“Kholden Kolfeeld’s” Russian Fans

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Amid the flood of J. D. Salinger articles related to the upcoming biography and documentary about him, this New Yorker essay by Reed Johnson stands out.

It has nothing to do with the biography, actually. It’s about Russian translations of The Catcher in the Rye (or Over the Abyss in Rye as the most popular one is titled) and raises all sorts of interesting questions about how to convey American ideas about iconoclasm and conformity—not to mention slang—to Russian readers.

Given such inaccuracies and the enormous shifts in Russian language and culture that have taken place since the publication of Over the Abyss in Rye, you might expect that a new translation of Salinger’s novel would be greeted with enthusiasm. But in 2008, when a new edition was released…it sparked outrage in Russia’s literary-minded blogosphere.


Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →