Fellow: Awarded 2008
Field of Study: Translation
Competition: US & Canada
Even before he received his Ph.D. in comparative literature from Princeton University (2001), Val Vinokur was making a name for himself as a crafter of unusually faithful, sensitive translations of too-long-ignored works of literature. In 1997 Pantheon Books published two novels by French Martinican author Patrick Chamoiseau—Solibo Magnificent and Texaco—that Mr. Vinokur and his wife, Rose-Myriam Réjouis, had translated together; the latter received the American Translators Association’s Lewis Galantière Prize and was short-listed for the French-American Foundation Prize. In his review of it for the New York Times Book Review (March 30, 1997), Leonard Michaels extolled their translation as “brilliant in its musical integrity and imagistic precision. It is also faithful to the novel’s exuberant unrestrained excess.”
Among the other authors whose works he has translated are Isaac Babel, Osip Mandelstam, Mikhail Zoshchenko, and Emmanuel Dongala. His most recent translations include the poems of Vladimir Mayakovsky, in Night Wraps the Sky: Writings By and About Mayakovsky, edited by Michael Almereyda (Farrar Straus Giroux, 2008). His and Ms. Réjouis’ translation of Marie Chauvet’s 1968 work Love, Anger, Madness: A Haitian Trilogy (Modern Library, 2009) was supported by his Guggenheim Fellowship. He was one of the three inaugural Guggenheim Fellows in the field of translation.
Mr. Vinokur is himself a poet, and his poems have appeared in the Miami Herald, Massachusetts Review, and the Boston Review, among other journals, and in the anthologies 110 Stories: New York Writes after September 11, edited by Ulrich Baer (NYU Press, 2002), and New American Writing (2002). He is also an essayist and author of a number of scholarly articles in his field of comparative literature, such as “Talking Fiction: What is Russian Skaz?” in McSweeney’s (Fall 2002) and “Levinas’s Dostoevsky,” in Common Knowledge (Spring 2003). In 2008 Northwestern University Press published his monograph The Trace of Judaism: Dostoevsky, Babel, Mandelstam, and Levinas.
Born in Moscow, Val Vinokur immigrated with his family to Florida when he was seven. Amherst College awarded him undergraduate degrees in Russian, English, and Political Science, summa cum laude, in 1994. After earning his Ph.D., he served as Chair of Religious Studies (2001-02) and as a postdoctoral teaching fellow (2002-04) at The New School's Eugene Lang College before accepting a faculty appointment in its department of comparative literature in 2004. He is currently Assistant Professor of Literary Studies, Undergraduate Director of Literary Studies, and Director of Jewish Studies at that college. He is also the President of the Mid-Atlantic Slavic Conference.