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Best English translations of Russian fiction literature
Thread poster: Andrew Vdovin

The Misha
Local time: 18:28
Russian to English
+ ...
And so is Happy Christmas Nov 17, 2017

Tom in London wrote:

"but "heck" just by itself is grotesque.


Or pronouncing garAge as gArage. Or calling jam marmalade. Yet, as my teenage son puts it (wise little bugger, uh?), none of these are facts. They are but opinions. Let's treat them as such.


 

Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:28
Russian to English
+ ...
In memoriam
To the Misha Nov 17, 2017

Pronouncing gArage as garAge sounds terribly pompous and affected to me (unless you're speaking French). But I don't like to hear it pronounced "garridge", as some people do.In British English there is no such thing as orange jam, it is called marmalade. In US English there is no such thing as jam, it's called jelly. And what in British English is called jelly, in US English is jello. Two nations divided by a common language.

 

Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:28
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
@Jack Nov 17, 2017

We've badly highjacked Andrei's post, but I have to say that we do have jam in AE (it's got the chunks of whole fruit in it, whereas jelly is all boiled down and I guess strained, into a smooth consistency). On the whole issue of BE/AE and other hilarity, see this 20-minute clip by comedian Eddie Izard:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1hJQsvoY6VU


 

Andrew Vdovin
Local time: 06:28
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Jam Nov 18, 2017

As for "jam" in AE, it's immediately reminded me of Mark Twain's most famous book:
"There! I might 'a' thought of that closet. What you been doing in there?"
"Nothing."
"Nothing! Look at your hands. And look at your mouth. What is that truck?"
"I don't know, aunt."
"Well, I know. It's jam—that's what it is. Forty times I've said if you didn't let that jam alone I'd skin you. Hand me that switch."


 

Tom in London
United Kingdom
Local time: 23:28
Member (2008)
Italian to English
Muddy Waters Nov 18, 2017

Under European law, the word 'marmalade' can only be applied to fruit preserves made from citrus fruits. A product made with any other kind of fruit must be called 'jam'.

http://www.cafebabel.co.uk/article/eu-law-marmelade-vs-jam.html

In Italian, marmalade is "marmellata" and "jam" is "confettura". Some of the best is made in Florence by Chiaverini. Mmmm.

Chiaverini-Arance

Chiaverini-Fichi

PS there is actually a connection between jam and Russian literature so technically we're still on-topic.

[Edited at 2017-11-18 09:30 GMT]


 

Andrew Vdovin
Local time: 06:28
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
Vasiliy Shukshin Nov 20, 2017

To turn back from the "jam" issue, I can recommend Vassily Shukshin’s stories translated by Laura Michael and John Givens (US translators): https://www.amazon.com/Stories-Siberian-Village-Vasily-Shukshin/dp/0875805728
I’ve always thought their translation is pretty good - i.e., remaining pretty close to the original, it seems to read fluent and natur
... See more
To turn back from the "jam" issue, I can recommend Vassily Shukshin’s stories translated by Laura Michael and John Givens (US translators): https://www.amazon.com/Stories-Siberian-Village-Vasily-Shukshin/dp/0875805728
I’ve always thought their translation is pretty good - i.e., remaining pretty close to the original, it seems to read fluent and natural in English. But I’m no native English speaker, so I can’t be 100% sure. That’s why I would like to hear some native speakers’ opinions on this matter. Here is an extract from Shukshin’s short story "The Wolves":

