion in hopes of circumventing the “wreaths and busts” that enshrine the canonic Pushkin and finding the “beautiful original.” This initial border violation defines the course of Sinyavsky’s strolls throughout. At every step he challenges accepted dividing lines—between writer and critic, author and character, sacred and profane, art and life—in order to undermine the commonplaces of the Pushkin myth as well as the understanding of literature as a reflection of reality that the myth entails. His project, moreover, rests on an internal contradiction. If strolling is by definition aimless motion, how can one stroll in search of something? This paradox is ultimately resolved when Sinyavsky reaches his goal only to discover that it is “zero,” that it lies in the very imposture embodied in the anecdotal Pushkin with whom he began. His strolls have both attained their object and gone nowhere and thus become a paradigm for “pure art”—art that transcends purposes external to it and becomes an end in itself. As Sinyavsky observes, “Art strolls.”

To read more:

Check back later this week now for an excerpt from the main text of Strolls with Pushkin.

December 6th, 2016

Excerpt from Sasha Sokolov’s Between Dog and Wolf



This post is a part of the inaugural week of the Russian Library, a new series that seeks to demonstrate the breadth, variety, and global importance of the Russian literary tradition to English-language readership through new and revised translations of premodern, modern, and contemporary Russian literature.
Enter the Russian Library Book Giveaway here

Between Dog and Wolf

This excerpt from Chapter 5 finds one of the principal characters, the erudite poet-philosopher Yakov Ilyich Palamakhterov, reveling in scholarly company at a publishing meeting-turned-party. Uncomfortable in his own skin, his social blunders launch the narration into recollection of awkward episodes past. This passage is the reader’s first formal introduction to Yakov and his interiority.

“And God only knows how long their confusion would have lasted if the porter Avdey, a sleepy peasant with a pitch-black beard reaching up to his dull and birdlike tiny eyes and with a similarly dull metal badge, did not come to say to the master that they should not be angry—the samovar completely broke and that is why there will be no tea, but, say, if needed, there is plenty of fresh beer, brought on a pledge from the cabbie, one should only procure a deed of purchase, and if in addition to beer they had wished to have some singing girls, they should send a courier to the Yar right away. Eh, brother, You are, methinks, not a total oaf, the policeman addresses the sentinel—and soon the table cannot be recognized. The prints and typesets are gone. In their place stand three mugs with beer, being filled, in keeping with their depletion, from a medium-size barrel that, with obvious importance, towers above the modest, but not lacking in refinement, selection of dishes: oysters; some anchovies; about a pound and a half of unpressed caviar; sturgeon’s spine—not tzimmes but also not to be called bad; and about three dozen lobsters. The Gypsies are late. Waiting for them, the companions arranged a game of lotto, and none else but Ksenofont Ardalyonych shouts out the numbers. Seventy-seven, he shouts out. A match made in heaven, rhymes Palamakhterov, even though he has no match. Forty-two! We have that too, the man from Petersburg assures, although again his numbers do not correspond. Deception of Nikodim Yermolaich is as petty as it is obvious, and as outsiders we are quite embarrassed for him; but the pretending of Yakov Ilyich stands out black on white. Possessing from his birth the enchanting gift of artistic contemplation, but being both shy and frail, now and then he tried not to attract attention to the fact that he was the one whom he, naturally, simply was not able not to be, since he possessed what he possessed. For that reason, probably, Yakov Ilyich’s attempts turned into complete blunders and consequently led not to the desirable but to undesirable results, again and again drawing to the gifted youngster uninterrupted, although not always favorable attention of the crowd. Do you remember how once, long ago, he let his mind wander, and a gust of the April chiller did not wait with ripping off the skullcap from his proudly carried head? It’s really not important that the street, as ill luck would have it, teeming with concerned well-wishers, kept admonishing the hero, warning: Pick it up, you will catch a cold! Ostentatiously ignoring the shouts, taking care not to look back, and arrogantly not stopping but turning the pedals forward and—cynically and flippantly chirring with the spokes, the chain, and the cog of free wheel—backward, attempting to present everything as if he had nothing to do with it, he continued riding, the way he definitely wanted it to be seen through the eyes of the side spectator, with melancholic detachment. But, you know, a certain superfluous stooping that unexpectedly for an instant appeared in the entire subtle look of the courier (exactly like his great-grandfather, his grandfather used to say), diminished, even nullified his efforts to make his bodily movements carefree, froze them, made them childishly angular and exposed the daydreaming errand boy, with his feeble straight-haired head, to the curses of the mob: Scatterbrain, dimwit—the street carped and hooted. And if it were, let us suppose, not simply a slouching chirring courier but a real humpbacked cricket from Patagonia, then, with such a mediocre ability not to attract attention, it would have been immediately pecked apart. But, fortunately, it was precisely a courier—a messenger-thinker, a painter-runner, an artist-carrier, and the nagging feeling that everything in our inexplicable here takes place and exists only supposedly did not leave him that evening even for a moment. That is how, either absentmindedly looking through the window or paging in the diffused light of a smoldering lamp through Carus Sterne—once respectable and solid, but now thinned, reduced by smoking and bodily urges, and yet, even now adequately representing the sole volume of this modest home library—Yakov Ilyich Palamakhterov, the incorruptible witness and whipper-in of his practical and unforgiving time, philosophized and speculated.”

