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2017 Group Reads - Archives > Eugene Onegin - Background

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message 1: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2787 comments Mod
Please place any information about Eugene Onegin here.


message 2: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1299 comments Mod
Is it ok to copy/paste from Wikipedia? Here's their description:

Onegin is considered a classic of Russian literature, and its eponymous protagonist has served as the model for a number of Russian literary heroes (so-called superfluous men). It was published in serial form between 1825 and 1832. The first complete edition was published in 1833, and the currently accepted version is based on the 1837 publication.

Almost the entire work is made up of 389 stanzas of iambic tetrameter with the unusual rhyme scheme "AbAbCCddEffEgg", where the uppercase letters represent feminine rhymes while the lowercase letters represent masculine rhymes. This form has come to be known as the "Onegin stanza" or the "Pushkin sonnet."

The innovative rhyme scheme, the natural tone and diction, and the economical transparency of presentation all demonstrate the virtuosity which has been instrumental in proclaiming Pushkin as the undisputed master of Russian poetry.

The story is told by a narrator (a lightly fictionalized version of Pushkin's public image), whose tone is educated, worldly, and intimate. The narrator digresses at times, usually to expand on aspects of this social and intellectual world. This allows for a development of the characters and emphasizes the drama of the plot despite its relative simplicity.

The book is admired for the artfulness of its verse narrative as well as for its exploration of life, death, love, ennui, convention and passion.

**********************
Also, the opera by Tchaikovsky of the same name is very popular here in Czech Republic.

Here it is (I haven't watched it yet):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6VSGA...


message 3: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2787 comments Mod
There is a new translation which I have requested from our local library in which the title is given as Yevgeny Onegin, the Russian form of his name.


message 4: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1299 comments Mod
I'm using Nabokov's translation, which is also very good. Who translated your copy?


message 6: by Rosemarie, Moderator (new)

Rosemarie | 2787 comments Mod
The translation I am using is from 2016 by Anthony Briggs. The publisher is Pushkin Press, London, England.

The original Russian version is from 1823-1831.


message 7: by Natalie (new)

Natalie Tyler (doulton) The opera is wonderful and I would recommend that anyone who enjoys Pushkin see it. The text of "Eugene Onegin" is not too long so it makes a splendid opera that neglects nothing. Some operas based on literature lose a lot although they may be brilliant pieces, the libretto does not necessarily hold together. For example, "Falstaff" by Verdi is a magnificent opera. But is has only the skimpiest resemblance to its source material, "The Merry Wives of Windsor."


message 8: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1299 comments Mod
I have it bookmarked on Youtube, will have to watch it soon!


message 9: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 747 comments I'm using a public domain edition. The translator is Henry Spalding.


message 10: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 181 comments Just got opus 24, Act 2 from the Tchaikovsky symphony today on CD. I will listen while I read.


message 11: by Courtney (new)

Courtney (c_kovy) | 1 comments When I was trying to decide on which translation to read, I came across this online:
http://onegininenglish.blogspot.com/
It's a comparison of the same stanza across many translations. How interesting!


message 12: by Lily (last edited Feb 10, 2017 06:43PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Courtney wrote: "When I was trying to decide on which translation to read, I came across this online:
http://onegininenglish.blogspot.com/
It's a comparison of the same stanza across many translations. How interest..."


Wonderful collection! How delightful! Thanks for posting, Courtney. Demonstrates well the difficulties in translating rhyme schemes and nuances of meaning, especially at the same time.

I believe I have five translations on my shelves -- I haven't gone looking for this exercise. The attempts at metered poetry of the prose particularly fascinate me. Despite Wilson's infamous disparagement of Nabokov, I still respect Nabokov's love of his native Russian enough that I lean towards particularly enjoying his rendition, even as I recognize that his foreigner's relationship to English, for all his facility in language, did lead him to sometimes make the arcane choice in his attempts to be faithful in matching the Russian.


message 13: by Jonathan (new)

Jonathan Moran | 181 comments Lily, was EO originally written in prose or verse?


message 14: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Jonathan wrote: "Lily, was EO originally written in prose or verse?"

See Lori's Msg @2!

Worth repeating:

Almost the entire work is made up of 389 stanzas of iambic tetrameter with the unusual rhyme scheme "AbAbCCddEffEgg", where the uppercase letters represent feminine rhymes while the lowercase letters represent masculine rhymes. This form has come to be known as the "Onegin stanza" or the "Pushkin sonnet."

The innovative rhyme scheme, the natural tone and diction, and the economical transparency of presentation all demonstrate the virtuosity which has been instrumental in proclaiming Pushkin as the undisputed master of Russian poetry.

