Constance Garnett. Poor Mrs. Translators suffer a thankless and uneasy afterlife. Or they never get that far: until the King James commission, English translators of the Bible were sometimes burned at the stake or strangled—or, as in the case of William York Tyndale, both. Translators are, for eternity, sent up, put down, nitpicked, and, finally, overturned.
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Aug 06, AM. This post applies for all of Dostoyevsky's books as well. Aug 06, PM. The answer I most often find to this question is Pevear and Volokhonsky. Go figure. In both cases, I read the two translations straight after one another. By more lively I mean with more voice, with more individuality in the voices. Avoid the old Penguins - David Magarshack - like the plague, since he despised Dostoyevsky. David Magarshack despised Dostoevsky? He admired him greatly. I have his translation of a bunch of his short stories and he talks with great fondness about Dostoevsky in the introduction.
Will wrote: "David Magarshack despised Dostoevsky? For me, it's no less than slander, and very unfair. I hate to quote him because people believe this portrait of Dostoyevsky It would be absurd to take Dostoyevsky's political views seriously. Just can't forgive this intro, that teaches you to think poorly of the book before you've begun. Not an introduction's job. Hmmm, that's bizarre. He practically paints Dostoevsky as a god in the introduction to his short stories.
I guess he really didn't like The Devils and thought it was his job to inject his opinions of it beforehand. That's disappointing. I will say his translation of these short stories is really well done, especially compared to other translations I have of Notes from Underground. Will wrote: "Hmmm, that's bizarre. I guess he really didn't like The Devils and thought it was his job to inject his opinions Yes, maybe the politics got his hackles up, with The Devils.
I don't remember his other intros - that one stuck in my head. I can see why that would put you off. How much better is what I'm asking. In the matter of idiosyncratic speech, for the characters and narrator. And I believe D. But then I was just as definite on Crime and Punishment, the other way. Where am I now? Sep 28, AM. Pevear and Volokhonsky are supposedly the ones that translate closest to the original Russian. Other translators may be more lively I don't know , but if those passages were not lively in Dostoevsky's original, then it is no flaw for them to not be lively in a translation.
Since the critics claim that Pevear and Volokhonsky keep it closest to the original, I just stick with them when it comes to Dostoevsky. I can't read or understand Russian, so I can never verify this claim. So in this case, I have to trust the consensus. Dec 19, PM. Annesha wrote: "This post applies for all of Dostoyevsky's books as well. It's a little disheartening to hear all the bashing of Garnett, but I realized that that would be the version that generations of english speaking people had read, so if it was good enough for our elders, then it's good enough for me.
That's not to say you won't get something different out of Pevear, but I'm saying if you end up with Garnett it's not like your reading experience will be terrible. It's a fantastic book whichever translation you use. On Constance Garnett -- through whom I learnt my Dostoyevsky -- I was heartened to see this in Joseph Frank's wonderful 5-book biography: "I have used the translation of Constance Garnett because she takes fewer liberties with the literal meaning than more recent translators.
Dostoevsky: The Seeds of Revolt, Dec 20, AM. Will wrote: "The answer I most often find to this question is Pevear and Volokhonsky. I've read this in two translations and theirs flows much better than the rest; non of the clumsy word heavy idiom that can be so evident in some translated books. Having also read their translation of Anna Kerinena I can say that it applies equally to their translations of Tolstoy. I did still end up falling in love with the book reading the Garnett version.
Maybe if I read it again I'll scope out their translations. It is a book that deserves to be aread a few times, don't you think? Dec 28, PM. She was a brilliant "Russianist" with an extraordinary talent to understand and convey the essence of the writer's soul. She did also a great job with Chekhov, Tolstoy and many others laureate Russians Authors as well. That's good to hear, Fernando, thanks. I do think people 'move on' to newer translations just for the sake they're new, while Constance Garnett suffers merely for being 'old hat'.
Matlaw, with an afterword on translation issues. Feb 22, PM. I have the Modern Library edition. Translated by: Constance Garnett! I just love this edition. Personally, I like the Garnett translations.
I read hers of Anna Karenina years ago and loved the book. Paid for the hard-cover and everything. But the translation just plodded along, and after pages or so, I gave up. Which I think, given the range of reactions here, means that there is no one "best" translation—just the one you like the most.
Feb 23, PM. Constance Garnett is closer to the author's. Even after so many years, Garnett's translation is still fresh. Aug 28, PM. Thanks for your suggestion, Chris. I've just read The New Yorker's article and very much enjoyed it. Aug 29, AM. The better translators remain relatively invisible so that the art of the author shines through. It's the translations of modern German authors like Joseph Roth and Gunther Grass that I have found to be the most clumsy rather than those of Tolstoy et al.
Nov 06, PM. The best translations of Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky are revised versions of Garnett's work. Garnett was an amateur linguist--so she did make a fair number of errors--who also wrote beautifully clear prose. Blunders are easy to correct, an unpolished style is not. It's frankly incredible that her translations have held up as well as they have. As someone pointed out above, Ralph Matlaw revised Garnett's work for the Norton Critical edition published in the s and the daisy-fresh 2nd edition of did the same.
That's the edition to get. Nov 26, AM. Dec 10, AM. Check out this link. Dec 10, PM. Edit: Apparently my preferred translator died just yesterday. Dec 11, AM. I started with the Garnett translation and had great difficulty making progress and I've read a fair bit of 19th Century literature - I'm used to the style ; I got on much better with the MacAndrew.
I found it lively and the language was natural and fluid. Dec 11, PM. David wrote: "Edit: Apparently my preferred translator died just yesterday. Might make me read his, which I've bought ready. Dec 15, AM.
Such an interesting discussion. I think one crucial point is, what is meant by "best translation"? Is it accuracy? Is it readability?
Brothers Karamazov, Pevear
Welcome sign in sign up. Toward the end of the nineteenth century, when it became clear to readers in Europe and America that masterpieces of fiction on a huge scale had been produced during the last half century in Russia, there was a demand for translations. Anna Karenina appeared first in France and was reviewed in England by Matthew Arnold, who saw what a great novel it was, though he objected that Anna behaved in a rather precipitate and un-English fashion: George Eliot would have organized her temptation and fall as perceptively but with more decorum. The craze for Dostoevsky came later. Constance Garnett, the wife of a literary agent and man of letters, brought out translations of all his novels between and , when his work was already well known on the Continent. Her knowledge of Russian was not particularly good and she was apt to leave out the bits she could not quite get the sense of, but she adored her work and her style had a natural animation and flow. She had already translated Turgenev, and her version of Dostoevsky remained the standard one until fairly recently, though there were more accurate renderings by David Magarshak and others.
The Translation Wars
Aug 06, AM. This post applies for all of Dostoyevsky's books as well. Aug 06, PM. The answer I most often find to this question is Pevear and Volokhonsky. Go figure. In both cases, I read the two translations straight after one another.