Manny's Reviews > Crime and Punishment

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
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message 1: by Paul (new)

Paul Whoah, look what I found. Manny rating one of the great works of lit three stars. Calls for some kind of review, I think.


Manny Paul, that's a translation of one of the great works of literature...


notgettingenough Manny wrote: "Paul, that's a translation of one of the great works of literature..."

Oh, so on principle can't mark it higher! I am convinced, however, that a translator may improve a work. Unfortunately that is easier said than demonstrated.


message 4: by Paul (new)

Paul Okay, so.... er.... what are we sayin here? Stuff can't be translated? Arguable but impractical. I do agree that translation is a Problem. But if you're doling out 3 stars for the translation, review the translation!


message 5: by Manny (last edited Jan 03, 2011 02:46PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Manny If the original is one of the greatest works of world literature, odds are that the translator won't be an equally gifted writer. It would be a weird coincidence, right? I don't recall this one being a winning ticket.

I mean, sure, even the translation was good, but I'm frustrated because I haven't actually read the book. I've just heard what the translator told me about it. Anyway, I have a feeling I've said all this stuff before :)


message 6: by Manny (last edited Jan 03, 2011 02:49PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Manny PS If you haven't already seen it, please look at my review of Pippi Långstrump i Söderhavet.


notgettingenough Manny wrote: "If the original is one of the greatest works of world literature, odds are that the translator won't be an equally gifted writer. It would be a weird coincidence, right? I don't recall this one bei..."

Sorry.


Timothy K. Manny wrote: "If the original is one of the greatest works of world literature, odds are that the translator won't be an equally gifted writer. It would be a weird coincidence, right? I don't recall this one bei..."

Can you read Russian Manny?

If so, how does Dostoevsky's prose differ from his various translators? And was Nabokov correct when he said that when you read Constance Garnett's translations of Russian literature, you are simply reading her prose instead of Tolstoy's, Dostoevsky's, Gogol's etc.?


message 9: by Manny (last edited Jan 03, 2011 02:53PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Manny I have a little Russian, but nowhere near enough to read Dostoyevsky. I basically agree with Nabokov!


message 10: by Paul (new)

Paul I swing both ways on this question. I had a bad experience years ago trying the read The Idiot - gave up, all the characters were barking mad. I couldn't figure out if the translator was really bad or if FD was actually insane or if he was just portraying a crazy aspect of Russian society - I lost by bearings completely, and it put me off the great Russians. However, I worship at the shrine of 100 Years of Solitude and Madame Bovary. Nabokov was an egregious elitest butterfly catcher.


Manny Of course there are great translations. I'm just saying it's a lottery, and I've never been that keen on lotteries...


Aditya Mandalemula Manny, I demand you to right away give five stars to this book. For God's sake please realise that many readers are following your ratings. Award the book the rating it deserves. Advise the Readers well Manny. Your reviews are good work.


message 13: by Manny (last edited Nov 17, 2011 12:57PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Manny Aditya, I'm sorry but I have to be true to my principles as described in the earlier comments. If I ever get to read it in Russian, I'm sure I'll give it five stars! It's not Dostoyevsky, it's me. And thank you for your kind remarks about my reviews.


Aditya Mandalemula And you are giving the 'It's not Dostoevsky, it's me.' routine? You don't give me that. I invented that routine. If anybody says that, only I should. :) (with regards to Seinfeld).


message 15: by Paul (last edited Nov 18, 2011 08:03AM) (new)

Paul Dear Aditya - Manny's followers are no ignorami by definition, and can therefore be trusted to look past the necessarily crude star system we have here to the refinements of Manny's actual reviews. So the problem you are alluding to does not, in fact, arise. I have complete faith in the sophistication of Manny's legion of followers.


Manny Hey Aditya, it's a good routine! I'm willing to pay royalties if necessary...


message 17: by Whitaker (new)

Whitaker Which translation was that, Manny. I hear the Pevear version is supposed to be one of the better ones.


message 18: by MJ (last edited Nov 18, 2011 10:07AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Translators work to recreate, as faithfully as possible, their chosen author's style, so I think Nabokov's argument is horribly dismissive. The Pevear & wife Russian translations recreate Dostoevsky in English as accurately as humanly possible!

