Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Who Are Nast, de Brutus and Short?

Back in 2005 I published my translation of the first volume of Karamzin's History of the Russian State. The press run was all of three copies: this was primarily a proof of concept in dept. I concocted the name for the imaginary publisher based on Thomas Hobbes' characterization of human life as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short." I wrestled with this for a while, trying to come up with plausible surnames that were close enough. I puzzled over "de Brutus," since it is so linguistically improbable. Rather mysteriously, this didn't bother me as much as I though it should: it was as if I'd seen that name before. The whole thing remained a rather private joke until my publishing consultant, Diane Moomey, advised me I would need a fictitious name for dealing with the POD (Print On Demand) people, since they will not deal with individuals. Lacking any better idea, I registered Nast, de Brutus and Shortt as a fictitious business name in San Mateo County in 2012. A bit later a friend who had read a draft of The Reign of Boris Godunov accused me of stealing my firm name from Thomas Pynchon. I was shocked, simply shocked. Some hasty research (thank you, Google and Wikipedia) established that there is a fictitious law firm named Salitieri, Poore, Nash, De Brutus and Short in Gravity's Rainbow,  which I had read in 1973. Evidently, this had lodged in some obscure cranny of my brain to emerge perhaps somewhat worse for wear several decades later.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

While working on this lengthy project, the translator realized that excellent, self-contained biographies of Ivan the Terrible and Boris Godunov could be excerpted from the History. The first of these is

Now Available: The Reign of Boris Godunov


To the extent that people are familiar with Boris Godunov at all, it is usually through Musorgskii's opera of that name. Many will be surprised to learn the he was an actual historical character. Indeed: he ruled Russia from 1584 to 1605, first as regent, later as tsar. He was a consummate political operator and a fascinating character - a bit like a real-life Macbeth.

Concerning The Reign of Boris Godunov, Richard Pipes, Baird Professor Emeritus of History at Harvard University had this to say:

"Nicholas Karamzin (1766-1826) was Russia's first professional historian. His twelve-volume History of the Russian State which came out serially between 1818 and 1829 was the first work to acquaint Russians, who had just defeated Napolen's armies, with their traditions. It has bever been translated into English. Mr. Baldwin has undertaken the formidable task of filling this gap. The Reign of Boris Godunov, the story of Russia's ruler at the end of the sixteenth and beginning of the seventeenth centuries, is an excerpt of this massive publication. The translation is both accurate and fluent and should give readers a rare glimpse into Russia's remote past."

During the translation of the History, a considerable amount of material relating to Russian law was excerpted. If an academic with interest and expertise can be found to provide historical context and legal commentary, a future monograph may be forthcoming, to be entitled Karamzin on Early Russian Law.

In the future this site will have ancillary material and a moderated discussion.