About the Work

by ariadna linn

I met Yuriy Serebriansky before I encountered his work. “Junkies” was the first piece I read, right after our first in-person meeting. It felt strange: the person I’d just met was a great writer, someone I looked at with awe and admiration—and yet the narrator of his semi-fictional story was a young boy who had just slow-danced with a girl for the first time. And it all came from this one person, Yuriy, who is now a good friend and remains someone I look up to.

When Yuriy asked me to translate this text, I felt inspired and scared. I was still taking my first steps as a translator, yet I was being asked to translate such a significant work for the author himself and for the whole post-USSR community. Recollections of Pioneer days and youth in the Soviet Union were not something I shared with the narrator. But I realized I shared something else: first experiences, teenage rebelliousness, and the fear of getting caught. And I tried to make sure it wasn’t only the words, but the emotions that translated into the English version.

Hence the title “Junkies.” Yuriy still remembers the time when this word in Russian (narkomany) would make a chill run down people’s spines. While this story isn’t really about junkies, understanding the fear caused by their supposed presence allows one to delve deeper into the character’s journey. In the same way, the lofty “Oceanography Club” and their expedition appear in a new light when you realize that Kazakhstan is a landlocked country.

The biggest challenge in translating “Junkies” was retaining the author’s voice. I believe, for a translator, the greatest achievement is staying invisible, unnoticed in the text. I feel like I was able to accomplish this, so that even the most specific local features of this text can now be perceived by English-language readers. Of course, overcoming these challenges would not have been possible without the wonderful Sarah McEleney, whose support and guidance was essential to translating this work. A skilled translator herself, she served as a mentor for me.

I hope this short story leaves a large imprint in the minds of  readers, just as it did for me. Serebriansky’s story is not just a means to remembering the long-forgotten past, but a way to relive those moments: to go on a trip without parents, to run along the shore, and to hear the band Nautilus Pompilius for the first time. This story is about catching small moments like the narrator catches fish with a spoon lure—the moments that will later define your life and make you who you are.


yuriy serebriansky is a Kazakhstani writer, poet, and literary translator. He serves as editor of the Polish diaspora journal Ałmatyński Kurier Polonijny and Literratura. Yuriy is the author of several volumes of prose and poetry and a number of publications in Kazakhstani, Russian, Polish, U.S., Czech, Swiss and Chilean literary journals. His novella Destination. Road Pastoral won the Russkaya Premia literary prize for best short prose work in 2010; his novella Prazhaki won the same award in 2014. His Kazakhstani Fairy Tales won an award at the 2017 Silk Roads Book Fair. His prose and poetry has been translated into Kazakh, English, Polish, and Spanish, among other languages.

ariadna linn is a Kazakhstani author and translator. She is currently studying at Nazarbayev University in Astana, Kazakhstan. Previously, she participated in the International Writers Residency in Almaty (AWR 2022). Her works have appeared in the literary journals Angime and Daktil.


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