Monday, February 23, 2009

"Pyelem G Vudhaus"

That would be P.G. Wodehouse to you and me: the spelling above is transliterated from Russian, where there is, oddly enough, a booming market in Wodehouse fandom. The quintessential English humorist, whose works had been banned as "decadent" by Soviet authorities since 1929, was virtually unknown in that country before 1989, when former dissident and self-taught translator Natalya Trauberg began circulating a Russian version of Wodehouse's 1919 novel, A Damsel in Distress in samizdat form (not for fear of official punishment -- the ban was eventually lifted in 1990 -- but because Russian publishers, perhaps not unreasonably, didn't think his stories of dotty aristocrats, upper-class twits, and Jazz Age ne'er-do-wells would sell to contemporary readers). To everyone's surprise, it and subsequent translations became wildly popular (and became even more so after Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie's Jeeves & Wooster television series was dubbed into Russian).

Thus was born the Russian Wodehouse Society, founded by Mikhail Kuzmenko (who writes under the name Sir Watkyn Bassett), and which not only puts on regular banquets emulating the the likes of those thrown by Bertie Wooster's Drones Club, but also maintains a lively and informative website, with a bibliography and an excellent collection of links and articles (in English) as well as discussion boards (in Russian). I highly recommend checking it out.

And should you decide to go to one of their banquets, throw a bread roll for me.

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