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Murray Edwards College
University of Cambridge

PEN Translates Award Winner: Dr Bryan Karetnyk

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    23 August 2023

    Dr Bryan Karetnyk, Visiting Fellow, has been awarded a PEN Translates Award for his translation, from Russian, of Happiness by Yuri Felsen.

    Dr Bryan Karetnyk is a scholar of twentieth-century Russian literature and culture. His research focuses on the writing of the Russian diaspora, with a particular emphasis on the intersection between literature and politics. He received his PhD in Russian Literature from University College London and his MA in Russian and Japanese from the University of Edinburgh. He has translated several major works by writers including Gaito Gazdanov, Boris Poplavsky and Yuri Felsen, and is the editor and principal translator of the landmark Penguin anthology Russian Émigré Short Stories from Bunin to Yanovsky (2017). He writes regularly for the Times Literary Supplement, the Financial Times and the Spectator.

    Bryan says:

    ‘It’s an honour to have my work on Yuri Felsen recognised like this by English PEN. The support they give translators and publishers through the PEN Translates awards is, without exaggeration, vital, and it’s a real endorsement not only of the literary quality of the project, but also of its contribution to bibliodiversity in the UK. Moreover, I’m thrilled to be in such excellent company.’

    Yuri Felsen was the pseudonym of Nikolai Freudenstein.  Born in St Petersburg in 1894, he emigrated in the wake of the Russian Revolution, first to Riga and then to Berlin, before finally settling in Paris in 1923.  In France, he became one of the leading writers of his generation, alongside the likes of Vladimir Nabokov; influenced by the great modernists such as Marcel Proust, James Joyce and Virginia Woolf, his writing stood at the forefront of aesthetic and philosophical currents in European literature.  Following the German occupation of France at the height of his career, Felsen tried to escape to Switzerland; however, he was caught, arrested and interned in Drancy concentration camp. He was deported in 1943 and killed in the gas chambers at Auschwitz.

    Books are selected for PEN Translates awards on the basis of outstanding literary quality, the strength of the publishing project, and their contribution to UK bibliodiversity.  Launched in 2012, with support from Arts Council England, the awards encourage UK publishers to acquire more books from other languages, whilst ensuring translators are acknowledged and paid properly for their work.  PEN Translates has now supported over 350 books translated from over 90 languages, awarding over £1.1m in grants.