Monday, 30 September 2013

Translation Transformed conference report

Translation Transformed conference 20-22 Sept 2013
(l to r Richard Demarco, EU Citizen of the Year, Dr Ekaterina Genieva, director of the state Library for Foreign Literature and Evgeny Reznichenko, director of the Institute of Translation)

A galaxy of Russian literary stars – editors, authors and translators – descended on the historic spa town of Moffat in the south of Scotland for our conference on translation 20-22 Sept 2013.  The delegation included Evgeny Reznichenko,  director of the Institute of Translation in Moscow, Dr Ekaterina Genieva director of the Library for Foreign Literature Moscow, the  directors of four Russian ‘literary museums’: Dmitry Bak of the State Literary Museum in Moscow (also a member of the President’s committee for the arts); Antonina Klyuchareva and Nadezhda Pereverzava of Tolstoy’s Yasnaya Polyana; Tamara Melnikova of Lermontov’s ‘Tarkhanhy’ and Svetlana Melnikova of Vladimir-Suzdal, Natalya Ivanova editor in chief of the literary journal ‘Znamya’, Alexander Livergant chair and doyen of the Russian Translators Association, Alexei Varlamov biographer and novelist and a dozen more. The British speakers and contributors included Robyn Marsak of the Scottish Poetry Library who, through the good offices of Moffat Book Events is supervising new translations of Lermontov by contemporary Scottish poets to be published by Carcanet early in 2014; Dr Peter France formerly of Edinburgh University, Dr Oliver Ready, Research Fellow of St Anthony’s College Oxford and director of Russkiy Mir programme, Alan Riach professor of Scottish Literature University of Glasgow, Dr Tom Hubbard, poet, Dr Irina Kirillova, University of Cambridge and Richard Demarco EU Citizen of the Year 2013.  The conference was opened by Cabinet Secretary of State for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP.  Chair of Moffat Book Events Professor Andrew Wheatcroft made a speech of welcome and I was the conference moderator.

Among many highlights of the conference were presentations by Alan Riach, reading his inspired translations from the Gaelic into Scots, Chris Brookmyre on  hilariously alarming exchanges with inept translators of his best-selling crime novels, Alexei Varlamov on his literary inspiration (based on a Soviet childhood), Natalya Ivanova on contemporary Russian fiction and three remarkable students of translation from Glasgow  - the list could go on.

The Russian delegation made flying visits on either side of the conference to Scottish literary destinations from their base at the elegant 18th century John Adams- designed Moffat House hotel, including to the Robert Burns Centre in Alloway,  and the Prince of Wales’s Dumfries House in Ayrshire; and to Abbotsford,  the magnificent newly -renovated Borders home of  Sir Walter Scott, to Kelvingrove in Glasgow and to Edinburgh.  Preparations were also made for a series of continuations during 2014 to mark the UK Year of Russian Culture and language, including an exhibition of photographs of Moffat people and places by Maria Buylova with interviews by Head of Exhibitions at the Library for Foreign Literature Tatyana Feoktistova to be opened in Moscow on Oct 22 2014, a conference on Lermontov in Moffat 26-28 Sept 2014 and a Russian strand in Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival and at other Scottish literary festivals . An exhibition of the series of paintings by Richard Demarco of Scotland’s rural roads ‘The Road to Meikle Seggie’ will open in Moscow June 2014.

2014 is the bicentenary of the birth of Lermontov, whose Learmont ancestors came from Scotland. Artefacts and garments made from a bolt of Lermontov tartan were ordered from Moffat Mill, an outlet of the pan-British firm Edinburgh Woollen Mill for this year of celebration, to be sold at Lermontov museums and events in Russia and elsewhere.  Other Moffat products such as Moffat Toffee and Uncle Roy’s condiments, local cheese and smoked fish , pottery and other crafts will be in the exhibition which is intended to show Moffat as a microcosm of  rural Scotland today.

