For Fans of the Home Team

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Discussing “Across the Ussuri Kray” in Vladimir Arsenyev’s dining room.

I was in Vladivostok, Primorye earlier this week where I had the pleasure to conduct a pair of interviews with local television stations about Vladimir Arsenyev and my translation of his 1921 classic “Across the Ussuri Kray.”

The first interview took place at Arsenyev’s home in Vladivostok–now a museum–and was conducted at his dining room table. It was a humbling experience to be talking about this influential figure, among his belongings, in the house where he died in 1930.

The second interview was a few blocks away, at the natural history museum where Arsenyev worked, a place that has been called the Arsenyev Museum since 1945.

People in Vladivostok (and across all of Primorye) are fiercely proud of Arsenyev and his contributions to understanding the cultural and natural histories of the region. He is a hometown hero, someone whose name is synonymous with Primorye’s wilderness and identity.

My translation is not for sale in Russia, so my purpose with these interviews was not to sell books. Rather, I sought to show Primorye residents that Arsenyev’s influence reaches beyond the Russian Far East. That the hometown hero has fans abroad.

Full video is here, both in Russian: (1) Interview 1: OTV; (2) Interview 2: VestiPrimorye 

 

 

 

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History in my Mailbox

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Vladimir Arsenyev’s 1921 “Across the Ussuri Kray”

Last week, at one of the many airports between Myanmar and Minnesota, I received an email from Carol Ueland, my undergraduate advisor at Drew University’s Russian Department. She forwarded me a Russian academic listserv message from a woman offering up a copy of Vladimir Arsenyev’s “Dersu Uzala” free to anyone who wanted it. Carol knew I had just translated Arsenyev’s “Across the Ussuri Kray” and thought I might also be interested in “Dersu Uzala.”

I wrote the woman, sent her my address, and the book arrived at my home in Minnesota a few days ago. I almost passed out when I opened the package.

I had assumed this would be a copy of Malcolm Burr’s translation of “Dersu,” probably the 1996 reprint, but that’s not what I received. This was a first edition of Vladimir Arsenyev’s “Across the Ussuri Kray,” from 1921.  The unabridged, uncensored version that my translation was based on (I used a contemporary copy). I’ve been looking for this book for years, and it’s NOT easy to find.

It was self-published by Arsenyev in Vladivostok, at the height of the Russian Civil War. I’m not sure how many were printed but not too many survived. Paper quality was poor and the volume was extremely popular, so the books simply disintegrated as they passed from one eager reader to the next.

Over the years I’ve found a few records of copies sold at Russian auctions, where they fetched $500-$1000, and the only copy I’ve actually seen for sale had a $1000 price tag. So owning a copy has been a bit of a pipedream for me—even if I found one there’s no way I could afford it.

Yet here one was, sent me to me randomly and unintentionally by a stranger.

Yes, the copy I received is in terrible shape: the paper is brittle, the binding is broken, and it’s missing the title page (which is why the sender misidentified it as “Dersu Uzala”). But the book is an absolute treasure, historically and personally, and I am thrilled to put it on the bookshelf next to my translation of this Russian natural history classic.

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End of Year Summary: 2016

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Best Wishes for 2017! (Charyn River, Kazakhstan)

Writing-wise, 2016 was a fantastic year for me. By my account I published 22 pieces—that’s about one article every two weeks. A full list is below. I also had an art show, was called the Jane Goodall of Fish Owls, and was on the BBC.

Not sure how I can top this next year….with any luck my fish owl manuscript—a 100,000 word text describing five years of Blakiston’s fish owl fieldwork—will be ready to shop to publishers in the next few weeks.

Thanks for reading in 2016, and see you in 2017!

Books:

Web Articles:

Magazine Articles:

  • Russian Life: a six-page spread in the September/October 2016 issue about Vladimir Arsenyev

Scientific Articles (in print):

  • Ursus: a paper about how gorging on salmon gives brown bears uncontrollable diarrhea, and what they do to mitigate that (Seryodkin, Panichev & Slaght 2016)
  • Bird Conservation International: the culmination of my PhD work: guidelines for conservation of Blakiston’s fish owls in Russia (Slaght & Surmach 2016)
  • Integrative Zoology: a paper evaluating effectiveness of anti-poaching methods in tiger habitat in Russia (Hotte et al 2016)

Scientific Articles (accepted but not yet in print):

  • Slaght, J.C., B. Milakovsky, D. Maksimova, I. Seryodkin, V. Zaitsev, A. Panichev, and D. Miquelle. Habitat selection by Siberian musk deer: anthropogenic influences on the distribution of a Vulnerable coniferous forest specialist. Oryx in press, Nov. 2016
  • Slaght, J.C., D.G. Miquelle, and G. Tukhbatulin. Logging roads and Amur tigers in Russia: demonstrating the threat and proposing solutions. Conference Proceedings. International Conference on the Amur Tiger: Population Status, Problems, and Conservation Prospects. 13-15 December 2015, Institute of Biology and Soil Science, Vladivostok, Russia. In press, Oct. 2016