Carrick’s Mayakovsky.

Rosy Carrick, a “poet, playwright, performer and translator” who “has a PhD on the poetry of Vladimir Mayakovsky, and has released two books of his work in translation,” has put online her version of Mayakovsky’s Что ни страница — то слон, то львица [On every page a lion or an elephant], and it’s an admirable presentation, with a large image of each original page with an illustration by Kirill Zdanevich (brother of Il’ia — see this LH post) followed by her translation. She hasn’t tried to rhyme her lines, which is probably a wise decision, but that makes it hard to understand why she renders председатель ‘chairman’ by “Party Leader” on the first page (chairmanship had nothing to do with Party membership) and omits Америки ‘America’ on the last (replacing it with the vague “hotter climes”). But never mind, it’s a nice thing to have online and I hope there are many more such webpages.

For those who read Russian, Lev Oborin’s wonderful Polka site (see this LH post) has put up an awe-inspiring roster of 77 Russian travel accounts, from the medieval (Афанасий Никитин. Хождение за три моря, 1469–1474) to the very modern (Эдуард Лимонов. Старик путешествует, 2020). I applaud their ongoing efforts to document and promulgate the history of Russian literature.


  1. January First-of-May says:

    an awe-inspiring roster of 77 Russian travel accounts

    Seriously awe-inspiring. I’ve heard of maybe half a dozen of them, vaguely heard of perhaps half a dozen more; I don’t recall a single one that I could definitely say I’ve read, though for a few (Vodopyanov and Senkevich, in particular) I highly suspect I did.

    I’m a fan of travelogues myself, but offhand I can’t think of many old ones I’ve read (pre-1930, say), which is somewhat inconvenient given the chronology of the roster. Anton Krotov is just one among many (and there isn’t a good way to choose just one of his books, anyway). Nikolay Drozdov mostly did his travelogues on TV (though I do have a book). Karel Čapek, of course, wasn’t even Russian.

  2. I can recommend Karamzin’s Письма русского путешественника and Goncharov’s Фрегат «Паллада»; they both make for lively reading.

  3. She hasn’t tried to rhyme her lines, which is probably a wise decision

    I see a lot of rhyming in the translation.

    she renders председатель ‘chairman’ by “Party Leader”

    Not a king
    He was made a president

    omits Америки ‘America’ on the last (replacing it with the vague “hotter climes”)

    America = US is too strong a contaminant.

    Mayakovsky is a great poet, but not a good children’s writer. Breaks the first rule of the trade, don’t talk down to children.

  4. Her page image links are dead for me, unfortunately. They use cross-site scripting, with an insecure https that my browser is unhappy with.

  5. America = US is too strong a contaminant.

    I wholeheartedly agree. “America” (singular) would not be an accurate translation when Mayakovsky is, in fact, talking about what we normally call in English “the Americas,” not one particular country. “Hotter climes” is fine, but if one were to make it a singular country, it would have to be one in which New World monkeys are to be found.

  6. Good point. I withdraw my gripe.

  7. SFReader says:

    Fonvizin’s account of France in 1777-1778:

    “My stay in this country has greatly reduced its value in my opinion. I found the good to be much less than I imagined; and the bad in a degree that I could not even imagine”

  8. SFReader says:

    And it also quotes one Russian navigator’s idea how travelogues should be written:

    “We write what we observe and what we do not observe, we do not write”

  9. An excellent principle.

  10. David Eddyshaw says:

    Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man schweigen.

  11. David Eddyshaw says:

    (A subversive principle if applied to posting comments on the Internet, of course. If put into effect, it would undermine the entire ecosystem …)

  12. AJP Crown says:

    Wovon man nicht sprechen kann, darüber muss man eine SMS schreiben.

  13. January First-of-May says:

    Not a king
    He was made a president

    Pretty much, yes, though of course this misses almost all of the style and subtext (which admittedly isn’t very translatable anyway).

    I personally prefer Boris Zakhoder’s take, from the Fuzzy Alphabet that I previously mentioned on LH last week…

    Считался Лев царём зверей,
    Но это было встарь.
    Не любят в наши дни царей,
    И Лев — уже не царь.
    Душил он зверски всех подряд,
    Свирепо расправлялся,
    А правил плохо, говорят.
    С делами не справлялся.
    Теперь сидит он присмирев,
    И перед ним — ограда.
    Он недоволен, этот Лев,
    Но так ему и надо!

    [Very rough approximation in English:

    The Lion was considered the king of beasts,
    But that was a long time ago.
    They don’t like kings these days,
    And the Lion is no longer a king.
    He brutally strangled everyone,
    Fiercely destroyed,
    And he ruled badly, they say,
    Didn’t do his work well.
    Now he sits, subdued,
    And in front of him is a fence.
    He’s unhappy, this Lion,
    But that’s what he deserves!]

  14. Beautiful!

  15. “С делами не справлялся.” Like, he couldn’t handle the workflow. Well put. Zakhoder had an agreeable sense of humor.


  1. […] Languagehat also started before August with a post on Rosy Carrick’s translations of Maiakovskii. […]

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