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Welcome to Moffat - and TRANSlation TRANSformed

The Moffat Ram
Here is Moffat Book Events' chairman Professor Andrew Wheatcroft's welcome speech to our conference reception last night (Friday 20th Sept 2013);

  "Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Vice-Consul of the Russian Federation, honoured guests, neighbours, friends and colleagues, I would like to welcome you all to the TRANSlation TRANSformed conference. I am Andrew Wheatcroft, chair of Moffat Book Events. I am an international historian, and a publisher.
·       What is Moffat Book Events? A charity that exists to promote culture and science of and for Moffat, founded in 2011 by Elizabeth Roberts  and Mrs Marilyn Elliott. Moffat is a good place to meet and exchange ideas, as it has been for more than three centuries. It provides a perfect venue for developing dialogue, and that is what we intend this weekend.
·        Translation Transformed'  is Moffat Book Events' second international conference with a Russian theme. It is concerned with the key importance of translation in every aspect of our interconnected world. Both this event and last year's celebration of the life and work of Alexander Men stem directly from a personal connection – the long standing working relationship between Dr Ekaterina Genieva  MBE, director of the huge cultural complex, the State Library for Foreign Literature  in Moscow, and Elizabeth Roberts, now here in Moffat.
·        This connection has proved a very fruitful connection for Moffat.
·       2014 is the official UK Year of Russian Culture and Language and Moffat  Book Events is working with The British Council to create a programme in Scotland. We heard yesterday how we shall be collaborating in the Russian programme of celebrations.  Moffat Book Events will also be working with a Russian team to present Moffat – the place and the people in word and in image - , to Russia.
·       Our Russian colleagues say that showing Moffat to Russians will get across a dramatic impression of what Culture and Language means in ordinary people’s lives. Part of our work this weekend is taking those plans forward;
·       Dr.  Genieva arrives this evening for the whole weekend, and next  year we look forward to helping our Russian partners to organise future professional/cultural tourism, using our special local knowledge and expertise; we look forward to assisting in the organisation of exhibitions here and in Russia; in other words, the partnership will be working harder and getting stronger.
·       So before handing over to the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs and our other honoured guests, I should like to thank:  

    • our Russian partners, the  State Library for Foreign Literature,  and the Institute of Translation

    •  The British Council, 

    • Our thoughtful and reliable supporters Forestry Purposes LLP 

    • Our unflappable organiser Alan Thomson 

    • And, personally, I want to thank Liz Roberts for her energy, persistence and inspiration, and to all who have made this event possible."

Cabinet Secretary of State for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop MSP  then gave a rousing speech followed by Russian Federation Vice-Consul Konstantin Kirilin.

A highlight of the evening was provided by Professor Alan Riach who declaimed his and others' translations of poems from Gaelic and Russian to memmorable and moving effect.

Antonina Kliuchareva presented a PowerPoint slide show about Yasnaya Polyana, home to world famous Russian 19th century novelist Leo Tolstoy. The evening wound up with a showing of the film 'Russia's Open Book' introduced by Stephen Fry, featuring five contemporary Russian writers seen speaking frankly about their work and Russia today in their own homes and in various other settings.

Friday, 13 September 2013

The Lermontov (spa) Connection

The Lermontov Museum in Pyatigorsk

We are all delighted that the curator of the Lermontov Museum in Pyatigorsk is coming to our Russian translation conference and cultural tourism forum in Moffat 20-22 Sept 2013.

Pyatigorsk (Russian: Пятиго́рск) is a city in Stavropol Krai located on the Podkumok River, about 20 kilometers (12 mi) from the town of Mineralnye Vody where there is an international airport and about 45 kilometers (28 mi) from Kislovodsk. Since January 19, 2010, it has been the administrative center of the North Caucasian Federal District of Russia. Population: 142,511 (2010 Census);[3] 140,559 (2002 Census);[5] 129,499 (1989 Census).[6]

Like Moffat, Pyatigorsk - meaning 'five mountains' is a spa.

You can see where Pyatigorsk is in the North Caucasian region near the southwesten corner , by doing

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Blast from the Past

The end of the Cold War in Berlin 1989
Looking through my bookshelves for books to illustrate the photograph in today's Moffat News about our forthcoming (20-22 Sept 2013) Russian translation conference, I pulled out a massive illustrated tome entitled 'Russian Calendar 1947' published that year in Moscow by the Foreign Languages Publishing House. In 1947 Stalin was still running the then USSR with murderous effect. Sixtysix years ago, the Cold War started with the blockade of Berlin, famine in Russia and the Ukraine ( the number of victims is disputed, estimates range from thousands to millions) and various other bad, sad episodes. The Cold War was the era I grew up in.   We look forward to welcoming fellow Russian book and culture lovers to Moffat next week in the firm belief that  continuing free, open contacts and exchanges is the best way to ensure it never happens again.

Tuesday, 10 September 2013


Moffat in autumn by Simon Tweedie
Thunderstorm in Dorset, Vermont
by John Updike

It needs green hills to host a thunderstorm;
this grumbling giant needs a place to hide
and break his kindling into splinters,
one stick at a time, and then in bundles,
compacted threats that issue forth from where
an oily darkness reigns beyond the ridge.
The sizzle in our brains is overruled
by such triumphant voltage overload.

We witness vast concussions; something falls
down sets of stairs the bottom step of which
cracks open wide enough to show a strip,
a vein of naked light. All goes soft—
the rain unfurls in supple gusts, the leaves
flash pale, then limply steep themselves in green.

Sunday, 1 September 2013

TRANSlation TRANSformed

Moffat welcomes Moscow

Top level Russian government connections dating back two hundred years will be revived 20-22 Sept 2013 when the historic spa town of Moffat in the south of Scotland, hosts a ground-breaking Russian translation conference organised by Scottish charity Moffat Book Events with the State Institute of Translation, Moscow and the Moscow-based State Library for Foreign Literature (VGBIL).

The spa town was visited by Grand Duke (later Tsar) Nicholas of Russia in 1816 during his tour of Britain following victory over Napoleon*. The conference is  to be opened by Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop MSP and State Secretary, Grigory Ivliev, Deputy Minister of Culture of the Russian Federation - see conference programme below

* The future Tsar Nicholas I stayed at the Annandale (then known as the King's) Arms hotel - 

The Annandale Arms known in 1816 as The King's Arms 

For attendance booking inquiries please contact:
 Alan Thomson  or visit

All other inquiries to Elizabeth Roberts  info@moffatbookevents or tel 07968801178

Moffat Book Events is a registered Scottish charity no SCO42782   

Programme Friday 20th September

17.45     Reception and official conference opening by Cabinet Secretary for Culture and
              External Affairs, Fiona Hyslop and State Secretary, Grigory Ivliev, Deputy Minister of
           Culture of Russia

19.01   Presentation by the Museum-Estate ‘Yasnaya Polyana’
Antonina Klyuchareva and Nadezhda Pereverzava

20.00   The Art of the Translator: Three Poems by Duncan Ban MacIntyre, Sorley MacLean
             and Vladimir Mayakovsky by Professor Alan Riach to be followed by a screening of
            the documentary film ‘Russia’s Open Book’ by Paul Mirchell and Sarah Wallis

Programme Saturday 21st September

09.15    Delegate registration. Moffat House Hotel

09.30   The Importance of Translation in a 21st Century digital age - an introduction
               Dr E Genieva and Evgeny Reznichenko with Dimitry Bak

10.30     Coffee

11.00   Why do we need to continue to re-translate the classics?
              Speaker: Dmitriy Bak, Chair: Dr Oliver Ready, Panelists: Prof Peter France, Natalia
              Ivanova and Irina Kirillova

12.30   Introducing The Institute of Translation
               Evgeny Reznichenko and Vitaly Efimov supported by Dr E Genieva and A Livergant

13.00   Lunch break and an opportunity to explore the shops and cafes of Moffat

14.30   Can a Translation ever be better than the original?
               Speaker: Alexander Livergant, Chair: Dr Oliver Ready, Panelists: Arch Tait and
             Aleksey Varmalov

15.30   Afternoon tea

16.00    In conversation with Alexey Varlamov
Chair: Dr E Genieva, Panelists:
17.30      Session ends

19.30      Glasgow University student readings of translated poems

19.45      Conference Dinner

20.50       Dr Tom Hubbard presents Lermontov inspired poems

21.15    Burns and Vysotsky songs in Russian and English from Thomas Beavitt

22.00    Evening ends


Programme Sunday 22nd September

09.45    Coffee        Moffat House Hotel

10.00    Capturing the moment in contemporary fiction
                Speaker: Natalie Ivanova, Chair Dmitiry Bak, Panelists: Arch Tait and Oliver Ready

12.00     Lunch break

13.00   The Challenges of Translating Lermontov  ( and Burns)
                Speaker: Prof Peter France, Chair Robyn Marsack, Panelists: Dr Tom Hubbard,
              Alexander Livergant and Irina Kirillova

15.30        Closing conclusions and valedictory
Led by Liz Roberts and Natalia Ivanova

16.30     Conference closes

17.00    Drinks and Presentation of the Vladimir Suzdal Museum Reserve
              Sveltlana Melnikova

                     For booking information see