Russ 124/224 C
Translations of Chekhov
At the beginning of this class one of my very first questions about the Chekhov translations where are they accurate? How close are they to the real Russian works that he wrote? I found the book “Chekhov the Immigrant” very interesting and this book answered many of the questions which I had. One of the main arguments which I followed in the text was the question of is it an achievement to be the first to translate Chekhov? The next question of what are the retranslations adding to the value of the works when you read them? On page 33 the author states “having read first time translations they don’t have to be necessarily excellent to be useful”. The author then lists one of the big first hit translations being Peter Constantine’s in 1998, and then goes on to list many other authors and publishers that keep creating new translations of the work. The book gives credit to Constantine’s translation for beginning to bring early Chekhov to the popular reader.
The book describes a quote from D.S. Mirsky saying, ‘It is colorless and lacks individuality” Stating that this is what makes his writing so easy to translate. I did not find from the short stories of Chekhov, that I have read as colorless but would describe them more or less as simple. The book showed many other reactions from other translators of Chekhov’s works. Richard Pevear stated “I don’t find this a very accurate description of Chekhov’s writing”, saying he doesn’t know what Mirsky had in mind when he said that. I was able to come to a conclusion that all the other translators had the same reaction to Mirskys words stating he was wrong and that he must have been using the French translation. This brings to question are the French translations of Chekhov really that bad. It seems to me as if everyone has a different opinion of Chekhov varying...