But more than anything else, the air was heavy with the overpowering scent of aport apples.

The aport was called the symbol of Almaty: the apple weighed nearly a kilogram. Round, fragrant, gigantic fruits, streaked in reds from crimson to wine, with greenish, sweet-and-sour flesh—they could stay fresh until February just sitting on the sideboard. Grandma told how they used to sell them from wagons, packed in straw—mountains of poppy-colored apples, each covered in a thin layer of wax.

At the train stations, people carried aport apples in buckets to the trains, sold them by the bucket on the approach to the bazaar; gold-and-crimson mounds swelled the shelves of the fruit stands at the Green Bazaar.

On Abaya Street, where the apples grew along the banks of the aqueduct, dropping fruits into the water, where they swam and swam, turning over rapidly like a bobber, and piled up in the channel, you could simply put your hand into the cold water and fish out the prettiest and most fragrant apple, washed and ready to eat: get it and take a bite, and wipe off the sweet juice with your palm before it drips down your chin.

Russian Canary: Zheltukhin, Dina Rubina

This quick attempt at a translation doesn’t do justice to Rubina’s style, I’m afraid—but just more than halfway through the first novel in her Russian Canary trilogy, I’m hooked. The writing is beautiful, if occasionally too florid, and Almaty is a beautiful setting. (I’m waiting for Rubina to hook me on Odessa, the other main locus for the book.) That and a buck will get you a coffee at Dunkin Donuts—but roughly a third of the way through, the story and characterization really pick up. I can barely put the book down, and I have the next two on order already.

Original text:

Но главное, по всей округе воздух закипал всепобеждающим ароматом яблок сорта апорт.

Апорт называли символом Алма-Аты: яблоко весило чуть не килограмм. Гигантские, круглые пахучие плоды, красно-полосатые от малинового до бордового, с зеленоватой кисло-сладкой сердцевиной – они до февраля могли храниться просто в серванте. Бабушка рассказывала, что раньше их продавали с телег, выстланных сеном, – горы пунцовых яблок, покрытых тонким слоем воска.

На вокзалах апорт ведрами выносили к поездам, ведрами продавали на подходе к базару; золотисто-малиновыми курганами пузатились прилавки фруктовых рядов на Зеленом базаре.

На улице Абая, где яблони росли вдоль арыка, роняя в воду плоды, а те плыли, плыли, стремительно кружась, как поплавки, и скапливались у коллектора, можно было просто опустить руку в холодную воду и выудить самое красное, самое пахучее и уже мытое яблоко: бери и надкусывай, успевай лишь отирать ладонью сладкий сок с подбородка.

«Русская канарейка: Желтухин», Дина Рубина

My translation of Tolstoy’s novella Childhood is now out in paperback! Please check it out at the links below:

Childhood, Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (paperback)

Childhood, Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy (Kindle ebook)

This was a fun project for me, and hopefully also adds something to the fairly limited pool of English translations of Tolstoy’s early works. The Kindle ebook is DRM-free, and the book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. I self-published, doing the typesetting myself in LaTeX, which was an enjoyable experience.

My path to completing a (short) book-length translation ran through a lot of years of dabbling, starting as an undergraduate almost fifteen years ago. I undertook this project with serious intentions and hope the translation stands up as a serviceable first effort. I’m doing what I can to improve my craft as a non-professional translator. Please let me know what you think — corrections and actionable feedback will be taken seriously and will feed into improved editions of this book and future translations!

I think my next project will be to tackle Gogol’s “The Nose” and Dostoevsky’s The Double together.