Launch of the Russian edition of Memoirs of a Russianist, volume II

I take pleasure in announcing the release by U.S. publishers Author House of the Russian language edition of my Memoirs of a Russianist, Volume II: Russia in the Roaring 1990s.    In Russian:   Гилберт Докторов, «Воспоминания Русиста, том II:  Россия в бурные 1990е годы»

The link to this book on the website of the publisher is:

This is a paperback format. They will put on sale an e-book version at $4.99 within several weeks.

Before the end of this week, the Russian edition will likely appear on sale as a paperback on all the Amazon websites.

Amazon will not carry the Russian e-book for technical reasons. However, other online retailers will offer the Russian e-book, again within a time line of several weeks from today.

I use this opportunity to explain the peculiarities of this Russian edition, what are its positive and negative sides, and where it fits into my overall-publication plans so that potential readers can see the big picture.

The task of translating into Russian a book which numbered 788 pages in its English language edition is daunting, as anyone familiar with the translation process will surely agree. It would be normal for a professional English-Russian translator to take three or four months for such an assignment and the price would be prohibitive.

Accordingly, I performed the translation myself, relying on machine translation tools available for free on the internet.

For anyone who experimented with machine translation tools in the past, the achievements of this domain over the past couple of years are stunning.  Brand and company names are no longer “translated” but inserted into the text as is.  Figures of speech in one language are often rendered by comparable though not word for word figures of speech in the other language.  Quotations from Shakespeare are already stocked in the computer memory. And the general translation inventory of words and expressions is greater than the inventory in my head, and I am fairly accomplished in this domain.

However, idiotic or meaningless “translations” also appear in the output of the machine translation tool when it misses the context of a given word. The problem is aggravated when translating texts that were written in a kind of shorthand and with extensive use of idiomatic speech, as is common in diaries as opposed to normal expository style. So what is needed is a good editor to catch and remove these failures and to keep the overall text credible. This is what I provided for the book I am now launching as best I could.  In this way, I was able to perform the translation of 788 pages in three weeks at nil cost. Quite remarkable in and of itself.

However, I am not a native Russian speaker and I freely admit that there remain errors of style, grammar and word choice in the finished text as it went to press.  I ask the reader’s indulgence and hope he or she will agree that the drawbacks are largely outweighed by the book’s being made accessible to the Russian speaking world, who surely will find in what I have provided discoveries justifying the effort.

I identify the ‘Russian speaking world’ as one key target audience, because the book provides a window to a world within their world which few would have had during the period under review.  I think in particular of my inclusion of citations from the 1990s English language press in Moscow and Petersburg directed at the expatriate community, titles like “The Exile” which set out views on Russian politics and politicians, and on us, the expats, which Russians today will surely find invaluable to understanding their own past.

The edition now being released in the United States has both paperback and e-book formats. I do not expect there to be much demand for the paperback in the United States and my wager on this edition is directed at the e-book which by nature has a global audience since it can be downloaded instantaneously anywhere on the globe.  I have intentionally set the price at the lowest level for e-books to ensure that cost is no impediment to it being purchased in the regions of Russia and not just in the capitals.

This U.S. publication is not the end of the story.  In fact, a second Russian edition is now being prepared by a traditional publishing house in St Petersburg, Liki Rossii, who will produce a paperback at prices well below those in the U.S. and who have distribution possibilities across Russia. At the same time Liki Rossii cannot produce an e-book.

The edition being prepared in Russia will take the manuscript on which the U.S. edition is based and pass it through professional native editors to yield a final text that, very likely, removes all the stylistic and grammatical errors and sounds more like native Russian. At the same time, the edition being produced in Russia incorporates the narrative chapters from the English edition’s Volume I and a selection of the most interesting diary entries from Volume I. The combined texts are 100 pages longer than what is now being published in the United States as Volume II.  This new book comes with a new title in Russian designed to avoid any confusion between editions: “Diaries of a Russianist: Russia in the Roaring 1990s.” 

I am hopeful that each of these editions will find its readers, who are looking for different things in my cache of memoirs / diaries. 

©Gilbert Doctorow, 2021