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Amy (asawatzky) | 1739 comments Laurus by Evgenij Vodolazkin

About the Book: (source:

Fifteenth-century Russia

It is a time of plague and pestilence, and a young healer, skilled in the art of herbs and remedies, finds himself overcome with grief and guilt when he fails to save the one he holds closest to his heart. Leaving behind his village, his possessions and his name, he sets out on a quest for redemption, penniless and alone. But this is no ordinary journey: wandering across plague-ridden Europe, offering his healing powers to all in need, he travels through ages and countries, encountering a rich tapestry of wayfarers along the way. Accosted by highwaymen, lynched in Yugoslavia and washed overboard at sea, he eventually reaches Jerusalem, only to find his greatest challenge is yet to come.

Winner of two of the biggest literary prizes in Russia, Laurus is a remarkably rich novel about the eternal themes of love, loss, self-sacrifice and faith, from one of the country's most experimental and critically acclaimed novelists.

About the Author & Translator: (source:
Eugene Vodolazkin was born in Kiev in 1964. An expert in Old Russian literature, Vodolazkin has worked in the department of Old Russian Literature at Pushkin House since 1990. He has numerous academic books and articles to his name, and has been awarded research and lectureship fellowships in Germany from both the Toepfer and Alexander von Humboldt Foundations. Vodolazkin's debut novel, Solovyov and Larionov was shortlisted for the Andrei Bely Prize and The Big Book Prize.
Laurus is Vodolazkin's second novel. It won both of Russia's major literary awards, The Book Book Prize and the Yasnaya Polyana Award. Vodolazkin lives with his family in St Petersburg, Russia.

Lisa Hayden is a literary translator who lives in Scarborough, Maine. Her other translations from the Russian include Vladislav Otroshenko's Addendum to a Photo Album and Marina Stepnova's The Women of Lazarus. Her website, Lizok's Bookshelf, focuses on contemporary Russian fiction. She received her MA in Russian literature at the University of Pennsylvania and lived in Moscow during 1992-1998.

also, aside: Lisa has been joining the conversations in another discussion group about translating Laurus and I’ve invited her to join us over here!

Translator’s blog:
If you would like to chat about this book, or this author, here's a place to do so!

Happy reading!!

Jason Perdue | 632 comments I'm loving this book. I'm only about 60 pages in so far, but I'm as absorbed in it as any book I've read this year.

message 3: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Hayden Espenschade (lizok) | 6 comments Thank you, Amy, for mentioning me and linking to my blog in your post! This summer is more than a bit crazy because I'm working on multiple books--including Vodolazkin's most recent novel, The Aviator, which I also love--but I'll try to pop by every now and then.

Thank you, too, to everyone who has read or will read Laurus--I know Eugene shares my gratitude to our readers.

Jason, I hope you continue to enjoy the book!

Jason Perdue | 632 comments Hi Lisa - Welcome to our alt-Tournament of Books thread. I have so many questions. Thank you for the wonderful introduction to the book and the elucidating view into translating a book like this and the decisions that have to be made. It's fascinating and is absolutely helping me enjoy the book.

I don't know if you saw where this thread is nested, but Laurus is in what we're calling the alt-ToB fashioned after the actual Tournament of Books that takes place in March. We've chosen 16 books that were first published in English from July, 2015 through June, 2016. Books are paired off in competition with a single judge advancing a book. Laurus is going up against Erdrich's LaRose. We cheekily paired them for the alliterative confusion.

We hope you come back after more of us have read it and talk to us about the book.

message 5: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan (janrowell) | 1104 comments I know availability of this book has been a bit of an issue. I ordered the forthcoming paperback from Amazon and just got a note that they're shipping it a week or so earlier than they had originally said, so I'll have it by August 1. Looking forward to reading it!

message 6: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Hayden Espenschade (lizok) | 6 comments Jason, thank you for the welcome. It's great to hear that the introduction to Laurus is helpful. If anyone's interested in a few more details, I also wrote a piece for Lithub that discusses the translation; it's here.

Jan, I'm so glad to hear the paperback is shipping out early for you!

message 7: by Amy (new) - added it

Amy (asawatzky) | 1739 comments Yay! Just picked up my paperback so some other poor soul can have my library copy!

Jason Perdue | 632 comments Nice. This book is so good. Going to be a great first round battle. Enjoy!

message 9: by Jan (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jan (janrowell) | 1104 comments So eager to get to this one! Sounds like Round 8 will be a real battle!

message 11: by Lark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lark Benobi (larkbenobi) | 136 comments Wow! Congratulations Lisa!!! I love this novel--thanks for bringing it into a language I could access and for doing it so beautifully!

message 12: by Drew (new) - rated it 4 stars

Drew (drewlynn) | 425 comments Wow! Yes, congratulations, Lisa!

message 13: by Lark (new) - rated it 5 stars

Lark Benobi (larkbenobi) | 136 comments hmm, I can't think of a better place than here to share the unexpected news I just heard this morning from my college sophomore that he has decided to study Russian in a serious way...I'm jealous

message 14: by Lisa (new) - added it

Lisa Hayden Espenschade (lizok) | 6 comments Thank you, Sara, poingu, and Drew! I just loved translating that book--the experience was a gift in and of itself--and that makes the award feel all the more special. That and the fact that the translation seems to affect readers very similarly in Russian and in English.

And poingu, I'm so glad to hear that your college sophomore will be studying Russian more seriously! Congratulations both to him for the great choice and to you for being so happy about it! :)

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Books mentioned in this topic

Laurus (other topics)
LaRose (other topics)

Authors mentioned in this topic

Evgenij Vodolazkin (other topics)