Thursday, August 10, 2006

New Translations

I came across this article entitled "Flood of re-translated classics hits shelves" by Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg.

Lots of classics are getting new translations. No surprise.

Robert Fagles will have a new translation out later this year: The Aeneid. I have his renditions of The Iliad and The Odyssesy, so I'll definitely pick up The Aeneid to complete the collection.

But probably only in the Penguin Deluxe paperback.

As for the Russian masters:
In January, Viking released a version of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace," the first new English translation in nearly 40 years of the sprawling Russian saga about the Napoleonic Wars. A blurb on the back jacket of the 1,412-page volume, translated by Anthony Briggs, calls it "the best translation so far of Tolstoy's masterpiece into English."

In fall 2007, Everyman's Library is coming out with its own "War and Peace," translated by husband-and-wife team Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. "It will be our most important new translation of the year," says LuAnn Walther, the imprint's editorial director.

I have the Anthony Briggs translation, which I'm reading in bite-size right now. But if I knew then that the Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky translation will be out in 2007, I would have gladly waited. Their treatment of Dostoevsky gave me confidence in their Russian translations. It brought the energy and passion back into his language that earlier versions lack. Dostoevsky was not a stiff-upper lipped Victorian gentleman and translations that made him sound British missed the point entirely. The Dostoevskian soul is closer to a manic-depressive. At least that's how I see it.

One of the crtics against new translations is Andre Aciman - not that he is against them, but he pointed out that not all new translations necessarily improves on the original. Sometimes, the new translation is just plain jack-assed. Of course, he phrased more politely:
He specifically criticizes the decision by Viking Penguin to change the title of the second volume of Marcel Proust's novel "A la recherche du temps perdu" in a 2004 translation, from Within a Budding Grove to In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower. He describes the new title as "monstrous." "Do you know what that means, because I don't," he says.

Andre Aciman also edited the compilation, The Proust Project - which has different writers writing about their favourite passages from "The Proustian Epic." I am going to just call it "The Proustian Epic" because to call it either "Remembrance of Things Past" or "In Search of Lost Time" is getting my hands dirty on choice of translators.

On a personal note: I like the Lydia Davis translation of Swann's Way. Granted I have read no other translations to make a comparison, but Lydia Davis's effort rendered the sinuous prose intimate and endearing.

I've just started on James Grieve's translation, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower.

Already, I feel the difference. Sorely.

Full article.

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