Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Friday, February 4, 2011

"How Much Land Does A Man Need" by Leo Tolstoy Debut Publication of Calypso Editions

"How Much Land Does a Man Need" by Leo Tolstoy (1886, translated by Boris Dralyuk, 2010, Calypso Editions)

Tolstoy at 20

Not long ago Calypso Publishing  invited me to a reception to celebrate the publication of their first book, How Much Land Does A Man Need, a translation of  the Tolstoy (1828 to 1910) story by Boris Dralyuk.

When I read the mission statement of Calypso Publishing I was reminded somehow of Virginia and Leonard Woolf working at Hogarth Press, producing books notable not only for their content but books that are works of art themselves.  

Calypso Editions is an artist-run, cooperative press dedicated to publishing quality literary books of poetry and fiction with a global perspective. We believe that literature is essential to building an international community of readers and writers and that books can serve as a physical artifact of beauty and wonder in a world of digital saturation.

When I advised them I could not come they kindly  offered to send me an e-book.     The translator, Boris Dralyuk studies Russian Language and literature at UCLA.     In his well written very informative introduction to the work Brian Evenson places the story in the context of the work and life of Tolstoy and in the tradition of  folk tales and fables.    "How Much Land Does A Man Need" was written seventeen  years after War and Peace and nine years after Anna Karenina.      I do not have the ability to say if this is a good translation or not but I did read in addition to this translation an old now in the public domain translation and Dralyuk's version was much better written and more direct.     There is also a Russian text of the work and that makes the book a great class room or language learning tool.

Fables go way back to the very start of literature.    Much of the wisdom of world has been transmitted down the ages in fables and fairy tales.    Speaking in a purely secular fashion, the great religious texts of the world can be seen a collections of fables.    In a fable the characters represent types or are used to teach a moral lesson.    This is what Tolstoy does in "How Much Land Does a Man Need" but he brings the characters to life.   I felt I was walking the land and enjoying the company of  tribal peoples while feeling concern for what was going to happen to our lead character.    Unlike in a simple Fable, the characters are real people with great details that make us feel we know them.   James Joyce  said it was "the greatest story that the literature of the world knows".   I really felt like I was there.    As we are meant to, I wondered what I would do were I the main character of this story.    

"How Much Land Does a Man Need" has the power to make us rethink our values and our lives.   I commend Calypso Editions for this great first publication and expect great things from them.

Their webpage is here

Mel u


bpatrickmiller said...

Thanks so much, Mel! What a wonderful review.

Very best to you, and we'll definitely keep in touch.

Bryan Patrick Miller, Calypso Editions

mlwoodside said...

Mel, Sorry you won't make it out to the launch, but your kind words are much appreciate. We'll do our best to live up to them!

Martin Woodside, Calypso Editions

Anonymous said...

"When I read the mission statement of Calypso Publishing I was reminded somehow of Virginia and Leonard Woolf working at Hogarth Press, producing books notable not only for their content but books that are works of art themselves."

This has really made my day. It's good to see there are publishing houses still ike this in operation.

When it comes to translations, I'm of the group that are particularly sensitive to them. A translation can either put you off or make you a fan of an author. Glad to hear this one was of the good quality.

Darlyn (Your Move, Dickens) said...

We read this short story in my European Lit class last year, and the new translation sounds very interesting. I liked the story, and I'm sure it's going to be even better with an "updated" translation.

Btw, I bought the Eudora Welty biography at Booksale. If I see another copy, I'll let you know. :)

Beth said...


It's also bloggers like you that help presses like us reach readers who love great literature. Thank you so much reviewing our little How Much Land Does a Man Need. And that picture of Tolstoy at 20 - wow! Who knew?

Elizabeth Myhr, Calypso Editions

Amateur Reader (Tom) said...

Three cheers to the madmen and madwomen starting a press in this day and age! An anthology of Romanian poetry - outstanding!

One can perhaps see how young Tolstoy became such a ladykiller.

Mel u said...

To Calypso Editions-thanks for your blog visits and do stay in touch

mywordlyobsessions- thanks as always for your comments and of I agree

Darlyn-thanks please tweet me if you see the biography of Welty or the collection of her short stories any where in the metro

Amateur Reader-LOL yes-I try to look for pictures of authors in their younger days