Must we read Richard Pevear translations?
Entre no LibraryThing para poder publicar.
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and I didn't know if it was me or the translation. Any thoughts of Pevear and familas? I wonder what their Zhivago is like? I've read some people find them too literary, and apparently Paternacks's
daughter thinks they got the whole book wrong. Thoughts? I feel so obliged to read their work.
Reviews of translations are tricky things, and in many cases they're not necessarily even written by people who can read the original language. I suspect the praise heaped on P&V is partly a result of this, partly a response to the fact that some of Constance Garnett's translations are starting to feel stilted and Victorian to today's ear, so a more "modern" style is felt to be refreshing, and partly that the slightly odd English which seems to be so typical of P&V's translations captures a strangeness or exoticism that fits many readers' expectations of what Russian literature should sound like.
My Russian isn't good enough to evaluate the strength of their translations (there are others here who can), but I tend to be skeptical that the lavish amounts of high praise are completely merited, for two reasons: 1) from everything I've heard about their workflow, neither half of the team has enough mastery of their non-native language to be a good judge of style in that language. I actually think that having native speakers of both source and target languages working together is an intriguing idea, but Pevear apparently hasn't even rudimentary knowledge of Russian. 2) They've translated so much, and I simply don't find it plausible that every single translation of theirs is the definitive translation of that work when they cover such a wide range of authors and styles. Gogol presents very different challenges for a translator than, say, Tolstoy, and inevitably every translator is going to find that they have more affinity to certain authors than others.
My advice? Pick translations on a book-by-book basis rather than having a "go-to" translator. Sometimes there is one translation of a particular work that most people agree is especially good. Sometimes there isn't, and in such cases I have often found it helpful to read samples of various translations to get a sense of whether one works better for me than another.
And I strongly second spiphany's advice to pick translations on a book-by-book basis. Compare as many as you can find and pick the one that most appeals to you.
Thanks for the recommendation of Morson's "Narrative and Freedom" -- that sounds right up my alley! In my former life as a literary scholar in training these were the sort of narratological questions that most interested me.
To be fair, I found their translation of The Three Musketeers very readable.
Translations can never attain absolute "artistic" correctness, they are simply interpretations of one writer by another/others. Which translations are "best" will depend on a reader's unique sensibilities, preferences, and tastes. Only an expert bilingual reader/critic/academic can assess whether or not (in their opinion) a translation is approximately faithful to the original author's style, technique, and intent, and then, whether or not a work's stylistic merits and flaws are mostly attributable to the author or to the translator.
Yes, of course, and people should feel free to choose whichever translation works for them; every translation is bound to have a few errors, but they're unlikely to affect the reading experience much. The problem with P&V, setting aside technical issues, is that they present themselves as far superior to everyone else and their relentless publicity machine reinforces that self-presentation (which extends to their actually going into blog comment threads and arguing with people who criticize them), so that, as the original poster said, "I feel so obliged to read their work." I personally find that revolting and would refuse to read them even if I didn't have other problems with their work. Furthermore, not only are they trying to monopolize the field, they are not using their domination to bring hitherto untranslated works to the attention of the English-speaking reader, they are retranslating every famous work of Russian lit, already available in scads of versions. Bah, I say, bah.
I have not read a translation of any of the classics by Marian Schwartz, but she is one of my 'go to' translators for contemporary works. I have been very impressed with her ability to find American idioms to represent the Russian ones.
For classic Russian authors, I tend to look for translations by David McDuff or Andrew Bromfield. I was particularly impressed with how McDuff handled the shifts in register, compared to the Garnett version.
Does anyone else here have opinions on these translators?
Nice choice of exemplar passage there. Although the obvious translation for портвейн for a British translator would probably be Bucky!
Most of the criticism I have seen of Marian Schwartz has been by British readers, for whom the American idioms are as unfamiliar as the Russian originals. But that is unavoidable; to translate Kostya into a neutral standard English register would be awful.
David McDuff uses British colloquialisms - I loved his version of the narrative from the two vagabonds in The House of the Dead - do these cause problems for American readers?
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