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Author Topic: Umm Pevear and Volokhonsky translations are terrible? Russians here please...  (Read 433 times) Average Rating: 0
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« on: August 21, 2013, 05:08:07 AM »

After discovering that Susan Oddo revised a Constance Garnett translation of The Bros K, I sent it back to amazon.com for a refund. However I think I might have to give it a second chance. I compared the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation to it and I like how the P&V one reads...

To me it seems that the P&V translations of Dostoevsky's works really capture all of the nuances of the Orthodox religion, and the other Christian sects...which is actually important with some of the debates in TBK.

However I came across some dissension recently on their translation method.

But first an example to compare the two translations

From page 528 P&V:

"The peasant's got his beard frozen!" Kolya cried loudly and pertly as he passed by him.
"Many have got their beards frozen," the peasant uttered calmly and sententiously in reply.
"Don't pick on him," Smurov remarked.
"It's all right, he won't be angry, he's a nice fellow. Good-bye, Matvey."
"Good-bye."
"Are you really Matvey?"
"I am. Didn't you know?"
"No, I just said it."
"Well, I declare. You must be one of them schoolboys."
"One of them schoolboys."
"And what, do they whip you?"
"Not really, so-so."

Compare this with the new Norton translation, by Susan McReynolds Oddo (Page 445-45):

"That peasant's beard's frozen," Kolya cried in a loud provocative voice as he passed him.
"Lots of people's beards are frozen," the peasant replied, calmly and sententiously.
"Don't provoke him," observed Smurov.
"It's all right; he won't be cross; he's a nice fellow. Good-bye, Matvey."
"Is your name Matvey?"
"Yes. Didn't you know?"
"No, I didn't. It was a guess."
"You don't say so! You are a schoolboy, I suppose?"
"Yes."
"You get whipped, I expect?"
"Nothing to speak of, sometimes."
Source Amazon.com review: http://goo.gl/Py9cNT

Ok so it's clear the P&V tries to be more literary but becomes stunted in its usage of vocabulary. Oddo's flows a bit better and isn't so awkward.

Now apparently the publisher of the P&V translations wanted a quick buck, so they rushed them in translation his works. I didn't know there was much controversy around them. In fact on Dostoevsky boards, there is a wide majority of those who say the P&V translations are superior.

Caught this on a google search:

"Do not get Pevear and Volokhonsky. They're a hype machine powered by people who don't know the language and can't tell a bad translation from a good one. (That's not an insult to their readers--obviously you won't be reading the translation if you know the language, and there are precious few reliable sources for comparing translations.) I say this as an Imperial Russian historian and native speaker. The older translations are generally better and almost always more elegant."
Good translations of Cervantes and Tolstoy
http://ask.metafilter.com/184657/Good-translations-of-Cervantes-and-Tolsoy

There's more of it in that link.

Then there is this article:
The Pevear/Volokhonsky Hype Machine and How It Could Have Been Stopped or At Least Slowed Down - See more at: http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/helen-rittelmeyer/2013/01/01/the-pevearvolokhonsky-hype-machine-and-how-it-could-have-been-stopped-or-at-least-slowed-down/#sthash.Tt6Y7mG4.dpuf

So I don't know what to say. I am a purist when it comes to translations, and yeah I don't have the time (nor patience, I'd rather master the English language) to dedicate learning a new language for the sake of reading Dost's stuff.
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« Reply #1 on: August 21, 2013, 05:47:52 AM »

As a Russian* I haven't noticed any particular translation to be terrible, having read Pevear/Volokhonsky, Garnett, Magarshack, and perhaps one other (for Notes From Underground, I think). But then there were a lot of reasons that I wouldn't have noticed anyway.

I firmly believe that we need more threads like this.


* I am not a Russian.
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« Reply #2 on: August 21, 2013, 01:55:42 PM »

Bah, just read it for free here.

http://books.google.com/books?id=mMNKAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false

It is the Garnett translation.
« Last Edit: August 21, 2013, 01:56:49 PM by TheTrisagion » Logged

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« Reply #3 on: August 21, 2013, 02:08:44 PM »

This is what I do when not posting on oc.net, make stuff like this.

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« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2013, 02:17:49 PM »

Asteriktos, you are my inspiration.  I make spreadsheets for just about everything as well although sadly not on FD's work. At least not yet.
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« Reply #5 on: August 21, 2013, 09:04:54 PM »

Garnett is not that great.
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« Reply #6 on: August 22, 2013, 08:42:25 AM »

Garnett is not that great.
True, but decent and free is always nice.  Wink
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