I know this is petty and I should rise above it, but I can’t help sharing a couple more examples of malfeasance from the Gorky translation discussed here. In Chapter 7, discussing his childhood pleasure in correcting his grandfather’s errors while praying, Gorky quotes himself as saying “А ты сегодня ‘довлеет’ пропустил! […] Надо: ‘Но та вера моя да довлеет вместо всех’, а ты и не сказал ‘довлеет’.” This means, “Today you left out dovleet (‘suffices’)! … You should have said ‘But may my faith suffice instead of all [works],’ but you didn’t say ‘suffice.'” But our friend Isidor Schneider has: “where you should have said, ‘My faith reigns supreme,’ you left out ‘reigns.'” In other words, he’s reading dovleet with the usual twentieth-century meaning ‘dominates, prevails’ rather than the earlier meaning, insisted on by Russian prescriptivists to this day and clearly necessary in this context, ‘suffices.’
OK, that one’s just sloppy and mildly amusing. But on the next page, he renders кулугурские шутки ‘schismatic jokes’ as “It’s a gag that’s going the rounds in Kaluga.” Fine, Schneider didn’t know the word кулугур [kulugur], a pejorative term for Old Believers (Brockhaus and Efron derive it from калогер [kaloger], from Greek καλόγερος, ‘monk’), but rather than make a desperate stab connecting it with Kaluga, a minor grain-trading town hundreds of miles from Nizhni Novgorod, he might have noted that Gorky defines it in the next clause, раскольниками придумано, еретиками ‘thought up by schismatics, heretics.’
We won’t even get into the passage in which young Gorky responds to a question about the “чинов ангельских” [chinov angelskikh, ‘orders of angels’] with А кто такие чиновники? [A kto takie chinovniki, ‘but who are those officials?’]; Schneider’s decision to deal with it by changing the untranslatable pun into “Are they incorporated?” and then putting in the grandfather’s mouth an explanation about how corporations are “established to get around the laws” is just plain obnoxious.