Tolstoy’s 1805.

Having finished Doctor Zhivago (see this post), I have returned to the 19th century, first Leskov’s famous 1865 Леди Макбет Мценского уезда (Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District — it gets excessively melodramatic in the middle, but the end is brilliant) and now Tolstoy’s 1805, the first version of War and Peace, published in the Jan.-Feb. 1865 and Feb.-April 1866 issues of Русский вестник (The Russian Messenger; you can read the beginning yourself at p. 48 of the Google Books scan). Had I but world enough and time, I’d go through the whole thing and compare it to the final version, but I’m restricting myself to the first few chapters, and the results are what you’d expect — some passages were cut, others added, and it’s quite interesting to see the changes. One addition is the passage at the very end of ch. 2 in which Anna Pavlovna keeps an anxious watch on Pierre; this means that this early appearance of the word интеллигенция [intelligentsia] can’t be backdated from 1869: “тут собрана вся интеллигенция Петербурга” [the whole intelligentsia of Petersburg was gathered here]. (The earliest occurrences in the Национальный корпус русского языка are from Afanasy Fet‘s 1863 Из деревни [From the village], e.g. “При старом порядке город был единственною целию всякой интеллигенции, а деревня не более как гнусным средством” [Under the old order, the city was the only goal of every intelligentsia, and the village was no more than a vile means].)

But what particularly struck me was this passage from ch. 1; Anna Pavlovna is chaffing Prince Vasily on being a bad father, and he responds:

— Je suis votre вѣрный рабъ, et à vous seule je puis l’аvouer. Мои дѣти — сe sont les entraves de mon eхistence. Это мой крестъ. Я такъ себѣ объясняю. Que voulez vous? — Онъ пoмолчалъ, выражая жестомъ свою пoкорность жестокой судьбѣ. — Да, ежелu бы можно было по проuзволу имѣть и неимѣть ихъ… Я увѣренъ, что въ нашъ вѣкъ будетъ сдѣлано это изобрѣтеніе.

“I am your faithful slave and to you alone I can confess it: my children are the bane of my existence. It is my cross. That is how I explain it to myself. Que voulez vous?” He fell silent, expressing his resignation to cruel fate by a gesture. “Yes, if it were possible arbitrarily to have or not have them… I’m sure that will be invented in our century.”

The last part, from Онъ пoмолчалъ [He fell silent] on, is deleted from the later text, and one can see why. The suggestion makes Anna Pavlovna nervous, and I’m sure it made the God-fearing public of the 1860s equally nervous — I’m actually surprised the censors let it through the first time.

By the way, I am now officially retired as a copyeditor (my Social Security deposits have begun arriving), so I’ll have lots more time to gobble up books!

Comments

  1. Ghordjazz! I hope the economic tradeoff is acceptable. Will you continue work on an occasional basis? And, of course — will LH posts be arriving with greater frequency?

    Inquiring Hattics want to know these things. De te fabula narratur.

  2. Congratulations on retirement!

  3. Ghordjazz!

    Prof. Google tells me that this is a Heavy Metal reference, but I wouldn’t mind knowing more.

    And, of course — will LH posts be arriving with greater frequency?

    Don’t get greedy. I may occasionally post twice a day (as I have occasionally in the past), but the one-a-day habit has been working well for me. We wouldn’t want me to get burned out, would we? If anything, it may mean a greater frequency of posts about Russian lit, since I will be reading more of it, which will be good for those who like those posts and not so much for those who don’t.

    Remember, there are thousands of past threads to investigate and revive!

  4. Congrats on retirement!

    1805 has been on my list, and I’m also due for a War & Peace reread. I may be able to solve (sort of) two problems in one go. 🙂

  5. Congratulations on retirement!

    Thanks! I had been expecting it to happen in July, but a very helpful lady at SocSec enabled it to happen earlier, for which relief I am grateful. I was getting pretty sick of the work.

  6. 1805 has been on my list, and I’m also due for a War & Peace reread. I may be able to solve (sort of) two problems in one go.

    Great! If you do it, please blog about it — I’d love to enjoy the comparison vicariously.

  7. I only ever read one issue of Heavy Metal, the English version of Metal Hurlant, and I only remember one story, in which a character known as the Black Queen constantly swears “By Ghordjazz!” There was a footnote at the end of the tale which said “For more information about Ghordjazz, see our June 2375 issue” (or some such date). So I know as little as you do.

    Googling gives a date of 2012, now comfortably in the past.

  8. Breffni says:

    Congratulations, Hat! Copyediting’s loss, our gain. I wish you long, fulfilling days in your retirement.

  9. One day I was going to write a book and get you to copy-edit it…

    Now that you are in Leskov, perhaps you can explain this passage from Nabokov’s Pnin?