....

The book is admired for the artfulness of its verse narrative as well as for its exploration of life, death, love, ennui, convention and passion.


https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eugene_...


message 15: by Lily (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments I hope somebody finds the links for the original Wilson-Nabokov brouhaha. (The critic Wilson so chastised Nabokov's translation that it severed their long at least professional friendship. The story is a good insight to the rigors and risk of translation.) I have found it in the past, but the good sites/reports took some digging as I recall, and I'm not in the mode at the moment.


message 16: by Wendel (new)

Wendel (wendelman) | 229 comments Lily wrote: "I hope somebody finds the links for the original Wilson-Nabokov brouhaha..."

Here is Wilson's review that started the row (with some further links at the bottom).

I find this interesting because it involves so much more than just problems of translating. See for instance Wilson's remarks concerning the light Nabokov's approach sheds on his position between two worlds (and Wilson may have understood more of Russia than Nabokov did).


message 17: by Lily (last edited Feb 12, 2017 12:04PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Wendel wrote: "Lily wrote: "I hope somebody finds the links for the original Wilson-Nabokov brouhaha..."

Here is Wilson's review that started the row (with some further links at the bottom). ....."


Thanks much, Wendel. That is one of those pieces of criticism to be read intermittently so long as one reads literature! I shall never be literary enough in this life to comprehend all of Wilson's remarks, which are to be highly respected. Still, despite their invective (and bits of praise), I have not been sorry to have read EO in Nabokov's edition. Pushkin is worthy of reading and rereading through the lens of more than one translator. I have also long appreciated Nabokov's printed lectures on literature, even where I have not agreed with him. His love for his Russian author colleagues can be fervent. (A favorite of mine is his close reading tracing the varying size of Anna Karenina's red bag through her travels. Is that drawing attention to the wrong detail or teaching paying attention to words and their journey through a story?) He has made me think about what I have been reading.

I would posit Wilson and Nabokov may have understood Russia via different lens.


message 18: by Everyman (new)

Everyman | 3582 comments Lily wrote: "
I would posit Wilson and Nabokov may have understood Russia via different lens. ."


Perhaps. But that still doesn't explain Nabakov's predilection for choosing obscure and archaic words that make on either try to guess the meaning or pause in the reading to consult a dictionary, and not an ordinary desk dictionary either.


message 19: by Lily (last edited Feb 12, 2017 10:21PM) (new)

Lily (joy1) | 2632 comments Everyman wrote: "Lily wrote: "
I would posit Wilson and Nabokov may have understood Russia via different lens. ."

Perhaps. But that still doesn't explain Nabakov's predilection for choosing obscure and archaic wor..."


Your predilection towards Nabokov shows as much as mine. [g] I did not find it a problem, and even sometimes a delight. He may be as disabused about his love of Russia and its language as many Americans are about their country and its language. While the passions may be misdirected and wrong headed, they can still be charming, even admirable. (view spoiler)


message 20: by Lori, Moderator (new)

Lori Goshert (lori_laleh) | 1299 comments Mod
I really liked Nabokov's translation, but then archaic language doesn't bother me.


message 21: by Biblio (last edited Mar 08, 2017 08:51AM) (new)

Biblio Curious (bibliocurious) | 1 comments I wholeheartedly agree, Pushkin should be read in various translations. He has such an impact on Russian Lit and having just finished EO, he's amazing!

My translation is by Eugene M. Kayden (Antioch Press, 1964)

Before reading it, I compared it the blog post link. It sounded pretty good. After reading the whole book.... wow!!! So glad I read this. I think Pushkin's work can shine through any translation.

My translator isn't on that page, so I'll include the 1st stanza here:

"My uncle was the soul of honor/
And, when at last he took to bed,/
He had the sense to make his kin/
Respect his smallest wish, in dread/
Before his disapproving gaze./
But Lord above! what fearful boredom/
To tend the sick all day and night,/
And never move away for days!/
What pitiful dissimulation/
A dying man to entertain,-/
Arrange his pillows for his head,/
Prepare his medicine, then feign/
A sigh of grief, and wonder why/
The devil takes his time to die." (1.1)

The 1st page has a delightful quote by Pushkin:
"Translators are the post-horses of civilization." (1830)

I'd like to read Nabokov's translation. It seems like a fairly popular one. And he's a Russian writer himself. Archaic words could reveal some more of the meaning. It could also remind the reader that the book predates cell phones and modern tech! The language has such a cozy feeling. It just hums with tradition.

The language in my translation also reminds me of the 60s which isn't a bad thing, it does work for the story. But it does have a 'dated' feel to it.


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