Rapture: A Novel

by Iliazd

Translated by Thomas J. Kitson

The draft dodger Laurence yearns to take control of his destiny. Having fled to the highlands, he asserts his independence by committing a string of robberies and murders. Then he happens upon Ivlita, a beautiful young woman trapped in an intricately carved mahogany house. Laurence does not hesitate to take her as well. Determined to drape his young bride in jewels, he plots ever more daring heists. Yet when Laurence finds himself casting bombs alongside members of a revolutionary cell, he must again ask: is he a free man or a pawn of history?

Rapture is a fast-paced adventure-romance and a literary treat of the highest order. With a deceptively light hand, Iliazd entertains questions that James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and Thomas Mann once faced. How does the individual balance freedom and necessity, love and death, creativity and sterility? What is the role of violence in human history and culture? How does language both comfort and fail us in our postwar, post-Christian world?

Censored for decades in the Soviet Union, Rapture was nearly lost to Russian and Western audiences. This translation rescues Laurence's surreal journey from the oblivion he, too, faces as he tries to outrun fate.

About the Author

Iliazd (1894–1975) is the nom de plume of Ilia Zdanevich, an émigré who arrived in Paris after the Russian Civil War in time to participate in the last days of Paris Dada and the birth of surrealism. Unable to publish his writing, Iliazd forged a new career in book art, gaining fame for the series of artists' books he published under the "41 degrees" imprint. He collaborated with Picasso, Chagall, Matisse, Legér, Giacometti, Miró, and Max Ernst, among others, on books of his own poetry, anthologies of "nonsense" poetry from all ages and traditions, and works by rediscovered poets, travelers, and romantic astronomers. Iliazd has been the subject of solo exhibitions at the Centre Georges Pompidou (1978) and the Museum of Modern Art (1987).

Thomas J. Kitson is a freelance translator in New York City. He holds a Ph.D. in Russian literature from Columbia University.

Reviews

A fast-paced, mordantly funny yarn that borrows from (and subverts) the adventure genre. . . . while this novel has taken a long time to find a new audience, there’s nothing musty about Thomas J. Kitson’s excellent translation, which makes the prose of the book seem fresh.
Iliazd’s (birth name Ilia Zdanevich) rediscovered and newly translated work is a gem. . . . There are many levels and layers in this remarkable, short novel. And all of them deserve a close look.

Awards

Long-listed, 2018 Read Russia Prize

[Konstantin Batyushkov] did for the Russian language what Petrarch did for Italian.
Konstantin Batyushkov was one of the great Russian poets of the nineteenth century, and Peter France has done a superlative job in bringing his work to an English-speaking audience. The volume deserves praise for its careful yet mellifluous translations of verse and for a biography that provides a rich cultural and historical context.
Peter France’s book is a unique journey into Batyushkov’s turbulent and tragic life, expertly placed within the context of the equally turbulent Russian nineteenth century. Just as importantly, France's virtuoso translations introduce Batyushkov in English poetic language as it exists now.

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