Plus, surely it's impossible to tell whether it's the translation or the text itself that's at fault, if you haven't read the original? Dostoevsky is a manic, gibbering loon at times: no doubt it's worse in the Russian.


Bibliomantic "It would be a weird coincidence, right?"

Probably not. The translator actively seeks out something to translate. So, no coincidence here.


message 20: by Ted (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ted I would think that the judgement that the book is one of the greatest in all of world literature was not made by a small cadre of readers who read in in the original 19th century Russian? Presumably this judgement has been made by a multitude of readers who have read the book in a variety of languages and translations. Sure the translation makes a difference. But if you are not rating the real work, but only the translation why no "review" that at least says what translation you read, that made you judge your reading experience as no more than an average read?


Manny Well, I'm very picky about style. Look at my post #6 for further comments!


Aditya Mandalemula Manny, try Constance Garnett's translation of Crime and Punishment. I'm reading her translation and I'm just loving it. Loving it.


message 23: by Rahul Nath (last edited Nov 27, 2012 12:19PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Rahul Nath Constance Garnett never did it for me. The David Mcduff translation is what I am reading and it's much better in my opinion. I'm putting "The Brothers Karamazov" on hold until I get my hands on Pevear/Volkhonsky.


Bibliomantic There are modified Garnet translations out there now, and those, I think, are good. The originals left something to be desired.
The same thing happened to the Maude translations of Tolstoy. George Gibian did some splendid work on those.


message 25: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Garnett was a translating machine, she didn't focus on details so much when she was translating all Russian works ever written into English.


message 26: by Ali (new) - added it

Ali MJ wrote: "Garnett was a translating machine, she didn't focus on details so much when she was translating all Russian works ever written into English."

Certainly not. That's why revised, edited, improved Garnetts exist at all. Same for the Maudes. According to D.H. Lawrence, MJ's use of "machine" couldn't be more accurate, since she would translate a page, toss it on the floor in front of her, and go on with the next one without pause. If there was a word or phrase she didn't know, it had to go. The quality of her prose is excellent (I suspect if she had felt like it she might have written good novels), and she probably got most of the meanings of what has been written correct, but her abilities to convey the authorial voice and use of language of whoever she's translating is somewhat lacking, as it's said that, for example, Dostoevsky's prose was, due to deadlines, often quite slapdash, and you just don't see that in Garnett, or many other translators, for that matter. His prose sounds flowery and ornate, as if it had been worked and reworked several times until it was perfect, when filtered through her interpretations. Some reviewers say that P&V sounds overly clumsy, but if it's true that they echo, as much as they can in such a different language, the prose of the author they're translating, those reviewers' complaints should perhaps be directed twoards the original author, not the translators, although doubtless there are some times when P&V, in their mission to be literal, lose some comprehensibility, and they're certainly not perfect and have written translations that just didn't work for me (Master and margarita, for reasons other than the quality of their English prose). I don't hate Garnett the way Nabokov does (if that's even possible; Nabokov's special brand of hatred isn't easy to replicate), but if I have to read her translations, I prefer revised editions if I can find them.


message 27: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Thanks for the illumination, Ali. All translations need revising and updating every generation or two. Since Constance was one of the first to translate, she no doubt exploited her skill for lucre, knowing she'd be dead by the time anyone checked up on her. Canny woman. P&V maybe aren't the perfectionists people think they are, though it's nice to have that feeling you're getting the best translation available, when it's so subjective, and no best one probably exists.


message 28: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Alternatively, be like Manny and don't read anything in translation because Kingsley Amis said so. Clearly the smarter move.


Manny MJ, I never do anything without checking my well-thumbed copy of Everyday Drinking. In fact the only reason I'm not blind drunk right now is because Kingers said it was a good idea to spend one day in ten sober. He's right you know.


message 30: by MJ (new) - rated it 5 stars

MJ Nicholls Manny wrote: "because Kingers said it was a good idea to spend one day in ten sober."

Never one for following his own advice, that Kingers.


Manny Well, it's a good idea in principle. You have to be a little flexible with the implementation.


message 32: by Rob (last edited Nov 27, 2012 08:16PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rob P&V and Garnett both feel clunky and awkward to me. Maybe I just don't like 19th-century Russian literature (stylistically).