December 6th, 2016

New Book Tuesday: David Foster Wallace’s Balancing Books, Medicine in Early Modern Tibet, and More!



David Foster Wallace's Balancing Books

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

David Foster Wallace’s Balancing Books: Fictions of Value
Jeffrey Severs

Proposing Prosperity?: Marriage Education Policy and Inequality in America
Jennifer M. Randles

Now available in paperback
Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet
Janet Gyatso

The Cinema of Hal Hartley: Flirting with Formalism
Edited by Steven Rybin

December 5th, 2016

Interview with Alexander Boguslawski, Translator of Sasha Sokolov’s Between Dog and Wolf



This post is a part of the inaugural week of the Russian Library, a new series that seeks to demonstrate the breadth, variety, and global importance of the Russian literary tradition to English-language readership through new and revised translations of premodern, modern, and contemporary Russian literature.

Enter the Russian Library Book Giveaway here

Between Dog and Wolf

Alexander Boguslawski’s English translation of Sasha Sokolov’s second novel Between Dog and Wolf is the first of its kind, even though the Russian original was published in 1980. This English-language edition, recently published by Columbia University Press, marks the introduction of what has long been considered Sokolov’s most challenging work to Anglophone readers and, possibly, a new wave of Sokolov scholarship. We asked Boguslawski how he came to translate the “untranslatable,” what makes up his translation process, and what he hopes this new translation will achieve:

Not all translators are able to collaborate with the author of the text they translate. How did you come to meet Sasha Sokolov, what is your relationship like, and how–if at all–did it shape your translation process? How does working on a text by an author who is no longer living differ in terms of your sense of responsibility and confidence in your task?

We met in Vermont in 1982. After some brief letter exchanges that dealt primarily with my ideas about A School for Fools and with Sokolov’s inquiries about Polish translators, I decided to show him my sample translation of the School into Polish. I went to visit him in Vermont, where we walked around, talked, played Russian music, picked mushrooms, and admired the hills, rivers, and fields so attractive and enchanting to European emigres. His friends, who spoke both Russian and Polish, approved of my translation, and it came out in London in 1984. We’ve been good friends since then.

Having the author as an advisor and critic, but also as a friend is, in my opinion, extremely valuable and reaffirming. You simply know that you did not misinterpret the author’s ideas or that you caught what was hidden and could have been missed. And the collaborative translation process – getting together, talking, cooking, eating, drinking, laughing, breathing in unison – those are the unforgettable experiences which translating deceased authors can never give us. I would not hesitate to say that to translate an author without personal contact with her or him is a horrible burden on the translator. All the responsibility is on your shoulders, and regardless of how well you know the language and culture of the original text, sometimes it is impossible to guess what exactly the author wanted to say or reveal in his turn of phrase, in a hidden quote, or in a camouflaged reference. In contrast, the living author, especially when you consider him a friend, is a steady guide, a beacon of light you follow, a crutch you always have to support you.

How does your experience translating Between Dog and Wolf compare to that of translating A School for Fools?

I think that it could be useful to start with the common things: every word counts; remember that a master created these texts, so be humble trying to render them as faithfully as possible without imposing your translator’s ego on the final version; be aware of the music of the text, of the rhythm of the phrases, and don’t try to “improve” them.

English is an incredible and flexible instrument able to render the most complicated texts. Many readers would say that A School for Fools is “simpler” than Between Dog and Wolf. But it is not exactly so. They are simply different texts. The biggest difference is that Between Dog and Wolf forces the translator to render three distinctive narrative voices: the voice of Ilya the grinder, the voice of the authorial persona, and the poetic voice of Yakov. In A School for Fools we have one (well, we could argue about this) voice: the extraordinarily sensitive and complicated narrator and his alter ego. The other voices (the author, the narrator’s parents, Doctor Zauze, Savl Petrovich) more or less occupy the same linguistic register. The only distinctive and clearly distinguishable “other voice” is the narrative of Chapter two, and it’s down to earth, simpler, more prosaic. So, translating Between Dog and Wolf is definitely a greater challenge for a translator – besides complicated layers of vocabulary, it forces the translator to be more creative.

