Sabrina Jaszi (2016 ALTA Mentee)

Sabrina Jaszi  Sabrina Jaszi is a fiction writer and translator of Russian fiction and poetry, based in Illinois. She earned her M.F.A. in fiction writing from the University of Florida and also holds an M.S. in Library Science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she currently works on Slavic digital projects at the university library.  

Sabrina grew up in a bilingual French-speaking household with parents who loved to read and travel. As a student of Oberlin College she enrolled in a course in Russian Decadence taught by Russian scholar Tim Scholl and soon after began studying Russian.  In Comparative Literature classes at Oberlin, she was introduced to a great swath of literature in and on translation and, during a year abroad in St. Petersburg, completed a translation of a contemporary Russian short story as part of her thesis paper. After graduating, she spent time in Ukraine where she continued to study and read Russian and had her first translation gig, translating political and economic news. Later, at the University of Florida, she began to pursue literary translation more actively and consistently. With the support of Michael Hofmann, a poetry faculty member and accomplished translator, as well as of her classmates (including former ALTA honorees Claire Eder and Hai-Dang Phan), she translated the work of contemporary Russian poet Andrei Rodionov.  Later still, at the University of Illinois, she first attempted translation of a work a fiction, a story by the émigré author Sergei Dovlatov. As a fiction writer herself, she felt at home with the form, and eager to pursue other fiction projects. Also at the University of Illinois, she first attempted a translation into Russian. Together with her instructor, translator and translation scholar Roman Ivashkiv, she completed a Russian-language translation of Leonard Michaels’ list story “In the Fifties.”  Thanks to all of these individuals and institutions, translation has become an essential part of her creative practice and of her perpetual and ongoing study of Russian.  For the last several years Sabrina has also studied Uzbek language and hopes to begin work soon on translations from Uzbek.

Sabrina’s current translation project is a book-length collection of short stories and novellas by Reed Grachev (1935-2004), a Leningrad author who, though greatly admired by his contemporaries, published little in the Soviet Union. He is the author of the 1967 story collection Где твой дом? (Where is Your Home?) and the 1994 collection Ничей брат (No One’s Brother), as well as the translator of a 1981 collection of the works of Saint-Exupery. Two posthumous anthologies of his writing and translations were published in 2013 and 2014. Sabrina was drawn to Grachev for his voice (Grachev writes beautifully from the perspective of children, for example) and timeless, unfussy realism. He describes his world—that of an orphan, that of a Soviet citizen, that of a writer—in exceedingly personal terms, gracefully, and with humor. In 2014, a German-language collection of Grachev’s stories was published, but little of his work has been translated into English. Sabrina greatly looks forward to continuing work on this project with the support and mentorship of Marian Schwartz, as well as to sharing some of her translations of Grachev’s singular and affecting stories at the ALTA 2016 conference.

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