A woman trying to balance career and family. Confusion over sexual identity and gender roles. Unwed motherhood. The themes of The Wrath of Dionysus sound so contemporary that it may surprise readers to find them in a Russian novel published more than 80 years ago.
This October, Indiana University Press will release the first-ever English translation of The Wrath of Dionysus, which, when originally published in 1910, caused quite a ruckus. The book went through 10 editions in six years, was translated into French, Italian and German and even served as the basis of what for that era was a steamy silent film. The previously unknown author, Evdokia Nagrodskaia, the Russian equivalent of Danielle Steel rather than Pasternak, gained a notoriety that meant good sales for her subsequent novels. Their shelf life, however, was short: by 1917, Nagrodskaia had emigrated to France and her work became irrelevant in a newly Socialist society.
Nagrodskaia's work was rediscovered by Louise McReynolds, a history professor at the University of Hawaii who specializes in Russian cultural history. When she decided to find a publisher for her English translation of Dionysus, Indiana University Press, which has expertise in feminist and Slavic studies, was a logical choice.
Convinced that there is a market for such works, the press is currently working on a condensed English translation of The Keys of Happiness, a series of novels published from 1908 through 1913 by another female Russian writer. "Eventually, we'll promote the two books as a pair," said Janet Rabinowitch, senior acquisitions editor.