Translation comparison: Count Nulin
XIX век
by Erik McDonald
11h ago
Ten years ago I said that Pushkin’s Count Nulin (Граф Нулин, 1825) didn’t get translated often enough to need a translation comparison, but I was wrong. By then there were already at least three published English translations, all as Count Nulin rather than Count Zero, a title some people use that translates the joke in the name. (If you know of other translations, not counting this apparently machine-translated text, let me know!) I was curious how the translators handled five things. Number one: horns. This playful long poem about one potential and perhaps one real extramarital affair s ..read more
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A past that never existed
XIX век
by Erik McDonald
6d ago
An obvious but still interesting question is how Russian art moved from the various Realisms of Ge, Kramskoi, Repin, and Surikov to the even more diverse Modernist approaches of Kuznetsov, Saryan, Malevich, Goncharova, Larionov, Filonov, Popova, El Lissitzky, and a million others. Part of the answer is that people and images move across national borders, so the second group was reacting to more than just the first group. Another argument you see is that the new generation of patrons from the ascendant (and disproportionately Old Believer) merchant class were used to icons and so had a good eye ..read more
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What do translators actually do with formal and informal pronouns?
XIX век
by Erik McDonald
2w ago
I’m still working on revising last summer’s translation of Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaya’s “Behind the Wall” (За стеною, 1862), and I’m still hung up on what to do about formal and informal “you.” At any given moment, each of the two nameless main characters may be using a different pronoun than they were using five minutes ago or than their conversation partner is currently using with them. People I trust gave me contradictory advice—some wanted me to keep noting which pronoun is used where, at least in the most important places, but several people thought it was obvious that, in Languagehat’s wor ..read more
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“…he said I was the living image of his youth, and should have been his support in old age and brought honor to his name, had I been born a boy!”
XIX век
by Erik McDonald
1M ago
I came to love blogs in the 2000s, reading economists and political scientists who weren’t afraid to hit the same main points again and again, to link to their opponents as well as their allies, and to admit their ignorance about important things in their own field. The one place where I’ve been able to do what they did is in letting my own ignorance show, like when I wrote in 2013 that Nadezhda Durova “used male pseudonyms as a soldier, but AFAIK not as a writer.” I still haven’t read Durova, but now I’ve read an article about that author and can instead say that I haven’t read Aleksandr Alek ..read more
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Words new to me: репетир
XIX век
by Erik McDonald
1M ago
From stanza 31 of Afanasii Fet’s narrative poem The Student (Студент, 1884): Без опыта, без денег и без сил, У чьей груди я мог искать спасенья? Серебряный я кубок свой схватил, Что подарила мать мне в день рожденья, И пенковую трубку, что хранил В чехле, как редкость, полную значенья, Был и бинокль туда же приобщен И с репетиром золотой Нортон. With no experience, money, or strength, at whose breast could I seek salvation? I grabbed the silver cup that my mother had given me for my birthday and the meerschaum pipe that I kept in a case as if it were a rarity filled with significance; a pair o ..read more
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Green noise
XIX век
by Erik McDonald
3M ago
Nekrasov’s poem “The Green Noise” (Зеленый шум, 1862–63) takes us inside the perspective of a peasant man who decides to kill his wife. She voluntarily tells him—he wishes she hadn’t—about something that happened to her while he was in St. Petersburg. It’s hard for the reader to tell if she was raped or had an affair, since we hear this through the “I” of a husband concerned about something other than consent. Listening to winter’s cruel voice, the man is obsessed with his own feelings and the fear he will lose the community’s respect if he does nothing. With the coming of spring (the Green No ..read more
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The early and late Putin years in detective shows
XIX век
by Erik McDonald
6M ago
With another new year, Putin (24-year reign, if you include the tandem of 2008–2012) is catching up to the nineteenth-century rulers Alexander I (also 24 years), Alexander II (26 years), and Nicholas I (30 years). And just as getting to know the nineteenth century means learning about not just watershed dates, but gradations within one reign—like the comparatively open period under conservative Nicholas I in the mid-1840s, long after the Decembrists but before the events of 1848—people are already starting to divide the Putin years into periods. One way to get a feel for what’s changed is from ..read more
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Khvoshchinskaya Sisters Digital Collection
XIX век
by Erik McDonald
7M ago
My fellow Nadezhda Khvoshchinskaya fans—and, of course, fans of her sisters—will love the new site put together by a team of Khvoshchinskaya scholars as well as librarians and researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. It’s not just links, but actual downloadable .pdfs of the sisters’ works and works about them. And it’s not just the most famous pieces, but also things like a story Khvoshchinskaya translated from Norwegian for a newspaper originally by an author whose Wikipedia page currently exists only in Norwegian, Swedish, and Finnish. Last summer I spent hours trying to ..read more
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Girls Are Smarter Than Old Men
XIX век
by Erik McDonald
8M ago
My podcasts post did what I hoped, and now I have more good things to listen to than time to listen. Thanks to all who weighed in with suggestions! I wanted to highlight one podcast: Девчонки умнее стариков (Girls Are Smarter Than Old Men, after the title of an 1885 Tolstoi story also called “Little Girls Wiser Than Men”), recommended by jkdenne and surely of interest to readers of blogs like this one. Hosts Natasha Lomykina and Masha Lebedeva take pairs of books that did or didn’t make the shortlist for the Yasnaya Polyana Literary Award and second-guess the choices of the all-male selection ..read more
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Behind the Wall (preface to the 1866 edition)
XIX век
by Erik McDonald
8M ago
The preface below is from page 201 of V. Krestovskii [N. D. Khvoshchinskaia], Romany i povesti, vol. 8 (St. Petersburg, 1866). The 1866 text restores passages cut by the censor in the 1862 journal publication. The title and year of the story (“Behind the Wall. 1862.”) were printed on separate lines above the preface. Page 202 is blank, and the story proper begins on page 203, where the title but not the year is repeated. The next story appears under its title only, without the year or a preface. This preface to “Behind the Wall” was absent when the story was republished in 1880, 1892, and 1912 ..read more
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