Press release: Polari Press is announced as a PEN Translates winner.

01 February 2023. For immediate release.

English PEN awards funding to Polari Press to publish the first English translation of queer Russian human rights activist novel.

Rows of circular stickers in blue, black, red, purple and orange with text "WINNER ENGLISH PEN AWARD"

Polari Press will publish the first English translation of ‘The Gospel According To…’ by queer Russian human rights activist Sergey Khazov-Cassia, translated by Reuben Woolley.

Today, independent queer publisher Polari Press has announced that it has successfully secured funding from PEN Translates, English PEN’s flagship grant programme for the first English translation of Russian dissident Sergey Khazov-Cassia’s novel ‘The Gospel According To…’.

Having fled Russia after the invasion of Ukraine, ‘The Gospel According To…’ is Sergey Khazov-Cassia’s second novel and explores the themes of martyrdom, solidarity, and passion. The novel moves between the language of biblical texts, Soviet and Imperial Russian prison diaries, and modern gay fiction. With an increased interest in reassessing Russia’s place on the international stage, the novel is a thought-provoking and provocative call to action from a minority group who have long been oppressed from within Russia.

“My novel was published in Russia in comparatively simpler times and a chain of mysterious meetings brought it to the English speaking world,” says author Sergey Khazov-Cassia. “Nowadays such a text is a criminal offence in my country, which is exactly what this book is about; how the society is sliding into the abyss of lawlessness and how LGBTQ people are an indicator of these terrifying changes.”

Translations of Russian gay literature are rare; The Gospel According To has been translated by Reuben Woolley. “This translation has been years in the making.” says Woolley, “it’s an incredible vote of confidence to receive this funding. Books like this don’t often get published, and PEN Translates is one of the only avenues left to find a home for stories as challenging and beautiful as Sergey’s.”

The Gospel According To will also be the first novel published by independent queer publisher, Polari Press. “It’s incredibly validating to receive this funding and have the support of English PEN.” says founder Peter Collins. “Being a new independent publisher — having set up just before the pandemic and now facing the cost-of-living crisis — has been challenging. This funding means we’re many steps closer to publishing this important work.” 

We’re delighted to have been able to support these projects, from publishers who are continuing to publish bravely despite our current economic climate.So Mayer, co-chair of the English PEN Translation Advisory Group, said.Awarding 15 titles across ten languages, it particularly highlights the work of small publishers investing in books in still-underrepresented languages… and for bold novels dealing with themes of gender and sexuality by two acclaimed Russian authors, as PEN continues its charter commitment to writers facing censorship worldwide.”

Polari Press is targeting a Q4 2023 publication date. 

For more information, please contact:

Polari Press was established in 2020 and has released nine books by queer authors over the past two years including art, poetry and memoir. Taking its name from the secret queer slang Polari, it is an independent publishing house which seeks out hidden voices and helps them be heard.

English PEN is one of the world’s oldest human rights organisations, championing the freedom to write and the freedom to read around the world. They are the founding centre of PEN International, a worldwide writers’ association with 147 centres in more than 100 countries. They award literary grants for translating new works into English.

Sergey Khazov-Cassia is an award-winning Russian journalist and writer living in Moscow and working for Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. Sergey has written and produced a series of articles and documentaries on LGBT+ and human rights. He is also the author of two Russian novels A Different Childhood (2014) and The Gospel According To… (2016), which reflect on the life and struggles of a gay person in both the Soviet Union and modern Russia.

Reuben Woolley is a freelance writer and a translator from Russian to English. His work focuses on Russian literature, the political left, and LGBTQ+ Russian history. He actively finds and advocates for LGBTQIA+ voices in the Russian cultural sphere.