Guest lecture: The Bright and Dark Sides of Translating Russian Literature in Soviet Ukraine

Lada Kolomiyets
(Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, Ukraine; Visiting Professor at Dartmouth College, USA)

17 April 2024 (Wednesday) at 14:00 CET
Institute of World Literature SAS + online

Join Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 899 5934 9119
Passcode: 549052

This lecture will depict the dramatic conflicts of Ukrainian-Russian coexistence in the so-called “common cultural space” from the early 1920s to the early 1950s, which unfolded in the field of translation. Translating from and through Russian, as a mediating language, from the mid-1930s to the mid-1950s, reminded the slow but increasingly deadly compression of a rabbit by a boa constrictor. When in the post-Stalin era, this suffocating grasp partly relaxed, an entire school of translation emerged inflected against Russification. Its chief theorists included well-known translators of Russian prose such as Oleksa Kundzich, Stepan Kovhaniuk, and Maksym Rylsky, among others. As part of the historiographic description of Russian literature in Ukrainian translations, the lecture will examine reprints and retranslations alongside the first translated editions; it will illuminate the ideology-based market and the shifting character of the Soviet canon of classical Russian and foreign literature. Given the ambivalent role of the national writer and translator in colonial literature, it is crucial to ascertain the cultural positions from which translations of Russian-language literary works were carried out at different stages of the USSR. The traditional self-identification of Ukrainian translators as national writers, united by the idea of literature and translation as a nation-building function, provides a national framework for the study of translations, particularly those from Russian (as a closely related language) and, in general, for the scrutiny of selections in the repertoire of translated literature in Soviet Ukraine. Ukrainian writer-translators of the Soviet period faced political repression, persecution for “nationalism,” arrests and executions, while their translations were either destroyed or ruthlessly edited linguistically and ideologically, and many of them even several times. When their own life, or at least freedom, was at stake in Stalinist times, Soviet writer-translators often publicly criticized the work of their contemporaries or nearest predecessors, praising their own or somebody else’s subsequent retranslations and trying to adapt to ideological slogans that were imposed by the Kremlin.

Lada Kolomiyets is a DSc (Philology) in Translation Studies, Professor at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, currently Visiting Professor at Dartmouth College. Fulbright scholar at the University of Iowa (1996/97) and Pennsylvania State University (2017/18). An interdisciplinary researcher in literature, folklore, and translation studies, with three monographs, several textbooks for graduate students, literary anthologies, numerous chapters in collective volumes and articles in the leading peer-reviewed journals. Her books include monographs Conceptual and Methodological Grounds of Contemporary Ukrainian Translations of British, Irish, and North American Poetry (2004) and Ukrainian Literary Translation and Translators in the 1920s-30s (2013, 2nd ed. 2015), book chapters in Translating Russian Literature in the Global Context (2024), Translation Studies in Ukraine as an Integral Part of the European Context (2023), Translation under Communism (2022), Translation and Power (2020), etc., numerous peer-reviewed articles in the leading journals, as well as encyclopedic articles, in particular, in The Routledge Handbook of the History of Translation Studies (co-authored with Oleksandr Kalnychenko, 2024). She has held fellowships at Wenner-Gren Foundations, the Harris Distinguished Professorship Foundation, and others.