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Thread: Best translation of Dostoevsky besides Pevear/Volokhonsky?

  1. #1

    Best translation of Dostoevsky besides Pevear/Volokhonsky?

    I've been getting into Russian literature recently and have been researching the different translations out there.

    In my mind the Garnett translations are not very good, in fact, in some ways I feel they are edits rather than translations.

    Many people give praise to P/V, although not universal, I believe it can't be argued that they are most truthful to the original text. They've done many of his novels/novellas but only have, at least to my knowledge, one compilation of short stories. The Eternal Husband and other short stories

    I noticed there was another compilation called "Best Short Stories of F. D." this one translated by David Magershack. Although Magershack has written the biographies of no less than 6 Russian authors he is supposedly best known for his translations of Dostoevsky.

    Would anyone care to comment on D.M's translations as they relate to P/V? are they just as good? better? Is Magershack seen as a competent translator of Dostoevsky?

    I took some time to compare his translations to Garnett's and I feel he is much better but was wondering what the general consensus is as to how he stacks up against P/V.

    thanks for any help you can offer.

  2. #2
    Quote Originally Posted by Der Wegwerfer View Post
    In my mind the Garnett translations are not very good, in fact, in some ways I feel they are edits rather than translations.
    Can you justify that statement? She is one of the most admired *translators* of Dostoevsky. I've never before seen someone claim she *edited* works - in the usual sense of cutting chunks out and producing an abridged version. Maybe you are using "edit" as a metaphor for "domesticating translation"? Can you give an example where Magershack does better?

  3. #3
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Garnett in my mind is the most admired because, firstly she was the very first, secondly because no-one has taken the time to compare and thirdly because there is next to no-one in the anglosaxon world who speaks Russian and who will take the time to look with an unprejudiced eye to her "translations". It is not because it reads easy, that it is good. Bi difference. Mills and Boon might read easily. Is it good? I think there will be no discussion about that.

    If you cannot translate properly a simple word as 'zloy', then there is something wrong with you.

    If you ask me, her translations are rather a reflection of the British mind-set then, 'we/I know best, we are superior' and 'wowowo, that is too passionate, better tone it down'. She probable knew what it said, no doubt about that, I think and hope, but it was not to be heard, because 'people will take it the wrong way'. Juming to conclusions was rampant.

    As I said the only reason why she is an acclaimed "translator' is because no-one knows better and because people have got used to the easy way. There is no easy.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

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  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by kiki1982 View Post
    Garnett in my mind is the most admired because, firstly she was the very first, secondly because no-one has taken the time to compare...
    A simple Google search will show that you are wrong, there are many comparisons.

    There are *many* in the anglosaxon world who speaks Russian - the cold war made sure of that! And there are *many* translations of Dostoevsky & Tolstoy now, and many (reasonably unprejudiced, I think!) critics - some who prefer P&V, others who prefer Garnett, some other translators, some who have mixed feelings...

    I think some American translators are far superior to British translators for certain books, in my experience (e.g., Mandelbaum - Dante.) So I'm not adopting a 'Little Britain' attitude. I haven't seen evidence of this in other critics, either.

    With P&V 'people will take it the wrong way' because direct, literal translation is often opaque. I also find their style (in Tolstoy at least) rather grating (compared to the excellent Maudes.)

  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by mal4mac View Post
    Can you justify that statement? She is one of the most admired *translators* of Dostoevsky. I've never before seen someone claim she *edited* works - in the usual sense of cutting chunks out and producing an abridged version. Maybe you are using "edit" as a metaphor for "domesticating translation"? Can you give an example where Magershack does better?
    sure, I was reading the Brothers K. online at Amazon and at the same time reading a copy of Garnett's Brothers K. as well, basically comparing line for line. At one point early in the story Dostoevsky describes a character as given to drunkeness and orgies. Constance Garrett simply left out orgies and translated only of his drunkeness. That's editing for the Victorian crowd, No?

    don't get me wrong, she was the first Anglo to translate the great Russian authors and thus gave Brits/Americans/Canadians etc. their first opportunities to read the great Russian authors but that was over 100 years ago. There are many translators who translate without the outdated sympathies of a bygone Victorian era and who don't literally leave out words or passages. Even when Garnett is not editing in such a way her motive of language does strike a 21C. native speaker of english as outdated in some way.

    I understand P/V aren't for everyone and they have received some critisim as well but there are many native speakers of Russian, authors themselves, who will vouch for their completness and acuracy. I do believe Constance Garnett is outdated. We've had the great works of Russian literature translated many times by many different translators and I do believe most are closer to P/V than Constance Garnett. In fact, many of her translations being sold today have been revised throughout by others such as Juliya Salkovskaya and Nicholas Rice. Why would this be neccesary if she is still the gold standard?

    Back to the topic at hand, because P/V have not translated many of Dostoevsky's short stories I was wondering if others enjoyed the David Magershack translations as he was supposedly well known for them? In particular his volume entitled: Best short stories of F. D.

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