When Gerald Durrell and his wife Lee visited the then-USSR to film Durrell in Russia, Gerald was surprised to be mobbed by fans of his books.
Durrell’s books were and still are immensely popular in Russia and other post-Soviet bloc states. Here’s a glimpse at the various editions of My Family and Other Animals.
1971 – paperback edition by Mir, Moscow.
The book is titled ‘Moya Semya i Zveri’, which translates as ‘My Family and Wild Animals’, translated by by L. Derevyankinoi.
1979 – the Shtiintsa publishing house in Moldova issued this hardback edition, together with translations of The Drunken Forest, The Bafut Beagles and A Zoo In My Luggage. The print run was 200,000 copies.It’s the same translation as the Mir edition, but this time the title is changed to ‘Moya Semya i Drugie Zveri’ – My Family and Other [Wild] Animals.
1980 – Shtiinsta issued this hardcover copy, again with the three other books listed above, in a print run of 200,000 – presumably because of demand.
In 1982, Mir issued this edition of My Family, this time translated by L. Zhdanov, in the same edition with Two in the Bush (translated as ‘Kangaroo Path’).
In 1986, Mir issued the Corfu Trilogy – My Family, Birds Beasts and Relatives and Garden of the Gods – together in the same edition.
In 1991, another edition of My Family was published by Vneshtorgizdat,the All-Union Foreign Trade Publishing House, this time reverting to the original translation of the title.
1992 saw this edition from the Dom publishing house, with illustrations by V. Simonov. (This is my favourite cover , largely because of the lovely drawing of a hoopoe, Israel’s national bird.)
In 1994 the Armada publishing house produced this book, Durrell po vsemu svetu (Durrell around the world), which contained the text of various radio talks Durrell gave over the years, as well as My Family, and Birds, Beasts and Relatives (an odd combination – why miss out Garden of the Gods?)
2002 saw this edition of My Family, again combined with Birds, Beasts and Relatives, by the AST and Olymp publishing houses. This is the time when computer technology allowed book cover designers to incorporate inset photographs like these. Hold on to your hats, because from now on the covers get weirder.
OK, so in 2003 Olma Press issued this compilation, which includes My Family along with Jack London’s White Fang and Will James’ Smoky the Cowhorse (incidentally Smoky was made into a Soviet movie in 1985). Why? You tell me.
OK, now we’ve reached 2003 and I hope you are primed for the weirdest cover.
Initially I thought it must be a made-up cover, but it seems to be a real edition, a hardcover edition published by Eksmo. The blurb says the book contains “the first part of a trilogy about the island of Corfu and also a separate fantastical tale”. Presumably the unicorn relates to the fantastical tale.
ACT gives us this creepy cover in 2003:
In 2005, Eksmo gives us this compilation: Two in the Bush, Birds Beasts and Relatives, Catch Me a Colobus and Jacquie Durrell’s Beasts in my Bed.
Eksmo doesn’t stop there with its compilations. In 2007, we get this, with Overloaded Ark, Three Singles to Adventure, Bafut Beagles, My Family and Drunken Forest.
In case you didn’t buy any of the other books, Eksmo gives us My Family and Birds, Beasts and Relatives in 2008. What happened to Garden of the Gods?
And finally this is the most recent edition of My Family and Other Animals, published 2010, It is part of a whole series of Durrell’s books, all with very similar covers, from Eksmo.
I’m sure there must be other editions out there too, ones from earlier than the 1980s, since My Family was translated into Russian much earlier than that.
And since not everyone in the former USSR were Russians or spoke Russian, I was glad to come across this lovely edition translated into Ukrainian, available for sale from a bookshop in Kiev.
- Photos from 1957 Bafut expedition, Cameroons (whitemetropolis.wordpress.com)
- Durrell in Russia (whitemetropolis.wordpress.com)
- Gorilla gives birth at Durrell (bbc.co.uk)
- Gorilla ‘kisses’ her newborn at Jersey zoo (telegraph.co.uk)
- Lawrence Durrell, Sophia Loren and an Israeli kibbutz (whitemetropolis.wordpress.com)
- Notes on Durrell and the Symbolists (whitemetropolis.wordpress.com)