Sunday, 14 March 2010

Letters From My Mill launched

Letters From My Mill has been launched successfully launched.
I managed to find a new second hand van with 24 hours to spare before leaving for Ceridwen. Also got the printers fixed in time to produce several copies of The Rainbow Pony, And Thereby Hangs a Tail and A Sheepdoggerel Anthology. So I managed to get to the book fair with a reasonable supply of all my books.

Here is me reading the opening chapter --

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

A Nice Plaudit From The Past

The other day I came across this article. Way back several years I was part of the translation project of Pushkin's collected works in English for his centenary. The article has my name in its original form, not the Welsh spelling I now write under.

From The Herald Scotland

Pushkin for the people A labour of love has ensured the complete works of the Russian master are available in English.

Ed Pearce

Published on 27 Dec 2003

Alexander Pushkin was already established as the Russian writer when, at 37, he was killed in a duel in February 1837. For Russian speakers, he is still the dominant figure, rated above the great novelists rather as Shakespeare stands above Fielding, Dickens and Jane Austen. The anglophone world limped behind, a translation of Eugene Onegin, the great verse novel, appearing in 1881. And Pushkin's work, 760 lyric poems, short fictions and autobiographical writings, appeared drib-and-drabbishly in the late nineteenth century. We know him largely from opera: Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin or Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov. As for Glinka's Pushkin setting, Ruslan and Ludmilla, we know the overture. Now, a non-Russian speaker, a Scottish politician and businessman, has organised, commissioned and called up scholars until, after 16 years' interrupted labour, he is Pushkin's impresario in the English-speaking world. In 1987, Iain Sproat went to the British Museum exhibition marking the 150th anniversary of the Russian's death. He enjoyed an epiphany, a burst of exhilaration sending him back to works he knew to ask: ''Why no complete translation?'' and ''Can I make it happen?'' He began conventionally, circulating major publishers and finding them glumly unquixotic. But a Macmillan editor pursued the idea after transferring to Pickering & Chatto, and a start was made. Sproat called up the best academic minds until he was chairing a board of 15 distinguished scholars who advised, translated (or found translators), adjudicated on offerings and set Russian meaning against English impact. Sproat knew the central importance of that from the start. His own first acquaintance with Eugene Onegin had been in a literal translation by Vladimir Nabokov, the super-subtle Russian writer in English, yet, for all his distinction, it failed. Sproat was taking the advice of academics such as John Bayley, Tony Briggs, of Oxford, who best understood the problems of accessible language, the leading American Pushkin scholar, J Thomas Shaw, of the University of Wisconsin, the translator/critic, Tatiana Wolf, and academician Dmitri Likhachev and Professor Leonid Arinstein, Russian authorities on Pushkin.

{He knew that} every kind of difficulty, financial, legal and administrative, would be thrown up like road blocks over the 16 years before triumphant completion last month, but relations with scholars, particularly both Russians, Shaw and another American, James Falen, were good. They shared a purpose, and believed in it. The same was true of the project's patrons, Raisa Gorbacheva, now sadly gone, and Prince Michael of Kent, helpfully a Russian speaker. But prominent among the roadblocks were publishing difficulties. Sproat found that the Pickering & Chatto arrangement didn't work. Its successors, Cambridge University Press, worried about costs, would withdraw after four years. Biting the bullet and the overdraft, Sproat undertook publication himself. This created problems of intermittency. He had been able to manage things because, since 1983, the former member for Aberdeen South was out of parliament. In 1992 he not only got back but was quickly made number two at the Department of Heritage, handling tourism, broadcasting, the arts and sport. As for money, the Russians, living through successive crises, were sympathetic but not expansive. Essentially, he bore the costs himself - well in excess of (pounds) 100,000. The caravan moved on, targets were set and largely met. There should be 15 volumes, coming out in batches of five, the first to appear on June 6, 1999, the anniversary of Pushkin's birth, the second in 2000. Both objectives were achieved but the final batch ran into difficulties over two volumes. One of these, The History of Peter, exists in Russian only in note form. As this impossible text drew from Daphne Percival an exceptional piece of scholarship, the time was well lost. Translations generally turned up surprises. Sproat had been approached by Roger Clarke, a civil servant who had worked for him at the Department of Trade from 1980 to 1983. He had done a prose translation of Onegin: might they be interested? Clarke's brilliant work simply had to be accepted. It has been published in one volume with James Falen's verse translation. At the publication dinner, Leonid Arinstein remarked, as someone reading six languages, that only English has the affinities with Russian to serve a text, in prose or verse, with full effect. There was good cause to celebrate. The first tranche of five volumes took the supreme prize at the Moscow Book Fair in 1999. The Russian authorities have shown enormous pleasure in the achievement, throwing receptions and that famous banquet, at which the food of Pushkin's day was served and where, along with the ineluctable vodka and the Georgian wine, some wellwisher, mindful of the Scottish connection, laid on quantities of Barr's Irn Bru. The huge task is complete. Orthodox publishing has been by-passed, 100 translators have submitted, and after 16 years we possess every published word of Alexander Pushkin in our own language. In the words of Raisa Gorbacheva: ''A heroic and noble undertaking!'' Thanks to Sproat's scholars, the supreme Russian poet can be ''Our Pushkin''.

Friday, 5 March 2010

It must be a conspiracy

I have been intermittently trying to do various blog and site related things but my brain has been totally jiggered by the rapid advance of the book do and the fact that my car and printers are dead. At least I think one of the latter has now recovered having finally decided to tell me what was wrong.
The car is in the garage still in bits and the insurance engineer has been to look at it and then gone off to do sums and talk to colleagues. Meanwhile I am a mile and a half from any shops, doctor etc and dependent on lifts.
My new books have arrived and are lovely -- mainly due to Griff taking over the formattinmg. Of the books I make in house two were down to one copy of each. So I have been trying against the odds to get some more done. After all a publisher at a book fair showing one copy per title wouldn't warrant even a passing glance.
As soon as I got down to it the laser printer refused to work or to show what was wrong [it used to very specific even if a liar at times] so I went over to the epson and printed quite a lot of pages till that decided, also not showing the usual 'need so-and-so' popup, to print only stripes. I got in touch with a national firm of printer repairers who came out pretty fast and serviced both and left me happy with two working printers. The next day I printed the rest of my 16 copies and started bookbinding. Next morning the laser refused to print. Rang the printer people who have relisted me for a visit and turned on epson. Printed stripes but I knew black was low, replaced it and got a couple of nice copies. Then asked for a page of photos and was rewarded by photos covered in pools of black ink. So rang abd reported that. So no printers. Did all sewing and gluing and now have 8 copies of Sheepdoggerel Antholgy and 8 of Thereby Hangs a Tail, the latter minus covers.
So I decided to get back to trying to understand the blog situation.