top of page

Bilingual Books: Russian Literature with Parallel English Translation  

Tiptop Street aims to become the foremost publisher of English and Russian bilingual literary editions, as well as of Russian literature written abroad.


Browse and buy our beautiful bilingual editions of great Russian literary works in definitive English translation! Or scroll to explore our monolingual Russian books below.

Also Browse Our Publications in Russian

Our bilingual books will bring you many hours of joy!

Bilingual Literary Editions: How Popular Are They?

Bilingual editions of high literature are culturally desirable and educationally necessary, that’s clear enough. But it is safe to say we would be seeing a lot more bilingual literary editions printed if they were popular and making their publishers scads of money, right? Is Tiptop Street being precarious in positioning itself as a publisher of bilingual books of Russian literary masterpieces with parallel English translations?


We have decided to take a hard long look at these questions and to consider them from various angles. To boot, we have created a blog, Bilingual Books: Russian Literature in English Translation, for in-depth discussions of bilingual editing and of the theory and practice of literary translation (and self-translation). We hope that this resource will be of interest to readers and scholars of Russian literature, bilingual issues, and literary translation.


Arguably, bilingual literature facilitates a more meaningful engagement with texts, and more generally with culture. The bilingual mind is better equipped to handle the rhetorical and political complexities of literary works and political declarations alike. Bilingual editions are also required for cultural and aesthetic reasons, given that there are numerous academic scholars, bilingual Russian literature lovers, and Russian language learners whose needs and interests are served by Russian bilingual publishing.


Dr. Susan M. Holloway of the University of Windsor in Ontario, Canada, reflects on the fact that that monolingual college students studying toward the degree of Bachelor of Education were challenged in their ability “to effectively identify and analyze” tone of as well as cultural pores and perspectives behind literary works, where ELL (English Language Learner)students in similar academic standing were typically better equipped to do so. (See Halloway’s paper “Literature Circles: Encouraging Critical Literacy, Dual Language Reading, and Multi-modal Approaches” in English Quarterly Canada, Fall 2011, Volume 42, Issue 3/4.)If, as Holloway rightly argues, the reader fails to pick up on the culture-specific aspects of a literary work, including its tone, then his or her analysis “will be inaccurate.” In a word, a multicultural and multilingual approach to reading helps illuminate the writing. Although Halloway does not refer to Russian language or literature, it is obvious that her findings apply translingually.


Furthermore, literary books published bilingually are likely to help stir the reader out of his or her habitual comfort zones. Michael Pronko, Professor of American Literature at Meiji Gakuin University (Tokyo, Kapan), in his article “Reader Response Theory and Cross-Cultural Explorations” (published in Lit Matters: The Liberlit Journal of Teaching Literature, Issue 2, 2016) looks at the value of bilingual literature broadly and identifies in it “the opportunity to address non-linguistic/non-creative issues of culture and identity in the global community, a promising aspect of language education for students at the tertiary level.” To be sure, a sustained engagement with bilingual literature fosters a more cosmopolitan way of thinking about and comprehending the world. Moreover, bilinguality has proven cognitive advantages for children(improved meta-cognitive skills, superior thinking ability).


Still, it is legitimate to ask: is Russian and other bilingual literary publishing unpopular and a dead end? And if so, why; and if not, why not?


Comparativist literary critics Jan Walsh Hokenson and Marcella Munson, authors of The Bilingual Text (Routledge, 2006) understand the apparent neglect of bilingual literary publications in the West as a direct result of the “strenuous insistence” by nationalists and canon-mongers on “linguistic purity” (nationalist regimes often strive to purge language of foreign inclusions).Indeed, linguistic uniformity is a basic requirement of the nation-state. Monolingualism is efficient in many practical ways: you don’t need to translate important documentation and announcements into other languages, there is less needs for translators and interpreters, etc. Monolingualism also minimizes the influence of “foreign” ideas upon a nation and increases a political regime’s ability to control the population. For these and other reasons, nationalism and the nation-state tend to discourage multilingualism, while often fostering a cult of the one national language.

High-quality literary translations are rarer than is it assumed

Indeed, literary translation itself is at times subject to mistrust by readers and educators alike. The work of a Russian literary translator is not, in our society, a highly paid or glamorous profession. The translation of great literature is a hard and humbling task, andhigh-quality literary translations are rarer than it is assumed. For example, many classic works of Russian literature have been translated into English multiple times, but definitive translations of them, not to mention definitive Russian-English parallel-text editions, are still lacking. There is certainly a need for them, Tiptop Street intends to help fill it.

Biliteracy itself is rare the United States. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, no more than 20 percent of Americans are proficient in two or more languages, in contrast with 56 percent of Europeans. However, the “Russian émigré” segment of the American population boasts a much higher than average biliteracy rate and a higher than average interest in literature. Many second-generation Russian American intellectuals, children of Russian immigrants of the most recent, “fourth wave” of Russian immigration, try to maintain their command of Russian language and culture. They form a part of the audience for bilingual editions of Russian literature.

Tiptop Home img 2 English.png

In a nutshell, bilingual literature has only a small audience compared to mass literature, and this quickly alienates most publishing giants whose first priority is profits. However, bilingual literary editions remains a viable specialty niche for small, independent presses with artistic, cultural, and educational agendas.


Small publishers have the luxury to publish and promote what they love to audiences that they are about and are typically themselves a part of. Too, they are able to engage with and respond to its buying audience (libraries, educators, students, reading individuals, etc.) in productive ways. Importantly, there is a persistent market for bilingual books intended children, youth, and adult students. Several independent publishers of bilingual books have recognized this and appreciate the need to foster biliteracy in such audiences.

Currently, the New York Public Library houses over 1,000 bilingual book titles for readers of all ages. Not a great many! Yet, since it is a niche market, and since it is a general interest public library, it would be simplistic to conclude that bilingual literature is unpopular or inessential.


As we have already noted, bilingual literary books foster better aesthetic appreciation of literary works. In the case of self-translation, the simultaneous presence – the symbiosis – of different cultures and languages within a single author inspires the mind and encourages “fascinating aesthetic effects”, to borrow the words of Doris Sommer, Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University. Speaking on the importance of multilinguality, Sommer affirms, “Everyone knows [Kafka] is an innovator in German. Where does he get his inspiration? It turns out his Yiddish and Hebrew echoed in his head [while writing German].” (See Alvin Powell, “The ‘bilingual effect’ says that when it comes to language, more is more,” in The Harvard Gazette, April 12, 2001.)

bottom of page