It happened fourteen years ago. I received a mysterious phone call. I heard on the line a female voice with a strong accent, although she spoke very correct Spanish. She told me her name was Liudmila Sinianskaia, and added she was a Russian translator –the translator of Julio Cortázar among other classic writers in my language. She had read my novel La flaqueza del bolchevique, she said, and had found it a remarkable piece of literature that deserved to be offered to Russian readers, and not only for its –slight, actually– connection with Russian History. She told me she had already translated it, and had offered it to the prestigious Russian literary magazine Novy Mir, whose editors had agreed to publish it. She asked for my permission, offering me the sum of 100 dollars for the translation rights. It was all the magazine could afford, she apologized, and could not be transferred to my bank account due to legal restrictions to foreign payments in Russia. She would take the money with her in cash in her next journey to Spain, she assured.
I was astonished.
Notwithstanding my astonishment, I said yes. It was my first translation into a foreign language, and it was already done. It was also flattering to me that the misadventures of my poor Bolshevik (in fact, a Madrid-based investment banker in his thirties, who pretended to be some sort of revolutionary in order to impress a 15-year teenage girl) could be read by people from the country where real Bolsheviks emerged. I checked the information about the magazine, and it was indeed (it is, still) a reference in Russian culture, famous for having published, among others, the works of Solzhenitsyn. I never expected to receive the money, and this was not at all my reason for agreeing on the publication.
Nonetheless, I was paid, exactly as promised. Some months later, my phone rang again. The Russian translator was in Madrid. She had taken with her from Russia two copies of the magazine and the 100 dollars they owed me. This is how I finally met this impressive and really wise woman, who happened to be my first translator. The book, after keeping in Novy Mir its original title (Slabina Bolshevika, in Russian), was published four years later by the Russian publishing house Symposium with the title The Bolshevik Syndrome.
Fourteen years after, the same novel opens a new way for me. In this case, the way that leads to readers in English. I have had conversations with American and British publishers and translators along this time with regard to some of my more than twenty novels, but they never ended in the practical result of having one of them published. Why, I have some ideas that perhaps this is neither the place nor the moment to deploy. Some of the translators even translated entire stories, as did John Holland, thanks to whom I was able to offer one of them in my webpage.
But it had to be again the Bolshevik who found the hole in the wall. Thanks to a brave new publishing house, Hispabooks, I may present today the English translation of La flaqueza del bolchevique, a title for which the two excellent translators, Nick Caistor and Isabelle Kaufeler, have found a beautiful English equivalent: The Faint-hearted Bolshevik. The cover opens this post and you can find more information about the book, including purchasing instructions and its first chapter, by following this link.
I am really happy with this edition, not only for being the first of one of my books in English, a language I have often enjoyed as a reader, but because of the imaginative and subtle exercise of translation made by Nick and Isabelle, who have captured the poetry that lies beyond the cynical narrative of this poor loser disguised as a winner, who lives in a world where everything has been ruined except the instinct that makes him recognize (and love) beauty and kindness.
I’d like to thank my editors, Gregorio Doval and Ana Pérez Galván, for their trust in my work and the exquisite efforts they devote to their job. Furthermore, they have proved to have good eye: their two first bets are two authors, José Ovejero and myself, who were awarded shortly after the signing of the contract the two most important literary prizes in Spain (Planeta and Alfaguara)
Let me share with you an excerpt of this beautiful translation. I hope it will invite you to read the rest of the book:
They will sentence me one day, I suppose, and it’s possible that when I resign myself to deserving it I’ll find peace. She will come at night, when I am expecting the arrival of the nightmare my faults have earned me, and suddenly she will be the happy, mysterious Rosana of our first meeting, brushing the fringe off my forehead while her pupils dilate and flood her blue gaze. She will smile and she will say my real name, the one I always hid from her, and so, in the end, the filthy Bolshevik will know that the young Grand Duchess has pardoned him.
All the best.