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Maria Stepanova longlist author interview

Maria Stepanova longlist author interview

Maria Stepanova, longlisted author of ‘In Memory of Memory,’ and the book’s translator, Sasha Dugdale, talk to us about their research methods and the difference between translating poetry and prose.

Maria Stepanova:

How does it feel to be longlisted?

It feels everything at once: exhilarating, humbling, inspiring; most of all, I'm just happy that my book is placed into the best possible context - next to the works of the authors I admire.

Describe how you carried out your research.

I don't think there was something special about it besides the time it took me to get started. There was a lot of archival work and a certain amount of travel - it felt necessary to be physically present in the places I was writing about, to follow the trajectories of the people I was trying to get closer to. So I was endlessly moving: from Russia to Ukraine, from the rural Pochinki to St Petersburg and Paris, looking for some traces of the times past.

Who are your favourite non-fiction writers?

The list is too long to fit into any questionnaire; the first three names that come to mind immediately are Janet Malcolm, Richard Holmes, Susan Sontag, Roberto Calasso, James Baldwin - that already makes five and I'd love to go on and on.

What are you working on next?

Another prose book, a blend of fiction and non-fiction (I'm always hesitating to make a definition) based on the story I've been thinking about for the last three years.

Sasha Dugdale:

You have also translated Maria’s poetry. How does the process differ for translating prose?

Every time I think about the difference between Maria’s poetry and her prose I am drawn to considering the similarities between them. Both are intriguing and suggestive, both play with the boundaries of speech and genre and deal with the same areas of collective and personal memory. Both are equally musical: the prose is highly patterned and rhythmically constructed. If there is a difference it is perhaps that Maria’s poetry uses dense patterns of imagery to suggest the thinking she develops more explicitly in her prose work. But there is seamless continuity between prose and poetry and both are rich and rewarding to read and translate. 

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