Existential Book Club discussion

Crime and Punishment
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Rachel Louise Atkin | 54 comments Mod
In October we will be reading Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky. Unfortunately due to the intensity of my masters degree I am doubtful I'll be able to join you on this read, which is annoying because I was looking forward to this the most, but will try my best if my work load lets up.
I hope you all enjoy this book and feel free to leave comments and discussions down below.

tortoise dreams (tortoise_dreams) | 21 comments Halfway thru, which is right on schedule, I guess. I'm curious if anyone's found a translation they love (except those lucky & talented Russian speakers, of course). I read 75 pp. of the Pevear & Volokhonsky translation, but it just seemed too literal & was slow going. I started over w/the Penguin trans by Oliver Ready. It's easier to read, is written in British English (idioms, slang), & seems fine, tho maybe not perfect? I'll keep reading this version, but would appreciate it if anyone could share their thoughts on the translations they're reading. Good reading!

Michael Davis | 2 comments I'm reading the translation by Constance Garnett and I'm really enjoying it, although, so far I've enjoyed The Brothers Karamazov more as a novel, and I actually read the Pevear & Volokhonsky translation of that one. If given the choice, I would have looked for their translation of Crime & Punishment first, but Garnett's is the one I found at the used library. A friend once told me the Pevear & V. translation of The Brothers was "more true to the Russian language than the others, although more difficult of a read". I don't know if it's the novels themselves, or the translators, but Garnett's Crime & Punishment seems less long-winded and matter-of-fact than Pevear & V.'s Brothers Karamazov. Maybe someone else here has read multiple translations of the same books.

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Haaze | 2 comments tortoise wrote: "Halfway thru, which is right on schedule, I guess. I'm curious if anyone's found a translation they love (except those lucky & talented Russian speakers, of course). I read 75 pp. of the Pevear & V..."

Hi Tortoise,
I have always favored the older Garnett translation over the more "fashionable" P&V. She has received some criticism for "decorating" the translation, but she seems to hold on to a more 19th century style which I personally favor in Dostoyevsky's writing. The issue of translations for C&P is hotly debated in GR as well as in literary society with plenty of articles. The article below is often referred to and it is an interesting perspective. Ultimately, one should do exactly what you are doing right now - move to a translation that flows with you,. Ultimately, we could all read the original in Russian (in the best of all worlds)! :)


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David Rush | 3 comments tortoise wrote: "Halfway thru, which is right on schedule, I guess. I'm curious if anyone's found a translation they love (except those lucky & talented Russian speakers, of course). I read 75 pp. of the Pevear & V..."

When I read this two years ago I looked at suggestions on Goodreads and along with some Google searches and a few samples ended up with the David McDuff translation. It worked for me and I don't recall ever feeling the translation was in the way of the book.

I am sure translation skill always matters but perhaps Dostoevsky's imagery and characters make it a little less crucial (as long as it is at least a competent translation)? I read it maybe 20 years before with the Garnett translation and loved it then maybe as much as I did with the other translation.

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Haaze | 2 comments It is all a matter of preference... :)
Translations are a tricky and murky realm in terms of literature. Does the translator truly convey the original "flavor" of the novel? I always prefer the original language editions, but, alas, I only know a few fluently. At least it is an incentive to expand one's linguistic skills?

John Graham Wilson | 37 comments How would one know without the Russian? Many years ago I did not worry about the translation. I was captivated by the writer and spent a summer with Crime & Punishment (my first Dostoevsky) and intuited his roguishness and desperation even at that age.

tortoise dreams (tortoise_dreams) | 21 comments Thanks for everyone's input & thoughts. I think we could talk about translation for a month! I didn't know about the GR threads so that was helpful too. McDuff seems the translation best suited for my individual reading, tho for all that people bash Garnett I think she's underrated. Looking forward to hearing folks' thoughts about Crime & Punishment. Thanks again!

tortoise dreams (tortoise_dreams) | 21 comments What a great read for me. And a lot about philosophy. Dostoyevsky often refers to nihilism in the book, but what he's talking about is closer to existentialism (as in the prescient Notes from Underground), at least regarding Raskolnikov. If we define "nihilism" as that life has no meaning and never will, and "existentialism" as that life has no meaning so we must strive to create our own meaning, clearly Raskolnikov is trying to develop his own meaning of life (as in his published article) and find whether the end justifies the means. His philosophy & his "great men" theory is practically Nietzschean (more of Dostoyevsky's prescience). Raskolnikov then goes from pillar to post looking at morals, law, civilization, encountering myriad related issues with everyone he meets. The police interrogation also serves as an inquisition of our protagonist's inchoate beliefs. Although there is some serious monologuing, Dostoevsky mostly keeps it interesting through Raskolnikov's feverish desperation, paranoia, and disordered psyche. This is the author's examination of existentialism with all the characters putting in their two cents; in the end Dostoyevsky's chosen meaning of life is the Russian Orthodox Church, in his view open to elite and commoner alike. He believes Raskolnikov has chosen the wrong path, that existentialism is wrong, or at least when taken to extremes is wrong. Nihilism is not for him -- even the life of the horrid money-lender is valuable. This multi-faceted discussion is the most interesting part of the novel, and the reader is free to inject her or his own thoughts into the mix.

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John Graham Wilson | 37 comments A very interesting post. But I think Dostoevsky is a theistic existentialist, more a bit like Kierkegaard. What do you reckon?

In the UK, we had a very notorious child-murderer who died recently. He was also a life-long fan of Nietzsche and Dostoevsky - and never gave up his ideology.

tortoise dreams (tortoise_dreams) | 21 comments I agree, I think Dostoevsky is exactly a theistic existentialist. That for him the Church was how he found meaning in life. Yep.

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