Humor to the Rescue: Herb Randall, Jonathan Waterlow, and Maxim Osipov

Boris Dralyuk

I’ve been pitifully slow to note the launch of Punctured Lines, an absorbing new blog that focuses on post-Soviet literature. It’s edited by two of my fellow émigrés, the scholar Yelena Furman — an old friend and frequent contributor to LARB — and Olga Zilberbourg, author of the poignant collection Like Water and Other Stories. The occasion for my noting the launch now is the appearance of a movingly candid, searching, subtly suspenseful essay by Herb Randall, titled a “A Question in Tchaikovsky Lane.” In it, Randall follows a trail of breadcrumbs left by an Englishwoman named Eddie, who — as the title of a 1946 collection of her letters puts it — married a Russian. The trail leads to a street in Kharkiv, where the couple made their home in the 1930s and ‘40s. Randall is keenly aware of the rough historical winds that…

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Profile of Lisa Hayden

One of our star translators from Russian got a lovely write-up in the Portland Press Herald. Personally, I first came to know Lisa through her amazing blog, dedicated to Russian literature, Lizok’s Bookshelf. It’s somehow wonderful to learn that Lisa grew up in a town called Norway, Maine. That’s such a big name for a town, and I’ve always wondered what it’s like to grow up in these places that are named after other places. (I say this, having spent considerable amount of time in my childhood thinking about Lenin’s relationship with Leningrad.)

Hayden grew up mostly in Norway, in Oxford County, where her family moved from New Hampshire when she was about 9. She first became interested in Russia and Russian history as a child because of stories published in Jack and Jill magazine based on the Russian fairy tale Baba Yaga. Baba Yaga is a Slavic folklore tale about a “grandmother witch” who lives deep in the forest and is not very good, but is not entirely evil.


When she was in the sixth grade, Hayden read her first English translation of Russian literature, a short story called “The Bet” by Anton Chekhov.

To learn more about Lisa Hayden, read the story here.