ADDRESSES: Office—Art in America, 575 Broadway, New York, NY 10012. Agent—Deborah Karl, Wylie, Aitken & Stone, 250 West 57th St., New York, NY 10107.
CAREER: Art in America, New York, NY, contributing editor and staff writer, 1983—; freelance art critic, essayist, and translator from Russian.
AWARDS, HONORS: Translation fellowship, National Endowment for the Arts, 1993.
(And editor and author of introduction) Andrei Honchalovsky and Alexander Lipkov, The Inner Circle: An Inside View of Soviet Life under Stalin, Newmarket (New York, NY), 1991.
Tatyana Tolstaya, Sleepwalker in a Fog, Knopf (New York, NY), 1992.
Daniil Kharms, The Story of a Boy Named Will, Who Went Sledding down a Hill, North-South (Lanham, MD), 1993.
(With Margaret Wettlin and Walter Arndt) Boris Pasternak, Letters, Summer 1926, edited by Yegevny Pasternak, Yelena Pasternak, and Konstantin M. Azadovsky, New York Review Books (New York, NY), 2001.
Tatyana Tolstaya, The Slynx, Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.
Tatyana Tolstaya, Pushkin's Children: Writings on Russia and Russians, Mariner/Houghton Mifflin (Boston, MA), 2003.
Telephone, translated and adapted from Telefon by Kornei Chukovskii, illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky, North-South Books (New York, NY), 1996.
Also author of essays on Russian art, literature, media, and culture in New York Review of Books and Harper's.
SIDELIGHTS: Jamey Gambrell is known for his skill and dedication in translating modern Russian literature. Since 1990 he has been translating the work of Tatyana Tolstaya, a great-grandniece of literary great Leo Tolstoy and an essayist and fiction writer in her own right. Her first novel, The Slynx, is a futuristic dystopia "heroically translated by Jamey Gambrell," according to Women's Review of Books contributor Helena Goscilo. A Publishers Weekly reviewer similarly praised how "Gambrell ably translates the mix of neologisms and plain speech with which Tolstaya describes this devastated world."
Gambrell has also edited and translated the diaries and essays of Russian poet Marina Tsvetaeva, who committed suicide in 1941. In Earthly Signs: Moscow Diaries, 1917-1922, he brings together many of the poet's political writings that could not be published under the Soviet regime. "Gambrell's excellently translated edition, with its well-researched and informative introduction, graciously fulfils Tsvetaeva's desire to see these pieces of diaristic prose bound in a single volume," Rachel Polonsky commented in the Times Literary Supplement. While noting the work "would have benefited from more extensive gloss and annotation," New Statesman critic Robert Potts likewise observed that Gambrell's organization and translation gives Tsvetaeva's writing "a fine sense of urgency and exhilaration."
Gambrell has also turned his translating efforts into producing picture books for children. In 1993 he translated a poem by Daniil Kharms into The Story of a Boy Named Will, Who Went Sledding down a Hill, while in 1996 he translated and adapted a poem by Kornei Chukovskii into Telephone. This nonsensical story shows a man answering a series of increasingly bizarre phone calls, with each animal caller making an unusual request. A Publishers Weekly critic observed Gambrell's use of "tongue twisters and involved rhyme schemes," while Booklist contributor Michael Cart concluded, "No youngster will want to put this hilarious call on hold."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 1996, Michael Cart, review of Telephone, p. 729.
New Statesman, January 20, 2003, Robert Potts, "Faithful Only to Poetry," p. 50.
Publishers Weekly, November 18, 1996, review of Telephone, p. 74; November 25, 2002, review of The Slynx, p. 41.
Times Literary Supplement, February 28, 2003, Rachel Polonsky, "A Terrible Intimacy," February 28, 2003, pp. 3-4.
Women's Review of Books, May, 2003, Helena Goscilo, "Dystopian Dreams," p. 10.*