A NOTE BY PROFESSOR VICTOR TERRAS
[Editor-in-Chief of Handbook to Russian Literature, Yale U. Press]
(From a letter to the translator dated July 1, 1991)
Vaginov’s novel fell a victim to the onset of the Stalin era and was so thoroughly forgotten it had to be literally discovered by Western scholars in the 1960’s. Today it has acquired an unexpected topicality, as the city of Leningrad is about to become St. Petersburg again. The Goat Song (the title is a pun on the etymology of the Greek tragoidia, lit. “goat song”) deals with the transformation of St. Petersburg, a Western metropolis of spectacular cultural achievement, into Leningrad, a drab city of cowed ex-intellectuals, unworthy of the monuments and memories of the past.
The novel is written in a lively, witty and entertaining manner. It is a worthy companion piece to Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago and Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita. Its translation will do a service to the Russian profession, to literary studies at large and to the general reader as well.
I have recently had occasion to read excerpts from a translation of Konstantin Vaginov’s novel Kozlinaia Pesn’ (The Goat Song), 1928, prepared by Mr. Benjamin Sher.
My impression is that Mr. Sher is an excellent translator, who achieves the utmost in rendering the nuances and stylistic devices of the Russian original in vigorous, idiomatic English.
Professor Emeritus of Slavic Languages
[Translator’s Note: When the initial draft was complete, Professor Terras asked to review it in its entirety. His many illuminating comments were invaluable and the overwhelming majority of his suggested changes were incorporated into the final text. -- B. S.]