Between Dog and Wolf contains many original poems, and Sokolov’s prose is poetic in and of itself. What are some of the unique challenges posed by Sokolov’s “proeziia”(“proetry”), and how did you work to overcome them in your English rendering? An artist yourself, did your own creative sensibility influence the translation process?

Let’s start with creativity because I ended my last response with it. Creativity is a necessary and intrinsic element of any translation; after all, we are creating works of art and without imagination, invention, and artistic sense we would be just robots. As far as the prose is concerned, we have to be tuned in to the euphonic quality of the phrases, to sound repetitions, alliterations, rhymes, rhythm, and all the elements that constitute Sokolov’s “proetry.” Translating poems, in my opinion, is an extremely “delicate” artistic game: if I want to preserve the meaning and the rhymes of the poems, what am I willing to sacrifice? How much of “stuffing” or, as Russians aptly name it, “otsebyatina” (stuff from yourself) will I have to put in? Or how much will I have to rephrase the author’s expressions? Are my rephrasings adequate? Here we find ourselves at the border between creativity and making up nonsense. I try whenever I can to add as little as possible and when I add, I always ask myself: Does it fit the tone and style of the poem? Is it going to make the reader cringe or read it naturally as if it belonged there in the first place? Of course, most of these considerations are a matter of personal taste, personal sensibility, and creative restraint.

Translation is writing, and your English-language version of Sokolov’s story and characters required creativity and compromise across language. Do you believe there are any nuances or subtle differences that emerged in your English-language characters in contrast to the Russian originals? If so, what are they?

My Ilya Zynzyrella may appear to the readers who know the Russian original as too “literate” and “smooth” because his language does not have all the incorrect grammatical forms, dialectical forms, and diminutives and augmentatives so rich in Ilya’s Russian. But I tried to substitute for these differences by inventing language features English speakers will notice and appreciate: phonetic spelling of words, double negatives, and rendering his Russian “blunders” by English neologisms. Yakov’s poems may be missing some of his fascinating word plays – again, a result of sacrificing something beautiful for the sake of being as faithful as possible to the original meaning of the poem.

Between Dog and Wolf is rich in literary and historical references and wordplay. For English-language readers with little to no knowledge of Russian literary tradition, do you believe this text is truly accessible? To what extent?

If you read the text as it appears in English, you will have no difficulty understanding it. Most readers will probably not notice word plays or language “distortions” that I explain in the annotations. They will also not see the multiple references to Russian literature, Russian songs, proverbs, or Scriptures. However, we should be aware that most Russian readers also missed these references and that the average Russian reader was as puzzled by Sokolov’s text as an average English reader may be puzzled by Finnegans Wake. However, for the curious readers, I provide extensive annotations. These may not only identify the authors or sources quoted, but they also explain proverbial expressions and place names from the novel in proper cultural context.

Translators generally fall along a spectrum regarding how truthfully they believe a translation should adhere to a source text. How much creative license do you believe a translator has in their own production of text? Does this level of creativity change with respect to content, writing style, etc? If so, how?

We know from examples by Constance Garnett that one can produce a refined translation that reflects the moral or ethical sensibility of the translator. Are her translations bad? No; after all, thousands of English readers enjoyed Dostoevsky in her translation not knowing that she changed the original, imposed her Victorian taste on the text and presented to us a “different” Dostoevsky. That’s why new translations are needed, especially when they reveal better the stylistic, linguistic, and cultural idiosyncrasies of the writer.

This novel has long been regarded as “untranslatable.” Do you believe any text truly falls into that category? How do you understand your own success in carrying the spirit and language of Sokolov’s Russian into English?

I am sure that there are some works written mostly as a challenge to readers and translators. In those rare cases, I don’t think they deserve the effort or attention of the reading public. Sokolov’s books are not written to puzzle and confuse the readers. The more you open up to their beauty and their stylistic and verbal mastery, the more natural they become. But, as most of great literature, they are not written for lazy readers. Literature is art, and reading it can be difficult. But the rewards are enormous. I hope that my efforts in translating Sokolov are successful and appreciated, even if in a few years I decide that I could do it even better.

What are your hopes for this publication? Do you have any particular expectations for its reception or impact on academia and general readership?

