Заслуженная победа Г.Кановича

Поздравляем дорогого Григория Семеновича Кановича и его супругу Ольгу Макаровну с первой премией за книгу "Очарование сатаны" (перевод на английский Исраэля Эллиота Коэна) на конкурсе Европейского банка реконструкции и развития.

В конкурсе участвовали 40 авторов от Марокко до Монголии и от Эстонии до Египта.

Леонид Финкель, Владимир Аролович, Светлана Аскёнова-Штейнгруд, Александр Каневский, Аркадий Крумер, Леонид Нузброх, Ася Тепловодская,Любовь Хазан, Ирина Сапир, Ирина Явчуновская, Татьяна Краковская, Михаил Ландбург, Шейва Гольцман, Лев Альтмарк, Хелен Лимонова

Читайте подробности (на английском языке).


Devilspel wins EBRD Literature Prize 2020


20,000 prize will be split between Lithuanian author and his translator

Devilspel, a novel by Grigory Kanovich and translated from Russian by Yisrael Elliot Cohen, has won the EBRD Literature Prize 2020.

The international prize, announced online today, was created in 2017 by the EBRD, in partnership with the British Council.

The €20,000 prize will be split between the author and translator.

The EBRD Literature Prize champions the literary richness of its regions of operations, which include almost 40 countries stretching from Morocco to Mongolia, Estonia to Egypt. The Prize was also created to illustrate the importance of literary translation and to introduce the depth and variety of the voices and creativity from these regions to the English-speaking public and a wider global audience.

Devilspel, published by Noir Press, evokes the lost world of Lithuanian Jews during the Second World War.

Rosie Goldsmith, Chair of the independent judging panel, describes the winning novel as “a literary microcosm of world history related through the lives of ordinary people. Devilspel is a moving and elegant novel of fine character portraits, told in restrained but beautiful prose, is set in a small town at a watershed moment of Lithuanian history when ethnic cleansing and the Holocaust enter the lives of the local Jews and non-Jews alike, dividing neighbours and families into persecuted and persecutors. A perfect narrative arc, starting in a cemetery and ending in a cemetery and peopled with memorable characters, such as Danuta, Eliesheva and Gedalye. It is never heavy-handed or breast-beating in spite of its horrific and heart-breaking subject matter. Translator and author are a perfect fit: the translator wears the mantle of the author as if they were the same size and have travelled together on the same journey.”

Suma Chakrabarti, President of the EBRD, said: “The EBRD Literature Prize recognises the key role that the writer plays in society and also recognises the importance of the translator in bringing these writers’ voices and their ideas to a wider English-speaking audience. No less important, our Prize aims to promote awareness of the depth and variety of culture in the 38 countries in which we invest. The Bank also very much appreciates the support provided by the British Council, and above all the EBRD’s shareholders for funding the Bank’s Community Initiative, which sponsors the Literature Prize.”

Grigory Kanovich is one of the most prominent modern Lithuanian Jewish writers. He has written more than ten novels – a virtual epic saga – dealing with the vicissitudes of the history of Eastern European Jewry from the 19th century to the present day. Kanovich was born into a traditional Jewish family in the Lithuanian town of Jonava. He has dedicated his life, in his own words, “to what has been lost, to what has been destroyed - the small Jewish town.” Kanovich has been awarded the Medal of the Order of the Lithuanian Grand Duke Gediminas and the Order for Merits to Lithuania. In 2014 he was awarded the National Prize for Culture and Arts. His novel Shtetl Love Song was awarded the Liudas Dovydenas Prize by the Lithuanian Writers’ Union.


EBRD LITERATURE PRIZE 2020 WINNER ANNOUNCED

Winner of EBRD Literature Prize 2020 asks, what makes people turn to good or evil?

“I have tried to create a written monument to the Lithuanian Jews”, Grigory Kanovich, who at 91 is the last major novelist to remember the lost world of eastern Europe’s shtetl life before the Second World War, has said of his ten books.

Grigory Kanovich explains how difficult it was to write "Devilspel"

The Jews of Lithuania were almost all killed when the Nazis invaded in 1941, with both Nazis and local collaborators carrying out the murders. (Kanovich himself, then just 12 years old, escaped to safety in Russia with his family; he returned only after the war was over). The destruction of the Jewish community in one small town is the tragedy at the heart of Devilspel, a memorable novel which came out recently in a translation from Russian to English and is now a finalist for this year’s EBRD Literature Prize.

Interview with the translator Yisrael Elliot Cohen

Devilspel movingly describes the lives of people affected by the massacre in the settlement of Mishkine in the summer of 1941, as the Germans arrive. But it has a broader theme; it’s also a philosophical inquiry into what makes people turn to evil or retain their humanity.

