Monday, January 25, 2010


I'm reading ths Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsy tranlsation, which I'm excited about. I just read the intro. Bits on history, and Tolstoy's personal history. A little daunting, I think.

I was most intrigued by the comparison of the translations and their respect of Tolstoy's repetitions, which I guess a lot of people revise in translations. Pevear in his introduction gives several examples, the most succinct of which is the translation of the sentence "Kápli kápali", which literally means "Drops dripped." He said it has been translated as "The branches dripped" or "The trees were dripping" instead of just going for the exact simplicity of the original. Reading the few sentences of the night scene that phrase is a part of, I was struck by the onomatopoeia of the language. I don't speak Russian, of course, but the sounds are there. It reminds me of once in synagogue someone telling me that reading the book of Ruth in Hebrew is to hear the wind through the grain in the field. Something is always lost in translation, but I think in this case I'm in good hands. And there's also French and German, so that should be fun. Thank g-d for footnotes

And the Russian names. But I thought the names in Chekhov were a mite confusing when I first read them, and now I know them very well. Though this one has over 60 characters and they all have nicknames!

First word to look up from the intro: chiasmus, which is one of the rhetorical devices that Tolstoy uses. What is it?

"a reversal in the order of words in two otherwise parallel phrases, as in “He went to the country, to the town went she."

Huh. You hear it all the time in fairy tales, right? Learn something new every day.

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