Yiyun Li on Sketches from a Hunter’s Album
The book I would bring is Ivan Turgenev’s Sketches from a Hunter’s Album, translated by Constance Garnett. I first discovered the book when I was 12—an old Chinese translation that had not been touched for years among a pile of unsorted books in the reading room of my middle school. Recently I reread the English translation, and the collection is even better than I remembered. You walk into Turgenev’s stories as into a dream that you have often had: the darkened faces of peasant women behind the fire, the hooves of the horses stirring a sleeping village, boys of seven and eight pondering death and fate on a summer night, and, of course, the seriousness of every character living his or her life—with the narrator’s thoughts accompanying you. Nothing comforts a reader more than a book that will never die.