Letters to Robot Werther / «Зашибись!»
by Natalia Rubanova
Translated by Rachael Daum
Designed, printed, and assembled by Carrion Bloom Books in SLC, UT in 2021
Drama/Poetry in a bilingual edition, 80 pages
$16 - $27
"for some time now they've frightened me
those two letters
one consonant one NO
at the end
a point on the golden ratio
a heart slapped onto a plate of oily borsch
a heart onto a plate of boiling borsch
and my liver too
my belly will receive
this habit of excess
hello Werther hello"
In this energetic and language-wild drama, Natalia Rubanova
and translator Rachael Daum give their protagonist correspondent more than
enough rope to draw a damning lineage from Goethe through the fêted men of European
and Russian literature and to the involuntarily celibate troll of our
tender, violent 21
st century. Alarming, hilarious, and haunted by glitches,
the play and its fraying, pathetic protagonist demand both to be read and to be performed.
Praise for Letters to Robot Werther
Presented here in a tête-bêche bilingual edition.
With Letters to Robot Werther, Rachael Daum has immediately become one of my favorite translators. Her powerful rendition of Natalia Rubanova's brilliant play is dark and humorous, each letter blending the sound symbolism and linguistic creation of the Russian Zaum poets with something resembling the language of chan culture. This text is as entertaining as it is eerie, as aesthetically mind-blowing as it is important. Daum and Rubanova are here to assure us that the future is feminist, and a bitch.
- Katrine Øgaard Jensen, translator of Ursula Andkær Olsen's Third-Millennium Heart, Outgoing Vessel, and My Jewel Box (Action Books)
Letters to Robot Werther reads like a jocular feminist
rewriting of Russian literature’s angriest men. With an intimate knowledge of
her literary predecessors—in Russia and beyond—Rubanova renews the “superfluous
man” trope for the Internet age. In her translation, Rachael Daum matches
Rubanova’s intricate rhythms and smirking whimsy. A delight on the page,
to Robot Werther
promises even more in performance.
- Fiona Bell, translator of Nataliya Meshchaninova's
Stories of a Life (Deep Vellum Press, forthcoming)
This bilingual edition of Natalia Rubanova's Letters to Robot Werther is
about the spiral of a man. A spiral of abysses. A play on words. A man.
A superfluous man. A play that plays out like a violent encounter.
Like a long goodbye played repeatedly in the wrong key. Rachael Daum's
translation waltzes with "phantom pain," яеасн-es like a lookalike, and
surprises with an "emotional poison" sure to infect English and Russian
- Paul Cunningham, author of
Fall Garment (Schism 2022) and translator of Helena Österlund's Words (Oomph! Press 2019)
About the author and translator
Natalia Rubanova lives and works in Moscow, Russia. She studied piano at the Ryazan Musical College, and received her bachelor’s from Moscow Pedagogical State University. She has published five books, the most recent a collection of short stories titled Karlsson, Dancing the Flamenco (Limbus Press, St. Petersburg, 2021), and her short stories have been published in over sixty anthologies. Her plays have been performed in Russia, most recently in London at the SOLO International Festival, where she was awarded the prize for Best New Writing. In 2019 she was awarded the Turgenev Prize (Moscow), and the Hemingway Prize (Toronto) for her cycle of critical journalism articles, and she has been awarded the Nonconformism Prize.
Rachael Daum works as the Communications and Awards Manager of the American Literary Translators Association. She received her BA in Creative Writing from the University of Rochester and MA in Slavic Studies from Indiana University, and received Certificates in Literary Translation from both institutions. She was awarded a 2021 PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant for her translation from the Serbian of Lusitania by Dejan Atanacković. Her original work and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in the Los Angeles Review, Words Without Borders, Tupelo Quarterly, Two Lines Journal, and elsewhere. She translates from Serbian, Russian, and German, and currently lives and works in Cologne, Germany.
Letters to Robot Werther (50 copy limited-edition run) was printed in SLC, UT in 2021 on bright white smooth Mohawk Via paper and bound using the long stitch with hand-dyed linen thread that varies slightly in color from edition to edition. The cover images were letterpressed from polymer plates on vermilion Colorplan paper.
Note (1): this book was assembled in a home with a dog.
Note (2): the spine of this book is relatively fragile and shouldn't have much weight or other books placed on top of it.