I’ve just received my author copies of Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider in Russian translation. When I heard that there would be a Russian translation, I was (perhaps naively) pretty excited. By the time my copy got to me – somehow, not so much. So: I’ve just donated all my proceeds from the Russian translation* to the Canada-Ukraine Foundation, to support humanitarian relief in the wake of the Russian invasion.
To be clear: Charles Darwin’s Barnacle and David Bowie’s Spider isn’t a significant part of Putin’s horrific war – if it’s any part at all. The translation is published by Alpina, and if that publisher has any connection to the Putin regime, it’s not obvious. The money in question (my advance) isn’t money going into Russia – it’s money coming out of Russia. And I’m not acting out of general animus to the Russian language or people. Nonetheless, it seems highly appropriate, right now, that some money of Russian origin can go to support the victims of the invasion of Ukraine.
My contribution here isn’t huge: my share of the advance was €750, or about $1100 Canadian. (I may have mentioned before: I don’t write books in the hopes of becoming rich!) So I’m not under any illusion that this makes me a hero, or that it’s going to solve the region’s problems. But it’s something. Perhaps other authors will follow.
Let us hope that Ukraine can soon be peaceful and free. Let us also hope that Russia and her people can be peaceful and free.
Some day, I’ll write up the story of Alexei Alexeevich Chernovsky – a chironomid biologist for whom the midge genus Chernovskiia is named. He died in 1942, aged 37, in the Nazi siege of Leningrad (now St. Petersburg), while working on the science he loved. It’s heartbreaking that Chernovsky’s story has played out so many more times since, around the world, and that it’s playing out today in Ukraine.
© Stephen Heard March 10, 2022
If you’re looking for somewhere to make your own financial contribution, here’s one curated list of organizations.
*^The way things work, at least in this case, is that the Russian publisher paid for the rights in the form of an advance against future royalties. Half of that stayed with the Yale University Press (which negotiated the sale), and the other half came to me. It’s an “advance”, in that in theory I would receive royalties on future sales of the book – once enough copies have sold that the accrued royalties exceed the advance. I didn’t expect that to happen before the Russian invasion of Ukraine; for all kinds of reasons, I definitely don’t expect it to happen now.