Thursday, December 16, 2010

Q & A with Kseniya Melnik, fiction reader here at OS

Kseniya Melnik was born in Magadan, Russian Far East, and immigrated to Alaska in '98, at the age of 15.  She received her MFA from New York University in 2010 and has taught creative writing there as an adjunct professor, and online at Our Stories Literary Journal.  Her book reviews have appeared in the Brooklyn Rail and  She was recently selected as one of Granta's New Voices with her story "The Witch" and is at work on a collection of linked stories and a novel. 

Here's a short interview with Kseniya on her life and work. We're thrilled to have her with OS!

Q: You've written elsewhere about your feeling that Russian literature, the literature of the country where you grew up, holds a certain sacredness to you. Is that a fair description of it, and could you expand a little on your thoughts of writing in the Russian language?

A: Yes, as I mentioned in my interview with Ollie Brock at Granta, I feel that if I were to write in Russian, I'd be participating in direct dialogue with the likes of Tolstoy, Turgenev, Gogol, Chekhov, Bulgakov – the writers I hold up as something akin to literary prophets.  And it's not that I'd be intimidated by the weight of such literary heritage per se, so much as I'd feel more bound by the tradition I so revere. Whereas, when I write in English I feel like I'm inventing something of my own.  I feel freer to sample influences from Russian literature through my own translation, or American and English literature, or books in English by Russian or immigrants of other nationalities written in English or translated.  Somehow, English gives me access to the literary palette of the world.

 And since I started to write seriously while already living in America, surrounded by English speakers, I've never had a strong inclination to write in Russian, though I often translate words or whole paragraphs from Russian when writing. 


Q: What's next for you and your writing?


A: I am finishing up a collection of linked short stories with a working title Bering Strait Blues.  Set in eras ranging from the '50s to now, the stories center on my hometown, Magadan, and immigrants to the US from there.  I am at the stage now when I'm starting to look at the collection as a whole and address issues of pacing and character linkage, which I didn't have to worry about in individual stories.  It's a new but very exciting process for me.  I feel much more like an orchestra conductor now, rather than a musician who runs to play a violin, then a cello, then a clarinet, and so on.

*Keep an eye out for Kseniya's future work, and check out "The Witch" if you haven't already. It's an outstanding read!

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