First of all, I am hoping that Between Dog and Wolf will gain many new readers who were kept away from it by the linguistic complexity of the original. I would like to see critical studies by literary scholars from many Western nations. But most of all, I would like to see a general acknowledgment of Sasha Sokolov’s great talent and mastery. In the last few years, I have presented to English-speaking readers Sokolov’s literary essays and vers libres, the new translation of A School for Fools, and now the first translation of his best novel, Between Dog and Wolf. Working so closely with these unique works of art and admiring their artistic qualities and their exploration of the possibilities of language, I am absolutely convinced that today Sasha Sokolov is the most deserving candidate for the Nobel prize in literature.

December 5th, 2016

Book Giveaway! The three inaugural titles of the Russian Library



The Russian Library series

“Sasha Sokolov’s classic Between Dog and Wolf is intricate and rewarding–a Russian Finnegans Wake.” — Sloane Crosley, Vanity Fair

This week, we are featuring the three inaugural titles of the new Russian Library series of Russian literature in translation: Between Dog and Wolf, by Sasha Sokolov, translated and annotated by Alexander Boguslawski; Fourteen Little Red Huts and Other Plays, by Andrei Platonov, edited by Robert Chandler and translated by Chandler, Jesse Irwin, and Susan Larsen; and Strolls with Pushkin, by Andrei Sinyavsky, translated by Catharine Theimer Nepomnyashchy and Slava I. Yastremski.

Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about these books and their authors and translators on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

December 2nd, 2016

University Press Roundup



Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best articles from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments. (And look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do this post every Friday.)

In a recent post on Cambridge University Press’s blog, Alexander Hill, author of Writing the Red Army and the Second World War, reflects on his writing process. Hill was required to examine a number of memoirs, testimonials, and primary sources in order to gain an all-encompassing perspective on the Soviet period and the collapse of the Soviet Union. In this post, Hill addresses the challenge of incorporating historical voices into one’s original arguments and how he’s grown to appreciate primary sources in a new way. “When used appropriately the human interest material can tell us so much for example about what motivated those involved to do what they did, with patterns starting to emerge when reading many examples even if we have always to be on the lookout for what seems to be retrospective explanation and justification.” Memoirs allowed Hill to better understand the human experience with regards to war and suffering. Engaging with these texts was a “humbling experience” for Hill, who hopes that his publication’s prioritization of memoir literature not only provides historical context for his work, but also engages and excites his readers.

Princeton University Press’s blog features an interview with Eléna Rivera on Scaffolding , her recently published collection of sonnets, inspired by her life in New York City. The title of her collection is influenced by the façade work that affected her building complex. “Scaffolding” gradually grew into a term to explain the sonnet, something that communicates substance and sound. Rivera’s interest in sonnets stems from her fascination with the relationship between form and content and how the inner and outer play off of one another. “I really became fascinated by the fourteen-line form, what such a compact container could give rise to, and once I committed myself to it I felt compelled to continue.” Rivera’s process in composing her poetry is evident in her usage of dates to label many of her sonnets. “Some poems just worked right away and others were more reluctant. Sometimes I liked the new version as much as the old one and kept both. I wanted to track that.” When asked about the inclusion of French and Spanish words in her poems, Rivera points to her family background, as she grew up speaking French and Spanish to her parents. “Sometimes I just can’t think of the word in English, and the word in French or Spanish will emerge — so much more expressive of the emotion or thought than the English word.” Rivera’s relationship with English is “complicated,” but writing poetry gave Rivera a voice. “Writing was always a necessity that helped me to live in the world. Writing was a way out of erasure, the silence that is imposed from the outside. In writing and reading, I found the words that I didn’t have otherwise.” Read the rest of this entry »

December 1st, 2016

How I learned to love data visualization (again)



Better Presentations

This week, our featured book is Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks, by Jonathan Schwabish. Today, we are happy to feature a presentation by Schwabish himself on how he came to embrace the value of data visualization.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Better Presentations!

Jon Schwabish – How I learned to love data visualization (again) from VISUALIZED on Vimeo.

November 30th, 2016

What the Election of President Trump May Mean for Mental Health Policy



Losing Tim

This is part of an ongoing series of posts in which Columbia University Press authors look at the implications of the result of the 2016 presidential election. In this post, Paul Gionfriddo, author of Losing Tim: How Our Health and Education Systems Failed My Son with Schizophrenia, discusses how mental health policy will be affected by a Trump presidency:

What the Election of President Trump May Mean for Mental Health Policy
By Paul Gionfriddo

The election of Donald Trump as President will influence mental health services in America. We just don’t know how.

We have generated significant positive momentum for mental health system reform during the past two years. The federal government has begun to lay a new foundation for a modern, community-based system of mental health services.

