In the fall of 1923 the Parisian art dealer, publisher and collector Ambroise Vollard approached Marc Chagall to illustrate a novel by the Countess of Ségur, a French author of Russian birth, best known for the Misfortunes of Sophie, a collection of stories about a mildly psychotic child.

The book in question was a foreigner-abroad comedy called General Durakin, from the Russian “durak,” fool. Chagall suggested instead Dead Souls by Nikolai Gogol. Despite not having read the novel, Vollard agreed.

Chagall ended up with a total of 96 etchings, covering the events of the novel, as well as the occasional…

Drawing is a translation of all my voices and words — an attempt to draw nothing

I write to fill the page, preferably with nothing.

This ambition was in me before I could write. I grew up in a family of refugees speaking Russian, a language that, as my teachers and classmates took pains to remind me, did not belong to me. Over time, it became almost exclusively the language of abuse — only the more perverse of Russian writers (Gogol, Bely, Kharms) could break and rearrange it into new shapes that were at odds with spoken (heard, rather) language.

English, then, came as an escape, a secret code shared between me and no one —…

Note on Notes

I’m not a hardcore, nor even a softcore, or any sort of gamer, at least not in the last decade — I barely have enough patience to watch an introductory cut-scene and I tend to lose all interest as soon as I die a few times or catch the barest glimpse of the sprawling upgrade spreadsheet that is the stuff of modern games with the word “epic” in their blurbs.

I only got to play Bloodborne now, three years after the release, so forgive me for my noobiness in all matters of skill and previous knowledge (I’d…

all-female edition

Russia has been in the news lately, which is rarely a good thing, so I thought I’d do a follow-up to my olden post (Several Russian Illustrators of Note), and show some of the work my friends and colleagues are making, inbetween weeklong vodka binges with their pet bears.

Incidentally, all of them are women this time, so I thought instead of posting it on March 7th (which is when I compiled the list), I’ll post it on March 8th and do a great big song-and-dance about it. It will be rather clever. Anyway!

Notes to Jacob Bladders and the State of the Art


Here are the notes I sent to my long-suffering translator for the French version: 1. New York 1947. The date is when Peter Arno waved a gun at someone in a bar, a gun that belonged to the New Yorker. The character of Charlie is loosely based on him. 2. The name “Jacob Bladders” refers to Jacob’s Ladder, painted by William Blake in Jacob’s Dream circa 1805, and the illustrations of career ladders, the most boring metaphor in the trade. If you’re translating the name, please…

  1. First Love

I got my first venereal disease from my first girlfriend. She got it from her third boyfriend, whom she was dating concurrently with her second boyfriend (me). Later she confessed that she’d been dating him before she started dating me, which chronologically downgraded me to her third boyfriend — the one who gave her the venereal disease, which she in turn gave to her second boyfriend, a rather small man, whose modest height allowed him to punch me in the groin without the inconvenience of crouching or digging a ditch.

My debut novella (In A Sense) Lost & Found, nominated for Ignatz Award, will soon be published in Italian by Bao, so here’s a new cover I designed for this edition. It will have French flap wardrobes, and a dog.

Nobrow suggested sharing the email with the translation notes I’d put together, as they provide reference for most of the puns and allusions in the book.

Here’s the email copypasted in full!

Because of the pun-laden nature of the writing the translator can be as creative with the text as she wants — there are very few moments that should…

Jason, a Summary of Sorts

With certain authors you know immediately you’re going to read each one of their books, most likely more than once. A single line holds promise of more than a line is allowed to hold, it expands and unravels sentence after sentence until you know you’re in love, and your mere lifetime will never be enough to exhaust that promise.

With Jason, this line in Low Moon did it for me:

Jason’s novellas and stories are short, but plentiful. When I rave about them, people sometimes tell me they don’t know where to start. Well, here’s an attempt at writing a…

Russianness is an acquired taste, like licorice or the voice of Michael Silverblatt. I used to take great pains to avoid it, but now my expatty bitterness is finally giving in to something more patient, a deep affection for the individual, in part divorced from the country, in part tied to it closer than ever. The ten artists listed below are all excellent, regardless of the degree of Russianness their work may exhibit (some of them are not Russian at all, “Russian-speaking” is perhaps more accurate). This is not an attempt at a comprehensive list, it’s just a few names…

The rise and fall of New Reality

Russia of the 90s felt like a misremembered dream that stumbled over lapses with hastily invented fictions, governed by the logic of the early hours. In its heightened unreality things like Dendy not only flourished, but even seemed to make sense.

Roman Muradov

I draw things.

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