Eric at XIX век has finished translating Старик/“The Old Man” (first installment, last) and revealed the author; now he’s got questions about details of the translation. Previously he asked about repetition (a topic on which I had strong ideas); now he’s got a most interesting lexical/cultural problem: what exactly is a лиф [lif]? It’s some part of the upper garment of a mid-nineteenth-century Russian woman, but what? He gives a bunch of quotes (and throws in some images for good measure) and asks for help from people knowledgeable in these matters, and I thought I’d add my readership to the pool of possible helpers. (I confess I found the idea of posting irresistible once the title occurred to me.)
[The passage in the story where the word occurs:
Next to the portrait of the old man, in an ugly gold frame bedecked with stars, hung in all its splendor a pastel depicting a young woman with a long, curved neck and a [lif at one-and-a-half vershoks width] who had a dove on her shoulder; the whole pose betrayed pretentions to a head by Greuze.
Рядом с портретом старика, в безобразной золотой рамке, усыпанной звездочками, красовался пастель, изображающий молодую женщину, с выгнутой шеей, с лифом в полтора вершка ширины, и голубем на плече; вся поза обличала претензию на Грёзовскую головку.
Erik wrote, “I decided that this was shorthand for 1 arshin + 1 1/2 vershoks (30 5/8″) and that this kind of measurement was assumed to always be 1 arshin + X vershoks, in the way adult height was assumed to be 2 arshins + X vershoks.”]
Update. “The Old Man” is now available as a free e-book in mobi or epub format or as a pdf.