This has been no small feat. In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shootings, federal policymakers initially could come to no consensus about how they should respond. Some argued for more deep-end services for individuals who were a danger to themselves or others. Others wanted stricter gun control laws to keep weapons out of the hands of most people with serious mental health conditions.

The earliest ideas did not consider the bigger picture – that mental illnesses are most frequently diseases of childhood, and seldom manifest in violent or dangerous acts.

Losing Tim helped change those perceptions. Congressman Tim Murphy (R-PA), the leading House proponent of mental health reform legislation, cited the narrative as one of the reasons he changed his approach in the legislation he authored. And Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) tweeted that his companion Senate proposal was “for the countless people like Tim” who, he argued, deserve a mental health system that works.

My own organization, Mental Health America, made prevention, early intervention, integrated services, and recovery the pillars of our work. We argued that by applying a “danger to self or others” standard as a trigger to treatment for mental illnesses, we made them the only chronic diseases that we wait until Stage 4 to treat – and then often inappropriately through incarceration.

We argued that we needed to act sooner to help children and young adults, and developed a multi-faceted educational campaign promoting early identification and intervention built around the hashtag “B4Stage4.”

The established mental health advocacy community organized itself around a common set of the principles we shared and around the more comprehensive legislative proposals that evolved. The House and Senate bills gained bipartisan traction and momentum. As election day came, we were poised to celebrate the Lame Duck session passage of the most significant federal mental health legislation since President Kennedy signed the Community Mental Health Centers Act back in 1963, and to build on this in 2017.

Now there is a sense of uncertainty about what will come next.

I do not believe that there will be a seismic shift in the mental health policy landscape in the coming years that will undermine the progress we have made.

For one thing, the President-elect experienced the death of his older brother Freddy at the age of 43 from a substance use disorder, and knows first-hand the toll behavioral illnesses take on families. For another, Vice President-elect Mike Pence worked to improve mental health services in his state during his time as Governor of Indiana.

Also, the newly elected Congress looks very much like the Congress that came before it, with many strong proponents of mental health reform remaining in positions of leadership and influence. Finally, the advocacy community was prepared to continue to work together no matter what the election outcome.

Still, there are many issues that surfaced during the campaign that may have a profound effect on people with mental illnesses.

One is the move to amend the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

ACA made mental health benefits “essential health benefits” that had to be covered by all insurers. It also enabled the expansion of Medicaid to support single adults with chronic diseases, including mental illnesses. In requiring insurers to offer coverage despite pre-existing conditions, it also made sure that when children with serious mental illnesses became adults, they did not become uninsured.

President-elect Trump has said that he favors retention of the pre-existing condition provision. But if the essential health benefits are changed or insurers can pay out less for those with pre-existing conditions, it could take the teeth out of that commitment.

President-elect Trump also proposed block-granting Medicaid. This would not be hard, because the federal Medicaid program is already fifty different state Medicaid programs operated under a common set of federal rules. If the payments were bundled and some of those rules were left in place, that could be a good thing.

States might use the flexibility they are granted to innovate to cover housing, employment supports, and peer support services that people with mental illnesses need.

However, if dollars are reduced when they are blocked together – as happened in the 1980s and led in part to the inadequate state systems of care that persist today – then people will get less access to services and supports, not more.

President-elect Trump has also said that he will be “tough on crime.” People in jail and prison are significantly more likely to have mental health and substance use disorders than people who are not incarcerated. If being tough on crime means putting more people with mental illnesses into the criminal justice system, then that would just accelerate the revolving door of hospitalization, frequent incarceration, and chronic homelessness that characterizes our system today.

Meanwhile, several more states also legalized marijuana for either medical or recreational use. Marijuana has often been called a gateway drug. For many people with serious mental illnesses, it is a gateway to jail.

As state policies become friendlier to people who self-medicate, they could mitigate tougher federal sanctions.

This is why we must be vigilant. It will take some time for everything to sort itself out.

November 29th, 2016

New Book Tuesday: Marriage as a Fine Art, Endangered Economies, and More!



Marriage as a Fine Art

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

Marriage as a Fine Art
Julia Kristeva and Philippe Sollers. Translated by Lorna Scott Fox.

Endangered Economies: How the Neglect of Nature Threatens Our Prosperity
Geoffrey Heal

New in paperback
Finding Ourselves at the Movies: Philosophy for a New Generation
Paul W. Kahn Read the rest of this entry »

November 29th, 2016

Five Ways Researchers Can Improve Their Presentations



Better Presentations

“It’s crucial, so I’ll say it once more: A presentation is a fundamentally different form of communication than what you write down and publish in a journal, report, or blog post.” — Jonathan Schwabish

This week, our featured book is Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks, by Jonathan Schwabish. To kick off our feature, we are happy to crosspost an article in which Schwabish lays out five steps that researchers can take to give better presentations. This post was originally published on the Urban Institute’s blog, Urban Wire, on November 17, 2016.

