Book Prize Winners for 2007
Best Contribution to Language Pedagogy
Robert A. DeLossa, R. Robert Koropeckyj, Robert Romanchuk, and Alexandra Isaievych Mason, Rozmovljajmo! (Let's Talk!): A Basic Ukrainian Course with Polylogs, Grammar, and Conversation Lessons (Bloomington, IN: Slavica, 2005).
Rozmovljajmo is a much needed textbook in the dramatically changing landscape of Slavic studies, where a truly diverse expertise of Slavic languages and cultures is in increasing demand. The book covers the basic grammar of Ukrainian and aims to develop all basic language skills. It is a result of years of classroom teaching and is built on a strong foundation in the latest teaching methodologies. Written with a profound knowledge of the recent linguistic development, the textbook represents the dominant conversational standard in post-Soviet Ukraine. Each lesson opens up with situational polylogs and communicative exercises, which are followed by grammatical explanations with practice exercises. The main chapters are supplemented by further dialogs, rozmovnyky, and their English translations. Rozmovljajmo contains impressively rich spoken language input that can be used for conversational as well as structured tasks. Numerous authentic photographs also provide a good sense of today's Ukraine. The book includes an additional section that presents the frequent pitfalls for speakers of Russian, tabular appendices, a glossary, and a detailed index. Rozmovljajmo is an excellent textbook that will be used in colleges and high schools as well as in self-study for many years to come.
Best Contribution to Slavic Linguistics
Laada Bilaniuk, Contested Tongues: Language Politics and Cultural Correction in Ukraine (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2005).
Laada Bilaniuk’s Contested Tongues stands out for its thorough and insightful investigation of the language situation in contemporary Ukraine. Impressively readable and informative, the study is based on extensive fieldwork conducted by the author over an eleven-year period beginning in 1991. Professor Bilaniuk analyzes the social, cultural, political and linguistic differences between Ukrainian, Russian and surzhyk, carefully situating them in the socio-historical context in which they have developed. She devotes careful attention to the role of language attitudes and biases with regard to the current and historical position of Ukrainian, exemplified nicely by a second chapter featuring interviewees’ personal narratives on language embedded in more general oral histories. The book also offers a solid overview of the history of Ukraine and the Ukrainian language, including the pre-soviet standardization and codification of the language, as well as the anti-communist symbolism the language acquired in the decades following the Bolshevik revolution—a symbolic tension that was only enhanced by the close linguistic affinities between Ukrainian and Russian.
Best Book of Slavic Literary/Cultural Criticism:
Catherine Ciepiela, The Same Solitude: Boris Pasternak and Marina Tsvetaeva (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2006).
Catherine Ciepiela’s The Same Solitude has rightly been praised for its “impeccable scholarship, theoretical acumen, and rich, resourceful close readings,” its “degree of insight that borders on the uncanny,” and its “very careful, illuminating, and nuanced analysis.” These readers have recognized the achievement of The Same Solitude, after which no reader will see the poetry of Pasternak and Tsvetaeva as fully separable. Professor Ciepiela tells the story of the poets' connection, which was made all the more passionate by their living in different cities, almost in different worlds. She demonstrates brilliantly how the performance of intense emotion, long recognized as Tsvetaeva’s signature, characterizes Pasternak’s poems and letters to her just as aptly. New readings of individual poems abound in this book, which is written with remarkable elegance and lucidity. The readings draw deftly on rhetorical, psychoanalytical, and feminist theory, always with exemplary clarity. Professor Ciepiela also shows herself to be a splendid translator of these two fantastically difficult poets. The translations as well as the overall argument open this book to readers far beyond specialists in the Silver Age or in Russian poetry. To quote one last review of the book, it is a “remarkable and moving work of criticism and biography,” for which it handsomely wins the AATSEEL Award for the Best Book in Literary and Cultural Scholarship, 2007.
Best Translation into English
Robert Chandler, for his translation of Hamid Ismailov, The Railway (London: Harvill Secker, 2006).
Hamid Ismailov’s multi-voiced, quasi-surreal novel The Railway poses almost every possible challenge to the literary translator, from puns and “talking” names to complex symbolism and detailed depictions of life in a provincial Central Asian town under Soviet rule. In his masterful translation, Robert Chandler deals with every one of these challenges with enormous creativity and panache. Never simplifying Ismailov’s work or losing the particularity of any of its unique narrative voices, Chandler makes the novel accessible to English-language readers, with all its dense word play, wide-ranging cultural allusions, and complex tone, at once profoundly dark and absurdly comical. He also provides a thoughtful and informative preface, copious footnotes, an essential list of characters’ names, and a map of the region. Leading his readers deftly through this remote world, Chandler introduces us to a cast of characters that appear humorously quaint and at the same time thoroughly human in their capacity for cruelty and suffering.