I’m afraid my delay in reading last week’s New Yorker means that it’s no longer on newsstands (and the article isn’t online), but if you can find a copy, the November 7 issue has an article by David Remnick called “The Translation Wars” that discusses the history of English translations of Russian literature, beginning with the sainted/damned Constance Garnett (“She worked with such speed, with such an eye toward the finish line, that when she came across a word or a phrase that she couldn’t make sense of she would skip it and move on”) and focusing on the husband-and-wife team of Larissa Volokhonsky and Richard Pevear (she provides him with detailed trots, he turns them into literary English). The saga of how they got their first translation (The Brothers Karamazov) published is depressing at first (Random House responded: “No, thanks. Garnett lives forever. Why do we need a new one?”) but turned out happily, and they’re now well off and working on War and Peace (and keeping the French in French, hurrah!). Aside from a pointless rehash of the many-times-rehashed Nabokov-Wilson spat (“Your translation of Onegin sucks!” “No way, it’s your Russian that sucks!”), it’s well worth reading.
But since you probably can’t read the Remnick piece, I’ll share a nice bit of Georgii Adamovich I just ran across in his essay on Remizov: Разговорный язык слагался у нас, как впрочем и везде, в стороне от грамматических насилий, под различными перекрестными влияниями, одно отбрасывая, другое усваивая, и как всякий подлинно живой организм переваривая, претворяя в свое то, что было чужим. [Conversational language among us, as everywhere, has been formed apart from grammar’s violence, under various reciprocal influences, rejecting one thing while adopting another, and like every genuinely living organism digesting and making its own that which had been another’s.]