In his blog--the unlight bearableness of translating a really great title--Russell Scott Valentino follows up on his previous post on Masha Gessen's review of the two new translations of Anna Karenina. He begins the post:
My previous post on Masha Gessen's review of the two new Anna Karenina translations, one each by Rosamund Bartlett and Marian Schwartz, attrAK Gessen reviewacted some criticisms. I'll respond in a couple of posts to make each one shorter.
Schwartz AKJohn Cowan comments, "You write as if the translator had no responsibility to the author at all, and it is all one whether the AK translator writes 'All happy families are alike' on the first page, or 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.'"
I hope this wasn't a widespread impression from my piece. But maybe I wasn't clear enough. A glance at the Weinberger essay I quote from should dispel any lingering doubts, especially where he writes: "Now obviously a translation that is replete with semantical errors is probably a bad translation."Bartlett AK Outside of parodying or otherwise hijacking a text for other purposes, it's hard to imagine a context where switching a Tolstoy line for a Dickens line would be seen as a successful translation strategy.
But why the "probably" in Weinberger's quote? Because "fidelity may be the most overrated of a translation's qualities." It is the easiest thing to get right. Not easy of course, just the easiest.
I'm looking forward to the next installment.
Thank you to everyone who turned out for my reading of Anna Karenina on Sunday, January 11--all fifty or so of you! It was especially lovely to see so many translator friends in the audience.
BookPeople did a first-rate job of promoting the event and even featured me on their events sign (left).
They had me sign extra copies, so if you couldn't come but want a signed book, drop by the store before they run out!
Nearly fifteen years after I first conceived of translating Anna Karenina in a way that would demonstrate Tolstoy's voice to the English-language reader, my new translation has finally come out with Yale University Press!
To purchase a copy directly from the publisher, click here.
Anna Karenina gets around. She's had a second career touring the world, dropping in on television studios and movie sets, portrayed by Greta Garbo, Sophie Marceau, Vivien Leigh, and Jacqueline Bisset, among others. Russian comic book artists even reinvented her in a graphic novel set in the New Russia, complete with "cell phones and cocaine, sushi bars and convertibles." And the latest screen version, with Keira Knightley as Anna, put us squarely in the realm of fan fiction, presenting the story reimagined as a theatrical production.
And, of course, the novel has been translated into English many times.
But what if none of those translations fully appreciated, let alone conveyed, the true glory of Tolstoy's characters and story lines and the perfect way they mesh because they failed to notice that Tolstoy made some of his most important points not explicitly but in the way he used language? That he did at least as much showing as telling?
What if Tolstoy was an innovative stylist as well as a masterful psychologist and storyteller?
What if indeed?
Read the rest of my HuffPost post about my new translation of Anna Karenina (Yale University Press) here.
It is not often that I read something about literary translation that strikes such a chord with me as this interview with Daniel Hahn, director of the British Centre for Literary Translation, and Urdu language translator Fahmida Riaz, during a literary translation workshop taking place in Karachi on 13-17 October.
In particular, this Q&A:
What linguistic qualities are the hardest to translate?
Oh, all of it. Translation is impossible! And I don't just mean it's really, really difficult, but really, it's not actually possible. There's not a single word in any of the languages I translate that can map perfectly onto a word in English. So it's always interpretative, approximate, creative. Anything that is, itself, a 'linguistic' quality will by definition be anchored in a particular language — whether it's idiom, ambiguity, or assonance. All languages are different. There are congruences between languages that are more closely related, of course, but those relationships are very much in the minority.
The truth is out.