Quick Study: Dina Rubina writes short stories and novels, many of which incorporate themes close to her life—artists, music, her native Tashkent, and her current Israel—along with detailed psychological portraits and elements of mysticism.
The Rubina File: Dina Rubina made a name for herself as a writer when she published her first story in the journal Yunost’ (Youth) at the age of 16: her youthful success helped establish a faithful readership that has made her a literary bestseller. Perhaps Rubina’s greatest critical success came with On the Sunny Side of the Street, a novel set in Tashkent that became a finalist for the Big Book and Russian Booker prizes, winning jury and reader awards from Big Book. She also won third place from Russian Prize in 2010 for her White Dove of Cordoba. Rubina’s novel Here Comes the Messiah! was translated into English, and three of her works have been adapted for screen, including On Upper Maslovka, directed by Konstantin Khudiakov, which won several awards.
Psssst………: Rubina’s husband, Boris Karafelov, is an artist who painted cover art for some of Rubina’s books; Rubina’s father is also an artist… Rubina learned to drive at age 52 and says she learned quickly because she’s a former pianist and has good hand-foot coordination.
Rubina’s Places: Born in Tashkent to parents originally from Ukraine, lived in Moscow with her second husband until 1990, when they emigrated to Israel… Studied music at the Tashkent Conservatory.
The Word on Rubina: Reviewer Nina Ivanova, writing for TimeOut.ru about Leonardo’s Handwriting, praises Rubina’s ability to conjure up places with atmosphere, “Rubina describes Kiev as she used to describe Tashkent: deliciously, in detail, with its colors, smells, and distinctive speech patterns. Any plot at all could develop amid decorations like these.” Elena Lutsenko, writing in 2009 for the journal Voprosy literatury, says that On Upper Maslovka and On the Sunny Side of the Street are Rubina’s true successes: “These are two works that break out of the format, where good, light fiction rises far above the usual mass level because the literary setting isn’t fabricated but ‘quilted’ with the thread of life, with vitality.”
Rubina on Rubina: In a 2005 interview that’s largely about travel, Rubina says that when she travels with her husband, who’s an artist, they wander museums, “in search of yet another Rembrandt self-portrait that we still, how the devil could it be?, haven’t seen. If I’m alone, I can sit half the day in a little restaurant or bar, watching the customers, waiters, and pedestrians outside, finding myself in a state of true euphoria and filling a notepad with a thick web of writing.”
On Writing: Rubina says she began to consider herself a writer as a teenager, when she published her first story in Yunost’ and received money for it. “It’s completely unimportant if the writer understands anything about the ‘quality’ of his literature or not. If he thinks he should always write, no matter what happens, whether his work is published or not, that means he’s decided that his profession is ‘writer.’”
Rubina Recommends: When asked in an interview about memoirs, Rubina praised correspondence between Vincent van Gogh and his brother.
Translating Rubina: In an interview with the journal Interpoezia, writer and translator Dan Jaffe told interviewer Andrei Gritsman that he learns a lot as a fiction writer when he translates a good author. Jaffe agrees with Gritsman’s assessment that Jaffe and Rubina share some stylistic characteristics, saying, “I feel a connection with her work and always learn a lot from her. The energy of her prose, the structure of the sentences and the texts, the constant imagination: I like all of that very much.”
Photo credit: Avjoska, Creative Commons