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Literary Collections Women Authors

Sofia Tolstaya, the Author

Her Literary Works in English Translation

translated by John Woodsworth & Arkadi Klioutchanski

by (author) Andrew Donskov

Les Presses de l'Université d'Ottawa/University of Ottawa Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2022
Women Authors, Russian & Former Soviet Union
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2022
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  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Nov 2021
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  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2022
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Dealing with the most topical questions of the time, Sofia Tolstaya’s artistic works—from parables to short stories, novellas, and memoirs—show deep insights into the social context of nineteenth-century Russia.
In his lengthy review of My Life (along with other Tolstaya publications) in Canadian Slavonic Papers, the eminent Tolstoy scholar Hugh McLean (2011) laments the fact that it has taken so long (almost a century after her death) to focus academic attention on Sofia Tolstaya, and that there has been no unified publication of her works, scattered as they are among dated journals or not published at all.
This book aims to help fill this lacuna by offering a critical introduction to her literary output as a writer in her own right, and presenting, for the first time, an anthology of her main artistic works, some in fresh English translation, and others never translated before.

About the authors

John Woodsworth (co-translator) is a former ATIO-certified translator, Member of the Literary Translators Association of Canada, and Member of the Russian Interregional Union of Writers. He has translated and/or edited many books and articles from Russian to English, including the nine-volume Ringing Cedars Series by Vladimir Megré and the thirteen-volume Teaching of the Heart series by Zinovia Dushkova. One of his specialties is the translation of rhyming poetry into English.


John Woodsworth's profile page

Arkadi Klioutchanski (co-translator) is Instructor in Russian Studies and Co-ordinator of the Russian programme in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures at the University of Ottawa. His special area of research is nineteenth-century Russian literature, in particular Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. Several volumes of his poetry in Russian have also been published.


Arkadi Klioutchanski's profile page

Andrew Donskov (author and editor) is Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, Distinguished University Professor and Founding Director, Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa. He has authored and/or edited many critical studies on nineteenth-century Russian literature, notably on Leo Tolstoy and Sofia Tolstaya. Another focus of his research and publication has been on Tolstoy’s relationship to the Canadian Doukhobors as well as Russian peasant sectarian writers.


Andrew Donskov's profile page

Excerpt: Sofia Tolstaya, the Author: Her Literary Works in English Translation (translated by John Woodsworth & Arkadi Klioutchanski; by (author) Andrew Donskov)

Song without words
Sasha was so overcome with grief [over the death of her mother], that she remained ill all winter. Spring found her flitting about as a mere shadow — emaciated, gloomy and capricious. From time to time, all of a sudden, for one reason or another she would break into uncontrollable sobbing and run to her room, where she would sit motionless the whole day without eating, refusing to see anyone, and only repeating: “Mama, where are you? Where are you?” [p. 262]
Suddenly the velvet silence of that May night resounded with the clear, sonorous tones of Mendelssohn’s “Song without words” in G-minor, under the capable hands of a true master pianist. The first note of the right hand, held for a single, imperceptible moment, rang deep, drawn out with a particular expressiveness. The left hand in the meantime companioned the melody of the right — not so much with its fingers as with its very breathing — whereupon the D-note could no longer be distinguished either in the right or the left hand; everything blended together in song — a song which not only spoke to Sasha of her great sorrow, but at the same time gave her comfort and promised her happiness, life and a brand new love.
It was not a song Sasha knew; in fact, she wanted to know nothing more at the moment; she didn’t even guess at first that this “Song without words” was actually emanating from the little yellowish dacha next door, or that its performer was playing it like someone convinced that nobody is listening. The performer of a musical composition in solitude has no self-consciousness of feeling; he suffers from no distraction of the mutual influence between artist and audience. Instead, he feels a kind of deep, mind-embracing calm, some sort of mysterious bond between the performer and the late composer. Such now was the performance of Mendelssohn’s “Song without words” in G-minor. [p. 269]

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