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The Golden Gate - An Evening with translator Andrey Olear, artist Ekaterina Margolis and former diplomat Michael Shipster

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Please note, due to unforseen circumstances Vikram Seth is no longer able to participate in this event. The evening will now be presented by Vikram's good friend Michael Shipster CMG OBE. An acclaimed raconteur, Michael is a former British diplomat whose career included postings to the Soviet Union, India, South Africa and the USA. He also had the London-based post of Director Middle East and Africa. 

Vikram Seth's first book The Golden Gate is a novel in verse inspired by Eugene Onegin. Thirty years later after its publication in 1986, it has finally been translated into Russian by publishing house Rudomino in conjunction with the British Council. Translated by Russian poet and translator Andrei Olear, the book is illustrated by artist Ekaterina Margolis. Come and hear Olear and Margolis discussing the original book, its translation and reception in Russia. This is a joint event of Pushkin Club andARCC (Anglo-Russian Culture Club) 

In English and Russian.


About the book:

Set in the 1980s, The Golden Gate follows a group of yuppies in San Francisco. The inciting action occurs when protagonist John Brown has his friend Janet Hayakawa place an amorous advertisement of himself in the newspaper; the latter answered, at length, by trial-lawyer Elisabeth ('Liz') Dorati. A short heyday follows, in which Seth introduces and develops a variety of characters united in part by their interest in self-actualization (often in the form of agriculture) and in part by closeness to Liz or John. Thereafter is depicted the progress of their marriage de facto until its dissolution, which results in the legal marriage of Liz to John's friend 'Phillip ('Phil') Weiss', and the birth of their son. Following his rejection of Liz, John finds a second paramour in Janet, until the latter and two other friends die in an automobile collision; and is himself invited to stand godfather to Liz's son...

Seth says of Eugene Onegin, which he first read in the 1980s - 'I must have read it five times that month. It was addictive. And suddenly, I realized that this was the form I was looking for to tell my tales of California. The little short stories I had in my mind subsided and this more organically oriented novel came into being. I loved the form, the ability that Pushkin had to run through a wide range of emotions, from absolute flippancy to real sorrow and passages that would make you think, during and after reading it."


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Andrey Olear – born in 1963 in Tomsk, Russia. Graduated from the Tomsk State University with the degree in Journalism. Among the writer's interests is horse riding and artistic photography.Translations include Shakespeare's Sonnets, Brodsky's original poetry and collections of translated poems by Leonard Cohen.


Katia Margolis was born in Moscow in 1973. She is an artist, writer, translator, illustrator, graphic designer and teacher. She has lived and worked in Venice for over ten years. Her paintings and installations have been regularly exhibited in Venice, Moscow and St. Petersburg. There are examples of her work in collections throughout Europe, the USA and Russia.

Michael Shipster is a former British diplomat, whose career included postings to the Soviet Union, India, South Africa and the USA, and also the London-based post of Director Middle East and Africa.It was during their posting to New Delhi in the 1980s that Michael and his wife Jackie had the good fortune to meet Vikram Seth, while he was immersed in writing a very long book about provincial India in the early 1950s. Vikram endeared himself, among other things, by mischievously teaching their infant son Robert to recite the names of the great composers, so that he knew of ‘Schibbitt’ almost before he could say ‘Daddy’. Their friendship developed after Vikram established a home in England following the publication of his very long book, as ‘A Suitable Boy’. By now Jackie and Michael had also been introduced to Vikram’s earlier novel ‘The Golden Gate’. The resonance with Pushkin and Russia was especially strong, since to be able to read Russia’s greatest poet in his own language was a major draw for Michael to learn Russian in the first place, leading to his posting to Moscow, as First Secretary (Economic) during the Brezhnev era. While in the course of his posting, Michael never did get to understand how the Soviet economy actually worked, he did at least manage to visit Pushkin’s estate at Mikhailovskoye. Michael and Jackie have three adult children – Katya, Tuuli and Robert - who are equally fond of Vikram, and they live in the cathedral city of Winchester, not far from Vikram’s home in Salisbury. Not having a tall steeple, Winchester tends to attract far fewer Russian visitors than its famous rival, but fortunately, over the years Vikram has been a regular and much-loved guest.

When Vikram, characteristically at short notice, proposed that Michael stand in for him at this evening’s launch of the wonderful Russian edition of ‘The Golden Gate’, the dictates of their long friendship overcame all Michael’s protests of ignorance and inadequacy.