Mishkine is one of those towns where Lithuanians and Jews have rubbed along together for centuries, speaking their different languages and minding their own business, without catastrophic problems. But as the war comes closer and the Germans arrive, all that suddenly changes. Some Lithuanians who see their traditional Russian rulers as oppressors greet the German as liberators. Relationships are torn apart as collaborators implement the anti-Jewish orders of their new masters. There is no place any longer for the Jewish minority have been Mishkine’s tailor, newspaper salesman, butcher, miller, doctor, and gravedigger. Rounded up together by neighbours who will profit from the new German connections, the local Jews disappear from history.

Yet this is not a story about a massacre. It’s more subtle and interior than that. Instead, readers follow the lives of two families, including, in the days after their relatives have disappeared, a few who remain alive, sharing their agonising questions about human and divine justice in a world gone mad.

Grigory Kanovich’s writing, both while he lived in Soviet Lithuania and then, after he emigrated in 1993, in Israel, has been devoted to this theme, “because I was interested in the life of little Jewish towns in the last war, because no one had written a word or taken an interest in them before. So I took an interest and wrote my novels.”

His books, translated into 14 languages, have sold 1.5 million copies in Russian and won many prizes. His last novel, the very autobiographical Shtetl Love Story, describes his own family’s escape from the Jewish town of Jonava in 1941, and was published when he was 85. It was the first of his books to be translated into English.

Devilspel, written earlier, has more recently been published in an English translation by Yisrael Elliot Cohen, who taught Russian literature at the University of Illinois before becoming an academic in Israel after 1979. The translation took years, Cohen says. “It’s a great book, I think, and very complex. Therefore, as a translator, I felt a great responsibility towards the author but also towards the potential reader. Grigory has a unique voice and he combines lyrical, tragic and even humorous elements, and one has to find the words and ways of expression that the target audience can also understand and see where he’s coming from.”

The novel begins and ends in Mishkine’s Jewish cemetery, run by the thoughtful Danuta Hadassa. She’s there because she long ago fell in love with the Jewish grave-digger, but by blood she is Polish and by religion a Catholic. Her sons, Yakov and Aron, fall in love with sisters, Elisheva and Reizel, the daughters of the town’s Jewish tailor, Gedalye Bankvecher. Silver-tongued, Stalin-loving, pork-eating Aron has disappeared off to Moscow, leaving his wife Reizel behind. The quieter Yakov stays home, converts to Judaism, and visits Elisheva, an idealist who wants to emigrate to Palestine and is learning farming out in the countryside. While Yakov courts her, he helps his mother run the graveyard, where Danuta cherishes the Jewish dead she’s cared for for so long. Because Elisheva lives out in the countryside, she is not caught in the round-up of the town’s Jews. To keep her safe, her Lithuanian farmer boss then has her baptised. Danuta, meanwhile, doesn’t know whether the Nazis will even see her as a Jew, but wants to go on looking after the Jewish dead. So she and her son remain at the cemetery as the novel’s final events unfold. The novel ends among the Jewish graves, as it began, but by the end of the book the cemetery is deserted and overgrown, inhabited only by ravens.

For an author on record as saying that a cemetery is “the home of the memory of the living,” that abandoned place gives a bleak picture of what the war left behind in Lithuania.

What must it have been like for Kanovich and his family to return, in the late 1940s, to a homeland from which 95 per cent of Jews had disappeared? And how does today’s Lithuania remember this past? Post-Soviet governments have made efforts to end an era of amnesia, especially in the capital, Vilnius, where almost all the Jewish holy places of a city once known as “the Jerusalem of Lithuania” were destroyed, but where memorial plaques now mark them and the Nazi-era ghetto, and there’s a Jewish museum. But the fate of the shtetls – where many more people died - is less well known. Kanovich’s poet and essayist son, Sergey, is trying to change that, working on a memorial complex in and around the small town of Šeduva called the Lost Shtetl, which includes a restored cemetery, and a museum which will open in 2022. Still, when asked what he thought of Lithuania’s approach, Grigory Kanovich says, “Lithuania has done something to remember the Jews of the past, but it could and should have done a lot more.”

“A lot of the book takes place in the cemetery, and this is a tremendous metaphor for what happened to European Jewry,” translator Cohen says. “The question is the responsibilities of those who murdered, those who tried to protect or shelter, and there were both, among the Lithuanians.”

“The title of the book Devilspel has to do with the temptation one has to look out for oneself and not others. One of the main Lithuanian characters decides to shelter a Jewess, at the risk of his own life, and that’s fantastic. As with most great authors, through the individuals, one learns about universal questions. Here I think there’s a very strong universal aspect.”

In Devilspel, as she surveys the wreckage of the graves in her cemetery, Danuta utters a last cry of despair, of hope and humanity extinguished: ‘Oh Lord! Great God! Have You grown deaf and blind? God, what will happen to the living if You, the Omnipotent and All-Merciful One, cannot even protect the dead?

By Jane Ross

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