Alexander Ivanovich Ertel in English
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Note that Eight Great Russian Short Stories contains two stories by Ertel
Are there any other significant 19th c. (or 20th c.) Russian novels that have never been translated into English? I figure there must a good reason why The Gardenins has not, perhaps the book is considered too lengthy and Ertel too obscure, or perhaps some other fatal flaw...
There are a great many (which is one reason I get so irritated every time I see the exciting news of yet another translation of Anna Karenina or The Brothers Karamazov). To take one example I frequently get on my soapbox about, one of the great novelists of the early 19th century was A. F. Veltman; I wrote about him at the end of this Year in Reading post, and I consider it a scandal that only a few short stories have ever been translated. Other examples: Vasily Narezhny's Rossiisky Zhilblaz (A Russian Gil Blas, 1814) and Bursak (The seminary student, 1824), Aleksey Pisemsky's Vzbalamuchennoe more (A troubled sea, 1863), and Nikolai Leskov's Nekuda (No way out, 1863). I could go on, but you get the idea. And think how much worse the situation is for languages that haven't been the focus of as much attention as Russian!
That said, and for what it's worth, here are Mirsky's opinions of the further works you cite (and which may have contributed to would-be translators, and publishers, avoiding some of them):
Mirsky acknowledges Narezhny's contribution to the development of the very early 19th C Russian novel, but opines that Narezhny's works lack artistry and that "...owning to their heavy style and their diffuseness, (they) are heavy reading". He says Narezhny was little read even in his own time and had very little influence on the future development of Russian fiction.
Mirsky says Pisemsky's A Troubled Sea is "...not so good as A Thousand Souls", an uneven and "profoundly distorted" attack on the young generation, full of "bitterness and hypochondria".
Mirsky classifies No Way Out as one of Leskov's early "political" novels which had "...no part in the great reputation he enjoys today".
On a positive note, Mirsky cites Veltman (spelled Weltmann here) as the prolific head of the "German romanticist" school of 1830s Russian lit. Mirsky finds him a "delightfully readable" writer of "loosely constructed stories" and "a blend of imagination and playfully irresponsible humor...", but fails to cite any specific works or expand any further.
Of course , these are only the opinions of one critic writing 90 years ago, but one can imagine that any similar sentiments existing within the current publishing community would hinder efforts to have these works translated and republished for the non-Russian reading general public or even academia. The reason I started this thread was because Mirsky's assessment of Ertel's work seemed to place it in a superior realm nearly on par with the universally acclaimed greats of 19th C. Russian lit., which, if correct, would make the lack of an English translation strange indeed.
As for Veltman, as I wrote elsewhere, "the usually reliable D.S. Mirsky gave him the wrong first name, rendered his last name as 'Weltmann,' and was off by ten years in his death date"; it is clear to me that Mirsky, like every other Russian intellectual of his generation (and later generations for that matter), was steeped in the "realist" literature we all think of when we think of the Russian 19th century (Tolstoevsky et al.) and was simply unable to properly appreciate the genres it displaced. Specifically, what one might call "formalist" writing, primarily interested in form and language rather than in analyzing What Was Wrong with Russia and What Should Be Done, was seen as essentially trivial, "delightfully readable" perhaps but not to be taken seriously. As I wrote in my review of his first book at http://languagehat.com/veltmans-lost-wanderer/ (I've read five so far and am most of the way through a sixth, Salomea):
"I would like to be living in a world where Strannik was as valued as any other nineteenth-century masterpiece, and I continue to meditate on the reasons it’s not. I suspect it has a lot to do with the turn toward Seriousness and Social Responsibility that Russian literature took in the 1840s. Belinsky has much to answer for."
You should really try to rid yourself of the (very common) idea that everything really worth translating has been translated, so if something hasn't been translated it can't be all that good; it's simply not true.
"The novel is distinguished both for its vivid character sketches and its individualized, expressive language. In a preface to the novel Tolstoy declared that one who wishes to know the language of the Russian people must study Ertel's prose."
"We tend to assume that all the best literature in a given language finds its way into English, and that—making a leap that sounds more sensible than plausible—if it’s worth reading, it’s probably already available in English. But this is simply not true. What gets translated and published in English in any given year is such a tiny fraction of literature available in other languages that we Anglophones can never hope to read all the worthwhile works of literature in other languages. Anyone who knows a foreign literature well would have little trouble naming titles, including major works by major writers in that language, that are unavailable in ours. The odds are strong that you will never be able to read what might have been your favorite book."
I found the lack of translation of Ertel's work odd solely because Mirsky (and apparently many others) praised it so very highly....and I believe I've found translated works of every other writer Mirsky praised as much in his History. I understand Mirsky had his quirks, like all critics, and I vehemently disagree with his negative assessment of Chekhov and some other of his contemporaries, but he was one source I was using to identify works of interest, and I can't read these works in the original Russian to find out for myself.
Now, that's *really* depressed me! As has the comment about the rest of Solzhenitsyn's Red Wheel sequence not being translated. I rate him extremely highly but alas, he's simply not in fashion. Such a shame.
which, among other things, says:
'We tend to assume that all the best literature in a given language finds its way into English, and that—making a leap that sounds more sensible than plausible—if it's worth reading, it's probably already available in English. But this is simply not true. What gets translated and published in English in any given year is such a tiny fraction of literature available in other languages that we Anglophones can never hope to read all the worthwhile works of literature in other languages. Anyone who knows a foreign literature well would have little trouble naming titles, including major works by major writers in that language, that are unavailable in ours. The odds are strong that you will never be able to read what might have been your favorite book.'
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