Literary translator explains love of craft - The University of Tulsa
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Literary translator explains love of craft

As a literary translator, Boris Dralyuk is appreciative that The University of Tulsa understands and commends what he does for a living.

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“Translators have fought long and hard to win respect for their labor, the fruits of which are essential to the health of literature, of scholarship, of the education system, and of our society as a whole,” said Dralyuk, one of four new Presidential Professors at TU. “It’s lovely to be surrounded by colleagues who understand that translation is a necessary art, who don’t need to be persuaded.”

Dralyuk taught an introductory creative writing course this spring and loved every moment of it.

“My students come from all over campus – some are pursuing biology, some mathematics, some are in sports – but all are equally engaged,” he said. “They bring diverse experiences and expertise to the classroom and keep me on my toes. And I make sure that they see translation as a form of creative writing.”

Dralyuk has exciting professional news outside of the classroom as well; he recently won the inaugural National Book Critics Circle (NBCC) Gregg Barrios Book in Translation Prize. The win means a lot personally but also for the craft.

“It means a great deal for Ukrainian literature in translation, which can offer readers around the globe a rich, textured picture of life in a country that’s been in the news for all the wrong reasons,” he said, adding that The NBCC’s new honor also reflects the growing status of translators.

“Proper recognition has long eluded us, but thanks to the efforts of people like Jennifer Croft – my wife and fellow Presidential Professor at TU, who was also shortlisted for the Barrios prize – we translators are really beginning to get the acknowledgement we deserve.”

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Dralyuk (left) speaking at TU’s 2023 Switchyard festival

Born in Odesa, Ukraine, Dralyuk immigrated to the United States in 1991, shortly before the collapse of the Soviet Union. He knew two words of English when he arrived in Los Angeles with his family at age 8: “hello” and “poppy,” California’s state flower. He began soaking up the local language, but he later realized he’d been neglecting the Russian language.

He entered UCLA, where he studied Slavic languages and literatures, earning his doctorate in 2011. He taught there as well as at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland before stepping away from academia to take up the editorship of the Los Angeles Review of Books in 2016.

He left the Los Angeles Review of Books at the end of 2022 and started at TU in January. His wife, Jenny, had been living in Tulsa for the past year while he traveled back-and-forth before relocating to Oklahoma.

“Tulsa is a beautiful town, warm and welcoming, and, with its parks and public spaces, a perfect environment for our suddenly enlarged family,” he said of the birth of his and Jenny’s twins last May. “Our family ballooned from four members – counting our two cats – to six. We need room to roam, and Tulsa has plenty.”