A new translation of Russian novelist Grossman’s delightful journal of his stay among the Armenians.
Composed two years before his death in 1964, this journal records the author’s reflections on the Armenian people among whom he lived for two months in 1961 as a “translator” for a famous Armenian novelist, Rachiya Kochar, although Grossman didn’t speak Armenian. Rather, rewriting his novel in collaboration with the vain, large-living author, Grossman, who was occasionally gripped by bowel trouble from the early stages of kidney cancer he was unaware of, moved among the humble, mountain-dwelling Armenians and found them enormously sympathetic, salt-of-the-earth people whose diversity, national pride and piety contrasted sharply with the Russian temperament. In this sprightly translation by the Chandler husband-and-wife team, who previously tackled Grossman’s Everything Flows and The Road, Grossman’s character sketches, executed with swift, loving strokes, provide simply charming reading. The author digresses as nimbly about the master craftsmen of Russian stoves found in the homes of the high-mountain villagers (“what quantities of bread, what a great deal of cabbage, how much living warmth his stoves have given birth to!”) as he does the touching customs of a rustic wedding he attended. Living among the Armenians, he witnessed a kind of timeless biblical nobility he conveys with artless simplicity in his own work.
Deft, poignant characterizations by an author who deserves a wider readership.