Don’t forget to enter our book giveaway for a chance to win a free copy of Better Presentations!

Five Ways Researchers Can Improve Their Presentations
By Jonathan Schwabish

Too many researchers prepare presentations by simply converting a report into slides. Text becomes bullet points; tables and figures get copied and pasted. But presenting is a fundamentally different form of communication than writing. When we treat our presentation and paper identically, we miss this important distinction and the opportunity to share our work as effectively as possible.

In my new book, Better Presentations: A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks, I explain how to create, design, and deliver an effective presentation. Here are five tips from the book for giving better presentations. Read the rest of this entry »

November 28th, 2016

Book Giveaway! Better Presentations, by Jonathan Schwabish



Better Presentations

“Many smart people often become selfish idiots when they give a presentation. Jon’s much-needed book is a must read for just about anyone asked to share some slides.” — Seth Godin, author of Really Bad Powerpoint

This week, our featured book is Better Presentations
A Guide for Scholars, Researchers, and Wonks
, by Jonathan Schwabish. Throughout the week, we will be featuring content about the book and its author on our blog as well as on our Twitter feed and our Facebook page.

November 23rd, 2016

Why Do We Overeat at Thanksgiving?



Neurogastronomy

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, we are examining one of the darker traditions of the holiday: overeating. Sure, the food is delicious and plentiful, but we should know better. Are there scientific factors that can explain why we stuff ourselves every Thanksgiving?

The following is an excerpt from Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters, by Gordon Shepherd. In this excerpt, Shepherd begins by taking a close look at fast food and then moves on to some of the neurological reasons for why we overeat at Thanksgiving and other times of the year.

November 22nd, 2016

The Future of the Affordable Care Act



Health Care as a Right of Citizenship

“I also do not believe that in historical terms the ACA will be seen as anything more than a politically pragmatic and necessary step toward the evolution of a social right to health care for all Americans.” — Gunnar Almgren

This is the first of a series of posts in which Columbia University Press authors look at the implications of the result of the 2016 presidential election. In this post, Gunnar Almgren, author of Health Care as a Right of Citizenship: The Continuing Evolution of Reform, looks at the future of the Affordable Care Act, perhaps better known as ObamaCare, under a Trump presidency:

The Future of the Affordable Care Act
By Gunnar Almgren

President-Elect Donald Trump described the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as a “total disaster,” yet many analysts would argue the opposite. In terms of its central aim of dramatically reducing the number of Americans without health insurance, the ACA has been a resounding policy success, and even surpassed the projections of the Congressional Budget Office (Congressional Budget Office, Insurance Coverage Provisions of the Affordable Care Act, April 2014, www.cbo.gov/publication/45231).

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, in absence of the ACA, the numbers of Americans without health insurance coverage would have risen by 2015 to 54 million, or nearly two times the number of uninsured we actually have today. Further, the CBO now predicts that the ACA’s net costs to the federal government over the next decade will be $104 billion less than originally projected.

Nonetheless, it remains clear that with the election of Trump, and GOP majority support in both houses of Congress the ACA, in name if not in its most fundamental provisions, is in deep jeopardy. With this in mind, let’s consider the ACA in historical terms and then also in terms of the political economy of health care.

From the historical perspective, there are two plausible narratives that might emerge. The first narrative will define the ACA as a poorly conceived and ultimately failed expansion of the welfare state, akin to mainstream history’s appraisal of the Lyndon Johnson administration’s Great Society and War on Poverty social experiments of the 1960s. The second narrative, and in my opinion the more likely one, is that the ACA’s historical significance will not lie in its largely successful expansion of health care entitlements and insurance subsidies to millions of Americans, but rather in its affirmation by act of Congress of the idea that comprehensive health care must be available to all as a social right of citizenship. While previous acts of Congress sought to incrementally expand public and private health care insurance to the aged, poor, and the disabled, the ACA is unique in its embracement of universal health insurance coverage to all citizens as an explicit policy aim.

Although the conservative Congresses that followed the 2010 passage of the ACA have since endeavored to repeal it (and the hard right results of the 2016 elections might seem to guarantee such a repeal) what matters is that the mainstream American public now views access to affordable health care as crucial function of just and effective governance, and any proposed alternative to the ACA must be reconciled with that expectation. However the ACA might be redefined, repackaged , or even diminished–neither the key health care industry stakeholders (in particular the pharmaceutical , health insurance and hospital industries) nor the American public will tolerate a return to the 2009 pre-ACA regime of a failing employment-based insurance system, 49.6 million uninsured Americans, and an epidemic of safety-net hospital closures. Political rhetoric is one thing; economic and political reality is another.

