Saturday, October 27, 2007

Washington Post on Russan Lit

The Washington Post has two Russian translations on review this week.

First, a review of the Collected Stories of Ivan Bunin, translated by Graham Hettlinger.

They also have Michael Dirda reviewing the new Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky translation of War and Peace.

Stressing that their War and Peace sticks more closely to the Russian text than any other, including Louise and Aylmer Maude's semi-canonical 1923 version, Pevear and Volokhonsky retain the considerable amount of French used by Tolstoy's counts and princesses, preserve the author's penchant for word repetition and aim to match his tidy syntactic conciseness. The result certainly reads smoothly, its English being neither egregiously contemporary nor inappropriately old-fashioned. In this respect, the Pevear-Volokhonsky War and Peace joins company with recent translations of The Tale of Genji, Don Quixote and In Search of Lost Time, these being among the few works of classic fiction equal to Tolstoy's in scope and richness. Given so capacious and generous a masterpiece, it's simply impossible to do more than offer -- with due humility at how much is being overlooked -- a few introductory propositions for the would-be reader.

My copy is now sitting in my room, seducing me with its coy blue and red spine. It awaits 1st January 2008.

2 comments:

Matt said...

I'm glad that a consistent flow of new translations of all-time classics is taking place say, every few years. In the time of decadence of readership, classics still find their niche in the market and are warmly embraced by book lovers.

I have never read The Tale of Genji, which will be another impending reading challenge.

I wonder what I'll read on 1/1/08.

Dark Orpheus said...

I wanted to pick up the Tale of Genji for a while, but decided to shelf those plans for a while.

There's always the great classics from around the world - you tell yourself you have to read them, but you need time: War and Peace, Moby Dick, In Search of Lost Time, Tale of Genji.

And they only serve to remind me how little time there is available in one lifetime.