This may just be me, but I don't like the bland, "timeless" style that often seems to be an ideal in translation. (A lot of the praise I hear for P&V is along these lines: "it doesn't sound like a Victorian English novel OR a modern English novel! It's just . . . itself!" Is that a good thing?) This style isn't quite associated with any particular era or style of English-language writing, so it gives me no clues about where the original slotted into its own context. (Imagine a "timeless" translation of Shakespeare into some other language, stripped of his neologisms and his archaic sound to modern English speakers. Eww.)


message 33: by Nissa (new) - added it

Nissa Rachmidwiati Hi, Manny the goodreads-celebrity! LOL I really want to read your review about this book sometimes in the future! :)


Manny Thank you Nissa :) For some reason, people keep asking me about this book...


message 35: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj cool thread. I stand with you manny - but sometimes it is not the prose or the language, it is the ideas that matter. In any case, if you feel you havent read the book (since it is a translation), then you should refrain from rating it, no? jk.


Manny Well, I have read the translation, and my rating is for the translation!


message 37: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Manny wrote: "Well, I have read the translation, and my rating is for the translation!"

But how can you judge a translation without reading the original?


Manny I can judge it on its own merits, like any other piece of writing. Obviously I can't judge it as a translation...


message 39: by Riku (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Manny wrote: "I can judge it on its own merits, like any other piece of writing. Obviously I can't judge it as a translation..."

Right. So how do you know which piece of sublimeness/mediocrity is intrinsic to the translation or is derived from the original. Or do we just judge the overall language separated entirely from the message or anything that goes beyond the language aspects?

There is no way I can think of to judge a translation independent of the book that will hold water... Do I need to go through the thread on Pippi?


message 40: by Riku (last edited Jul 15, 2013 03:35AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Riku Sayuj Or are you saying that you forget that this is a translation and read the book. And the rating is for that reading.

But again, surely part of the credit should go to the original author for your reading experience? Or do you choose to ignore that.

Sorry for the spate of questions but I am genuinely fascinated at the exercise....


Manny As usual, the problem is that you're never sure what comes from the original author and what comes from the translator. I am having this problem at the moment with Drake's translation of Galileo...


message 42: by M. (new) - rated it 4 stars

M. Sarki I read mostly translations as I prefer them to most (and certainly not all) English-speaking writers. I have no knowledge of any other language but English so when I read these translations I credit the translator for making the work perhaps as good as it was in its native language or even better. And if the work isn't any good I will try another translator before completely rejecting the foreign writer. I have an interesting anecdote regarding this subject which would shed some light on the argument here. Or discussion, as everyone seems to be quite understanding and reasonable. The fact that you, Manny, can read so many different languages is fascinating to me and of course I would trust your assessment of a writer versus a translator if you actually compared the works to each other. For example, take The Walk, by Robert Walser. It is short. Read it in German and then compare the same short story to Christopher Middleton's translation and then to Susan Bernofsky's of same. It shouldn't take you much time at all, but I would be completely interested in what you have to say about it. Today, I am not sure how good Walser actually is, but I am convinced that Bernofsky is a brilliant translator. Perhaps later I will tell my story but right now I need to get into the woods with my dog before it gets too hot.


message 43: by Ian (new) - added it

Ian Heidin-Seek MJ wrote: "The Pevear & wife Russian translations recreate Dostoevsky in English as accurately as humanly possible!"

Shouldn't it be Volokhonsky and husband?


Manny My Swedish, French and Norwegian are good enough for me to be able to compare the quality of a translation with the original and feel reasonably confident. Just thinking of the first authors that happen to come to mind where I've read both versions, I would venture to say that Astrid Lindgren, Jean Anouilh and Henrik Ibsen are all much better in the original...


message 45: by Eric (new) - rated it 5 stars

Eric I couldn't agree more with giving this translation 3 stars. It was an entirely different experience than reading Pevear and Volokhonsky, and that sure as hell matters.

That being said, read Pevear and Volokhonsky already! My russian isn't near good enough to compare it to the original, but my cousin (who introduced me to russian literature and was a native russian speaker) described all of their translations as impeccable. And judging from the quality of all their work in comparison to others, I'd have to assume he was telling the truth, at least in regards to their russian translations.


message 46: by Oni (new) - added it

Oni Thanks to all of you guys. switch my reading to Pevear translation. Time to dump my Garnett translation.


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