Sunday, October 14, 2007

Richard Pevear on Collaborative Translation

Richard Pevear on collaborative translation:

I'll take an example of what that collaboration can produce from Tolstoy's description of the Russian Army crossing the river Enns. After a good deal of confusion, the hussar captain Denisov finally manages to clear the infantry from the bridge and send his cavalry over. As the first riders move onto the bridge, Tolstoy writes, "On the planks of the bridge the transparent sounds of hoofs rang out." The Russian is unmistakable — prozrachnye zvuki, "transparent sounds" — and I find its precision breathtaking. It is pure Tolstoy. To my knowledge, it has never been translated into English. What we find in other versions is the "thud" or "clang" of hoofs, and it is likely that I would have done something similar if Larissa had not brought me back to what Tolstoy actually wrote. His prose is full of such moments of fresh, immediate perception. Coming upon them and finding words for them in English has been one of the most rewarding aspects of our work.

To read the rest of Pevear's article on the experience of translating Tolstoy's War and Peace in collaboration with Larissa Volokhonsky, click here. Their new translation is due to be released this week. I must get myself a copy!


Seachanges said...

Am fascinated by translations and how well they convey a writer's intentions. Have printed off the reviews for reading on the train - thanks!

John Mutford said...

I never used to pay much attention to the translator and just picked whatever copy I could find, naively thinking they were all pretty much the same. I enjoyed War and Peace at the time, but I wonder if I wouldn't have liked it even more with a better translation.

apostata said...

Great news on the War and Peace - it finally sounds as if translation (and quality thereof) is getting the attention it deserves. I look forward to this edition.

In searching for Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita, I realised there were no less than 5 existing translations to choose from (which I wrote about here: I managed to find an independently-published translation, translated by someone sharing the concerns noted in your article on Tolstoy.

Bluestalking Reader said...

These two also did Anna K a few years back, right? They're getting to be quite the Russian specialists. This certainly does sound tempting... Blimy.

SuziQoregon said...

Early this year I read the highly praised translation Pevear did of The Three Musketeers. I loved it and based on some comparisons I'm really glad I was picky about which translation I chose.

I will definitely look for this one!