Subject Area



Until one determined, nearly blind housewife came onto the literary scene, most Westerners had never heard of Dostoevsky without having a personal background in the Russian Language. Constance Garnett provided the first comprehensive translations of Dostoevsky, Gogol, Tolstoy, and Turgenev to the English-speaking world; but only after she taught herself the Russian language. Her translations have been continually edited and revised since the early 20th century, and were the most widely read editions for almost 70 years. A recent surge of translations from the husband-wife team of Pevear and Volokhonsky is beginning to change the face of Western understanding of Dostoevsky and his peers—but is this change for the better? The P&V translations (as they are called in literary magazines) remain very literal and are intent on keeping the Russian prose as pure as possible. They do not wish to Anglicize the literature, but many of the P&V critics claim that these translations are butchering the spirit of the Russian text. This debate is igniting some important questions in the world of literary translation. What is more important: textual literalism, or faith to the spirit of the novel? Who is best set to the task of translation: a native Slavophil, such as Volokhonsky, or someone steeped in the target culture that knows what will be palatable to English speakers? In this paper, I want to demonstrate the benefits of reading multiple translations of a novel. I will compare key scenes from 3 to 4 different versions of Crime and Punishment: the McDuff translation (Penguin Classics, read in class); the Sidney Monas translation (Signet Classics, bought by accident—might not use for space); the "golden standard" Constance Garnett translation (Barnes & Noble Classics, personal copy); and the controversial Pevear/Volokhonsky translation (if I can find it from a library). A broad analysis of these translations will be used to show that Raskolnikov's redemption at the end of the novel is not ambiguous, but rather obvious.


Providence College


Spring 2014





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