A large, broad-chested one with a singed snout was running out in front of the pack. By now only fifteen or twenty meters separated it from the sledge. Ivan was struck by the dissimilarity between wolves and German shepherds. He’s never seen a wolf up close before, and he’d always thought that they were something like a German shepherd, only larger. But now Ivan understood that a wolf is a wolf, a wild beast. The fiercest dog can somehow still be stopped at the last moment: by fear, kindness, or even the unexpected sound of a human voice. This wolf, with the singed snout, could be stopped by only one thing: death. It wasn’t snarling or trying to scare its victim... It was just chasing him down. And the look in its round yellow eyes was direct and simple.
Ivan glanced around the sledge – there was nothing there, not even a measly twig. Both axes were in his father-in-law’s sledge. There was just a small bundle of hay close by and the whip in his hand.
"Rob-bers! Thie-eves!" Naum shouted.
Real fear seized Ivan.
The wolf in front, obviously the leader, started to go around the sledge, making for the horse. It was some two meters away... Ivan stood up and, while holding on to the side of the sledge with his left hand, lashed the leader with his whip. It didn’t expect that, snapped at the whip with its teeth, and leaped to the side. It stumbled and fell back... The others ran into it from behind. The whole pack reassembled around their leader. It squatted on its haunches and lashed out with its fangs at first one, then another member of the pack. Then, springing forward once again, it easily caught up with the sledge. Ivan got ready and waited for his chance... He wanted to get the leader once more. But the leader began to go around the sledge at a greater distance. And another one pulled away from the pack and also started to go around the sledge – from the other side. Ivan clenched his teeth, grimaced... "This is the end. Death." He looked ahead.
"Sto-op!" he yelled. "Father!... Throw me an ax!"
Naum was whipping his horse. He glanced back, saw how the wolves were surrounding his son-in-law, and quickly turned away.
"Slow down a little, Father!... Throw me an ax! We can beat ‘em back!"
"Rob-bers! Thie-eves!"
"Slow down, we can beat ‘em back!... Slow down a little, you bastard!"
"Throw somethin’ at ‘em!" Naum shouted.
The leader came up alongside the horse, waiting for the right moment to pounce. The wolves who were bringing up the rear were very close now. The slightest pause and they would fly straight into the sledge – and that would be the end. Ivan threw the small bundle of hay at them: the wolves didn’t pay any attention to it.
"Father, you sonuvabitch, slow down, throw me an ax!"
Naum turned around.
"Vanka!... Look out, I’ll throw it!"
"Slow down!"
"Look out, I’m throwing it!"
Naum tossed an ax to the side of the road.
Ivan judged the distance... He leaped out of the sledge and snatched up the ax... His jump startled the three wolves at the back of the pack, they leaped away and broke off their pursuit, intending now to rush at the man. But at that very instant, the leader, sensing a patch of packed snow beneath him, made his lunge. The horse shied to the side into a snowdrift. The sledge turned over: the shaft twisted the horse collar around, and put a stranglehold on the horse’s throat. The horse began gasping for breath, it struggled against the shafts. The wolf that had overtaken the victim from the other side sprang up under the horse and, with one swipe of its sharp-clawed paw, opened up the horse’s belly lengthwise.
The three remaining wolves rushed at the victim as well.
A moment later all five were tearing apart the flesh of the still quivering horse, dragging on to the blindingly white snow steaming tangles of bluish-purple intestines and growling. Twice the leader looked straight at the man with its yellow, round eyes.
Everything happened with such monstrous speed and ease that it all seemed more like a dream than reality. Ivan stood, ax in hand, looking in confusion at the wolves. The leader glanced at him once more... And that look – exulting, insolent – infuriated Ivan. He raised his ax, started yelling for all he was worth, and flung himself at the wolves. They reluctantly ran back a few paces and stopped, licking their bloodied chops. They did this so meticulously and with such absorption that it seemed the man with the ax didn’t interest them in the least. The leader, however, looked directly at Ivan, watchfully. Ivan cussed it out, using the most terrible words he knew. He waved the ax and took a step toward it... The leader didn’t budge. Ivan stopped as well.
"You win," he said. "Stuff your faces, you bastards." And he set off for the village. He tried not to look at the horse, now torn to pieces. But he couldn’t resist, he looked anyway... And his heart contracted out of pity, and he was seized by absolute fury at his father-in-law. He strode off quickly down the road.
"Just you wait!... Wait till I get my hands on you, you goddamn snake in the grass! We could’ve beaten ‘em back – and the horse would still be alive. Selfish bastard!"
Collapse


 

Andrew Vdovin
Local time: 06:28
English to Russian
+ ...
TOPIC STARTER
An example Nov 24, 2017

The Misha wrote:
I would venture a cautious guess that no work of literature transplanted between different cultures, especially such disparate ones as those of Russia and England/the US would ever sound "absolutely natural," and that's before we even start talking subject matter.


Andrew Vdovin wrote:
I wouldn't agree, because there are quite a number of fiction books about Russia written by American or English authors. Do they sound unnatural to native English speakers?


For example, "Twelve Stories of Russia" by A. J. Perry.
https://www.amazon.com/Twelve-Stories-Russia-Russian-Writing/dp/5717200552

It was written by an American author, and I believe it does sound ansolutely natural to any NES.

And again, many English-language books were translated into Russian back in the Soviet era so perfectly that they do sound very natural to any native Russian speaking reader. That is, when you start reading such a book, you don't even think you are reading a translation, as if it were a piece of fiction originaly written in Russian.

[Edited at 2017-11-24 10:50 GMT]


 

Susan Welsh  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:28
Member (2008)
Russian to English
+ ...
exaggeration Nov 24, 2017

The Misha has been known to exaggerate on occasion.

 

The Misha
Local time: 18:28
Russian to English
+ ...
Arrrrrrrrgh!!! Nov 24, 2017

My dirty little secret is out!😡

 
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Best English translations of Russian fiction literature

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