While there are several reasons to predict the ACA’s survival, the penultimate reason in my view is the absence of a coherent conservative alternative that will not propel the nation toward the next catastrophic health insurance coverage crisis – a crisis that could result in truly radical health care reform that is an anathema to conservatism, namely universal social insurance for health care. It is this thought that keeps health insurance industry executives and investors awake at night. It should also be noted that under the ACA, the private health insurance industry on the whole has thrived –as happens when private industry markets are expanded by public fund subsidies.

In sum, I don’t share the view that the political resurgence of the GOP is synonymous with the demise of the ACA’s core provisions. Within two days of his election, Trump was already walking back from his campaign promise to repeal the ACA and now speaks in qualified and modest language about preserving such core provisions as retaining expanded insurance coverage to young adults and eliminating pre-existing condition protections.

I also do not believe that in historical terms the ACA will be seen as anything more than a politically pragmatic and necessary step toward the evolution of a social right to health care for all Americans. In the end, the basic policy strategy and structure of that ACA are substantially inadequate to such a task, both because of its inability to achieve universal health insurance coverage and because its substantive health- care provisions fall short of the equity and equality of opportunity requisites of political democracy. Such a platform can only built upon both social insurance for comprehensive health care and the resurgence of a national agenda to meaningfully reduce child poverty. These are the commitments that make a nation great.

November 22nd, 2016

New Book Tuesday: Russian Library and Chimeras of Form



Fourteen Little Red Huts and Other Plays

Our weekly listing of new books now available:

Fourteen Little Red Huts and Other Plays
Andrei Platonov. Edited by Robert Chandler. Translated by Robert Chandler, Jesse Irwin, and Susan Larsen, with notes by Robert Chandler and Natalya Duzhina.
(Russian Library)

Chimeras of Form: Modernist Internationalism Beyond Europe, 1914–2016
Aarthi Vadde

November 21st, 2016

They Said It Couldn’t Be Done! How to Cook Your Thanksgiving Turkey in the Dishwasher



Turkey

“Use the dishwasher! For the next holiday meal, I recommend that you prepare two turkeys. Cook one in the dishwasher, in a plastic bag, for several cycles of your machine.”—Herve This

With Thanksgiving just a couple of days away, we thought we provide some more practical (or somewhat practical) advice on cooking a turkey from none other than Hervé This, author of several books that explore the coming together of food and science to develop new ways of thinking about cooking, flavor, taste, and how we eat.

In an interview with Nature, This suggested the dishwasher as a possible cooking method:

Q: Another professional technique is to cook food for long periods at low temperatures in a vacuum-sealed bag. How might a home chef emulate this ‘sous-vide’ method?

Herve This: Use the dishwasher! For the next holiday meal, I recommend that you prepare two turkeys. Cook one in the dishwasher, in a plastic bag, for several cycles of your machine. In this way, you can get low temperatures. Butterfly the other turkey and cook it on the grill, creating the maximum expanse of delicious crispy skin. Then serve the moist, flavourful meat from the dishwasher turkey with the grilled skin. A good accompaniment would be foie gras, also cooked in the dishwasher at low temperature.

Now for those not comfortable with Maytag cuisine, here is an excerpt from Kitchen Mysteries: Revealing the Science of Cooking, also by Hervé This, on the science of roasting a turkey:

Since it is juicy, tender meat that we want, it is clear why there is no question of opening the oven while the meat is roasting. The water vapor that is released in a limited quantity could escape and then be replaced by the vaporization of a certain quantity of the juices. Opening the oven dries out the turkey. Neither, however, should one humidify the oven before putting the turkey in. In the presence of too much water, the surface water cannot evaporate, and the skin will not get crispy.

Having thus resolved the problem of the surface, the serious problem of tenderness within remains. We cannot disappoint our guests, who fear the pro­verbial dryness of the turkey.

Since tenderness results necessarily from the deterioration of the connec­tive tissue, let us consider this tissue. It principally contains three kinds of pro­teins: collagen, already discussed many times, reticulin, and elastin. Neither reticulin or elastin are notably altered by the heat of the oven, but the triple helixes of the collagen molecules can be broken up and form gelatin, which is soft when it is in water, as we all know.

