“This book will change the way you see the world around you”: Zabolotsky’s “Columns”

His poems took Leningrad by storm

When Columns, a slim volume of poems written by an unknown young Russian poet named Nikolai Zabolotsky, appeared in 1929, it took the literary world of Leningrad [St. Petersburg] by storm. Zabolotsky was not part of the city’s artistic elite, having arrived in Leningrad from the provinces only eight years earlier, but the privations and confusion he found in the city following the 1917 Revolution and ensuing civil war stimulated his poetic imagination. Zabolotsky’s translator Dmitri Manin describes his poetry as portraying “a worldview with no oppositions, no differences between the living and dead, abstract and concrete, naive and sophisticated, artful and artless, meaningful and meaningless, high and low, important and trivial, funny and sad. It’s all mixed inseparably…”

Now you will have a chance to hear his translator, Dmitri Manin, discuss the new published Columns ((ARC Publications, 2023) at the Stanford Bookstore on Thursday, Mar 7 2024, 5 – 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. What’s more, I will be moderating the discussion. I’d love to see you there!

Los Angeles Review of Books editor emertis, the poet Boris Dralyuk,  wrote: “The early poems of Nikolai Zabolotsky present to us images of such stark and surprising vividness that they continue to stun nearly a century after their publication. Dmitri Manin’s translations retain the freshness of Zabolotsky’s vision – that of an imaginative outsider thrust into a world torn apart and remade, haphazardly, by a bloody revolution and civil war – as well as the solemn music that effectively counterpoints the poet’s cavalcade of novel images. This book will change the way you see the world around you.”

Dmitri Manin, translator of Columns 

Dmitri Manin is a physicist, programmer and award-winning poetry translator. His translations into Russian span the range from Robert Burns to Allen Ginsberg to contemporary American poets. His translations into English have been published in journals and anthologies, including The Best Literary Translation, forthcoming in 2024 from Deep Vellum. Nikolai Zabolotsky’s Columns is Manin’s first book in English.

Cynthia L. Haven is a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar and book author. She writes regularly for The Times Literary Supplement, numerous other periodicals and her award-winning blog, “The Book Haven”.

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