Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Neversink Library

Melville House recently introduced The Neversink Library, a series conceived "to champion books from around the world that have been overlooked, underappreciated, looked askance at, or foolishly ignored."

Facing the title page in each volume is a short paragraph quoted from Herman Melville's White Jacket – which elucidates the name of the project and alludes to its purpose –

“I was by no means the only reader of books on board the Neversink. Several other sailors were diligent readers, though their studies did not lie in the way of belles-lettres. Their favourite authors were such as you may find at the book-stalls around Fulton Market; they were slightly physiological in their nature. My book experiences on board of the frigate proved an example of a fact which every book-lover must have experienced before me, namely, that though public libraries have an imposing air, and doubt-less contain invaluable volumes, yet, somehow, the books that prove most agreeable, grateful, and companionable, are those we pick up by chance here and there; those which seem put into our hands by Providence; those which pretend to little, but abound in much.”


My first Neversink novel is Faithful Ruslan by dissident Soviet writer Georgi Vladimov – a reprint of Michael Glenny's English translation first published in 1979. The entire story is told from the viewpoint of Ruslan himself, a veteran guard-dog in one of Stalin's Siberian labor camps. When the camps are closed in the mid-1950s by a reforming central government under Khrushchev, the dog-protagonist finds difficulty understanding his new world as an abandoned stray.