Calculating the cooking time requires some skill, because the denaturation of the collagen and the coagulation of the muscle proteins (actin and myosin, mainly) take place at different temperatures and different speeds in the different parts of the turkey. It is necessary to know that the temperature of 70° (158°F) is essential for transforming the collagen into gelatin and tenderizing the mus­cles. But the longer the turkey remains at a high temperature, the more water it loses and the more its proteins risk coagulating. The optimal cooking time, consequently, is the minimum time it takes to attain the temperature of 70°C (158°F) at the center of the turkey.

Read the rest of this entry »

November 21st, 2016

“Party Rape” and the Celebration of Lack of Consent



Hunting Girls

The following is a guest post and supplement to her recent article in The Stone, the philosophy blog of The New York Times, by Kelly Oliver, W. Alton Jones Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University and author of many books, most recently Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from The Hunger Games to Campus Rape:

“Party Rape” and the Celebration of Lack of Consent
By Kelly Oliver

In the last week, three stories have appeared in The New York Times about campus rape: one about six women coming forward to report their experiences with a suspected serial rapist at the University of Wisconsin, another on Brigham Young University changing its blame-the-victim policy that made reporting rape while under the influence of alcohol an honor code violation for the victim, and the latest, an article on changing policies on campuses regarding alcohol in an attempt to stem growing problems connected with campus parties, including sexual assault. These are small steps forward in what has become an epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses. As the details of these cases make clear, the problem of campus rape involves a toxic combination of lack of reporting on the part of victims, the prevalence of rape myths that continue to blame victims, and the party culture on campus that spawns sexual assault even if it doesn’t cause it.

While rape is not new, the celebration of lack of consent at the heart of party rape is new. Sure, some men and boys have always “taken advantage” of women and girls using drugs and alcohol. But never before have we seen the public and open valorization of sexual assault and rape that we are seeing now, especially on college campuses. For example, a few years ago, Yale fraternity brothers marched around the freshman dorms chanting “No means yes, yes means anal.” Just this Fall, there were similar chants and banners welcoming freshman at Ohio State University, Western Ontario University, and Old Dominion. And, last year a fraternity at Texas Tech was suspended for flying a banner that read “No Means Yes.” Another frat was suspended at Georgia Tech for distributing an email with the subject line “Luring your rapebait,” which ended, “I want to see everyone succeed at the next couple parties.” And, in 2014 at Williams and Mary, fraternity members sent around an email message, that included the phrase: “never mind the extremities that surround it, the 99% of horrendously illogical bullshit that makes up the modern woman, consider only the 1%, the snatch.” Then there was the chant used at St. Mary’s University in Halifax to welcome new students: “SMU boys, we like them young. Y is for your sister, O is for oh so tight, U is for underage, N is for no consent, G is for grab that ass.” Read the rest of this entry »

November 18th, 2016

University Press Roundup: #UPWeek 2016 Edition



It’s University Press Week 2016! In celebration of this year’s excellent UP Week Blog Tour, we are happy to present a special University Press Week UP Roundup. You should check out our contribution to the week on the innovative South Asia Across the Disciplines series, and, from a previous year’s UP Week, take a look back at our University Press Roundup Manifesto to see why we do our Roundup posts every Friday.

Northwestern University Press’s blog celebrates its partnership with the Evanston Historical Society through honoring Charles Gates Dawes. Dawes was awarded the 1925 Nobel Peace Prize, served as Vice President of the United States under Calvin Coolidge, and was a proud citizen of Evanston. Charles Gates Dawes: A Life, by Annette Dunlap, was recently published.

Rutgers University Press’s blog commemorates the 250th anniversary of Queen’s College, which would later come to be known as Rutgers: The State University of New Jersey. Rutgers University Press reflects on their eventful year, reminding readers of the publication Rutgers: A 250th Anniversary Portrait, an illustrated survey highlighting Rutgers’ achievements and history, in addition to Rutgers Since 1945: A History of the State University of New Jersey and Scarlet and Black: Slavery and Dispossession in Rutgers History.

Fordham University Press’s blog emphasizes the importance of community through discussing the book Before the Fires: An Oral History of African American Life in the Bronx from the 1930′s to the 1960′s. This book is an extension of the “Bronx African American History Project,” which has recorded over 300 interviews in its 14 years of existence. The experience of writing this book “affirmed our vision of this book as a true community product, one which people whose lives were highlighted in the book could claim as a window into the world they grew up in, and still look back upon with great affection and respect,” says co-author Mark Naison.

University of Toronto Press’s blog celebrates its partnership with the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre. The post focuses on the importance of history and its role in education. “The Higher Education Division at University of Toronto Press believes in sharing knowledge by publishing accessible books for generations of students. The MNJcc believes in providing accessible programming for older generations. Together, these two communities have joined forces to provide accessible programming devoted to the sharing of knowledge.” Read the rest of this entry »