1974

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The first volume of THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO appeared in English in the spring of 1974. Published in the original Russian just a few months earlier, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s book caused such a stir that the American translator, Thomas P. Whitney, a former Moscow bureau chief with the Associated Press, had to work very fast to produce the English version.

THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO is a three-volume, non-fiction, literary-historical record of the Soviet system of prisons and labour camps. While serving as an officer in the Red Army in 1944 Solzhenitsyn made derogatory remarks in letters from the front about Stalin’s handling of the war. He was arrested and sentenced to eight years’ hard labour. THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO, written between 1958 and 1967, is based on his own experience and the first-hand testimonies of more than 200 fellow prisoners.

Solzhenitsyn hid different parts of the manuscript with friends around Moscow and never worked on all of it at once. It was smuggled out of the country on microfilm, but he still hoped to be able to publish it in Russia first. However, in August 1973 the KGB seized a copy after interrogating one of the typists, Elizaveta Voronyanskaya, who was found hanged just days after her release. When he heard of her death, Solzhenitsyn gave Paris-based Editions du Seuil the go-ahead to publish the text in Russian. Six weeks after the first volume appeared he was charged with treason, deported from the Soviet Union and stripped of his Soviet citizenship.

The sheer quantity of detailed research and testimonies made it impossible for the Soviet authorities to discredit the book. It forced people in both the Soviet Union and the West to confront the reality of the Leninist-Stalinist prison camp system. In 2009 the book became mandatory reading in Russian schools. A 50th anniversary edition will be published as a single volume by Penguin Vintage Classics in November 2018, in the translation by Thomas P. Whitney and Harry Willets. THE GULAG ARCHIPELAGO has sold over thirty million copies in 35 languages, and has been hailed by historians as one of the most influential books of the twentieth century.

Solzhenitsyn was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1970, but feared he would not be allowed back to Russia if he travelled to Stockholm to receive it. He finally accepted the award at a ceremony in 1974, the year he was exiled.

1963

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In 1963 Bruno Schulz’s vivid, hypnotic short stories finally reached an English audience in a translation by Celina Wieniewska. The UK edition retained the Polish title: CINNAMON SHOPS, after the bakeries characteristic of the author’s Galician hometown of Drohobycz. In the United States the collection was renamed THE STREET OF CROCODILES, the title by which it is best known today. Schulz was also an accomplished visual artist, and his drawings were incorporated into the covers of both English first editions.

Schulz, a Jew, was shot in the Drohobycz ghetto in 1942. He thought and wrote in Polish; he didn’t know Yiddish but was fluent in German. He is credited as having translated Kafka’s THE TRIAL, but the attribution is controversial: he probably lent his name to a translation by his fiancée, Józefina Szelińska, on which he may also have collaborated. Schulz defamiliarised language with startling, evocative results. His two surviving works are written in a lush, lyrical style and have inspired many subsequent writers and artists.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn’s ONE DAY IN THE LIFE OF IVAN DENISOVICH was also first published in English in 1963, in a translation from the Russian by Ralph Parker. This revelatory depiction of life in a Soviet gulag, based on the author’s experience, became an instant classic and has been retranslated several times. The unexpurgated 1991 translation by Harry T. Willetts is the only one to have been authorized by Solzhenitsyn himself.

A spot on this #TA60 list must also go to the much-loved Moomin children’s stories by Tove Jansson. Jansson was part of Finland’s Swedish-speaking minority and wrote her books in Swedish. Many were translated into English prior to the start of our list in 1958, but 1963 saw the publication of TALES FROM MOOMINVALLEY, translated by Thomas Warburton.