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Presented By: Slavic Languages & Literatures

Unmaking a Russian, Making An American: Nicholas Wreden's Life in Translation

Muireann Maguire

Colloquium with Muireann Macquire Colloquium with Muireann Macquire
Colloquium with Muireann Macquire
In 1935, bookseller Nicholas Wreden published a memoir called "The Unmaking of a Russian", describing his journey from a middle-class, patriotic identity in late Imperial Russia though his flight from the Revolution and reinvention as an American citizen with a comfortable home in White Plains, NY. Yet in the twenty years before his sudden death in 1955 at the age of 53, Wreden would live many more lives - as a highly regarded translator from Russian, as a bookstore manager for Scribner's, and as an editor and a publishing executive (for Dutton and Little, Brown) commissioning both Russian and American literature. In his many influential roles, he helped choose the books selected for reading by US troops (the Armed Services Editions distributed during the Second World War) as well as determining the Russian-language literature available to America's Russian diaspora through his involvement with the Chekhov Publishing House. In this paper, I will explore how Wreden's self-described 'unmaking' as a Russian led him to live many parallel American lives, and why his double role as a translator and as an editor was significant in shaping our conception of what Russian literature means today. This paper is part of a book project on how literary translators formed the American reception of Russian literature in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries, funded by the European Research Council (ERC).

Muireann Maguire is Professor of Russian and Comparative Literature at the University of Exeter, UK. Her academic specializations include contemporary literary translation (and publishing), Gothic-fantastic literature, fictional representations of pregnancy and childbirth, and the nineteenth-century Russian novel. Her book Stalin’s Ghosts: Gothic Themes in Early Soviet Literature was published by Peter Lang in 2012; in 2021 she co-edited (with Timothy Langen) Reading Backwards: An Advance Retrospective on Russian Literature (Open Book). She has published two anthologies of Russian supernatural tales in her own translation, Red Spectres (2012) and White Magic (2021).She has published articles on wizards, breastfeeding, spaceships to Mars, and other academic topics in Modern Language Review, Slavic Review, the Slavonic and East European Review, and elsewhere. As Principal Investigator on RUSTRANS, a research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC), she is currently working on a book project about literary translators and editors in the USA.

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Colloquium with Muireann Macquire Colloquium with Muireann Macquire
Colloquium with Muireann Macquire

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