Five years ago, a Russian friend, hearing I was intending to translate ‘The Queen of Spades’, said, ‘That will be very difficult, harder even than translating Andrey Platonov. You’ll find you can’t afford to change a single comma.’ My friend proved only too right; every slightest liberty I had allowed myself in the first draft came to seem unacceptable. I imagined, however, that The Captain’s Daughter would prove easier. I remembered it as being less deliberate, less precise in both style and structure, than ‘The Queen of Spades’. I could not have been more wrong. Like the novel’s young hero, Pyotr Grinyov, Pushkin is a trickster. The Captain’s Daughter, apparently a mere historical yarn, is the most subtly constructed of all nineteenth-century Russian novels. It took me some time, however, to realize this.
He describes the complex structure of the novel and goes on to discuss in detail some examples of Pushkin’s sound play (“Pyotr’s French tutor, Beaupré, carries with him his own sound world, centred on two of the consonants from his own name. Pushkin’s first description of him begins as follows: Beaupré v otechestve svoem byl parikmakherom, potom v Prussii soldatom, potom priekhal v Rossiyu pour être outchitel.“) Now I want to read the novel again.
(Thanks for the link, Giri!)
Addendum. G.L. at Johnson discusses Chandler’s piece.