Memorial services for Robert A. Maguire, the Boris Bakhmeteff Professor Emeritus of Russian and East European Studies, will be held on Thursday, Sept. 15, beginning with a mass at the Church of Notre Dame (Morningside Drive and W. 114th St.) at 9:45 a.m., followed by a service at St. Paul's Chapel (on the Columbia Campus) at 11 a.m. The Slavic Department and the Harriman Institute will host an informal gathering immediately after the service ( noon) in the Graduate Student Lounge, 301 Philosophy Hall, where the Columbia community will have the opportunity to remember and honor him.
An eminent scholar of 19th- and 20th-century Russian literature, Maguire launched the careers of generations of Columbia graduate students, many of whom are now at the forefront of their field. He was also an accomplished musician, serving on the board of directors of the Chamber Music Conference and playing viola in the amateur chamber music community in New York.
Maguire’s works are classics in the field of Slavic literature. His path-breaking Red Virgin Soil (1968) is still the definitive study of Soviet literature in the 1920s, and his Gogol from the 20th Century (1974) has introduced generations of Western readers to the Russian scholarly tradition on that author. Maguire’s own study of Gogol (Exploring Gogol, 1994) received the Modern Language Association’s Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for outstanding work in Slavic Languages and Literatures, and his translation (with John Malmstad) of Andrei Bely’s Petersburg (1978) is widely recognized as the definitive English version of that novel.
Maguire also translated from the Polish (with Magnus J. Krynski) the poetry of Wislawa Szymborska (1981), bringing to the attention of the English-speaking world the work that would later garner the Nobel Prize. Maguire was prolific even in his declining health, producing a brand new translation of Gogol’s novel, Dead Souls, in 2004, and completing, only days before his death, his much-anticipated translation of Dostoyevsky's Demons, to be published by Penguin Books.
Before joining the Columbia faculty in 1962, Maguire taught at Duke and Dartmouth and held visiting professorships at Indiana University, Oxford, the University of Illinois, Yale, Princeton, and Harvard. He was the recipient of grants and fellowships from the Ford Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Guggenheim Foundation. In 2002, the American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages honored Maguire with its prestigious award for Outstanding Contribution to Scholarship. Maguire died on July 8, 2005, in New York.