    Usually, the passage of his choice came from some old and naïve comedy of merchant-class habitus rigged up by Ostrovski almost a century ago, or from an equally ancient but even more dated piece of trivial Leskovian jollity dependent on verbal contortions.

    “Lady Macbeth” is the only Leskov I’ve read (so far), and it’s excellent. It’s certainly not what I’d call “jolly”, and even given that I read it in translation, I can’t imagine where “verbal contortions” would come in, either.

  10. That will be a reference to his later “skaz” phase, in which he uses a particular form of narration Wikipedia describes as follows:

    Skaz (Russian: сказ, IPA: [ˈskas]) is a Russian oral form of narrative. The word comes from skazátʹ, “to tell”, and is also related to such words as rasskaz, “short story” and skazka, “fairy tale”. The speech makes use of dialect and slang in order to take on the persona of a particular character. The peculiar speech, however, is integrated into the surrounding narrative, and not presented in quotation marks.

    Nabokov, with his usual aristocratic snobbery, despised such things. I wouldn’t pay much attention to his attacks on other writers, which are usually misguided and/or attempts to bash the competition.

  11. Etienne says:

    Hat: Congratulations on your retirement!

    A linguistic question on the Russian literature you read: The above passage uses pre-1917 orthography: Do you typically read Russian literature in the orthography it was originally written in? I assume editions with modern spelling are available, and indeed I dimly recall that you quoted passages from various pre-1917 Russian writers in modern spelling. So is there any pattern here, or am I over-thinking things?

    Speaking of spelling: it should be “Que voulez-vous?”, not “Que voulez vous?”

  12. marie-lucie says:

    Que voulez vous?

    The “code-switching” between French and Russian in the conversation is quite interesting, but so is the translation (or non-translation).

    The sentence above means literally “What do you want?”, but here it is a comment roughly equivalent to English “What do you expect?”, which does not itself “expect” an answer but indeed expresses resignation to the unfairness of life and the impossibility for humans to do anything about it.

    In this case, the man’s children, obviously accepted with resignation rather than joy and love, are les entraves de mon eхistence – the obstacles (or literally shackles) to the life he wanted for himself, rather than the bane of it.

  13. David Marjanović says:

    Speaking of spelling: it should be “Que voulez-vous?”, not “Que voulez vous?”

    This rule, to be fair, is arbitrary enough that few native speakers seem to be aware of it. Just today I got an e-mail containing “renvoyez moi”.

  14. marie-lucie says:

    Etienne: Speaking of spelling: it should be “Que voulez-vous?”, not “Que voulez vous?”

    I would indeed write Que voulez-vous, but here I simply copied and pasted the text. But I see from some written samples from France that the use of hyphens seems to be going out of style, perhaps as part of the recent orthographical reform (fortunately optional), and perhaps influenced by the same tendency in English.

  15. Trond Engen says:

    Joining the choire: Congratulations.

    Etienne: Speaking of spelling: it should be “Que voulez-vous?”, not “Que voulez vous?”

    Daivd M.: This rule, to be fair, is arbitrary enough that few native speakers seem to be aware of it.

    I have wondered if there is (ever was) a linguistic reason for the hyphenation — sentence prosody or something.

  16. marie-lucie says:

    David M: This rule, to be fair, is arbitrary enough that few native speakers seem to be aware of it. Just today I got an e-mail containing “renvoyez moi”.

    What you got was exactly what I was mentioning above. Many people are no longer using hyphens in cases where hardly anyone used to make mistakes, but since many others (especially older ones) are still doing it (like myself), it looks like the “rule” is arbitrary.

    In fact the suppression of hyphens causes other problems. For instance, in transcribed conversations (as in novels), some the commonest phrases are of the “he/she said” type. In French you can say il/elle dit to announce the speech fragment, but invert the words when they come after it. The inversion causes the final written -t of the verb to enter into liaison with the following pronoun, causing the t to be sounded as it is now before a vowel. No problem with dit-il, dit-elle, but if you get rid of the hyphen, dit il looks like there is no liaison. So, to indicate the necessary liaison, many people write dit t’il, dit t’elle. But the extra t’ normally means the 2nd singular non-subject pronoun te which (like a number of little words of the shape Consonant + e) loses its e before a vowel, this loss being noted by the apostrophe. Thus far I don’t think I have seen this in print, but many Facebook posts from ordinary French people are full of confusions due to the largely unadvised reforms. (Even though some linguists were involved in the reforms, the designers do not seem to have tested the effect that the reforms would have on average people).

  17. A linguistic question on the Russian literature you read: The above passage uses pre-1917 orthography: Do you typically read Russian literature in the orthography it was originally written in? I assume editions with modern spelling are available, and indeed I dimly recall that you quoted passages from various pre-1917 Russian writers in modern spelling. So is there any pattern here, or am I over-thinking things?

    I read and quote from whatever edition is at hand. In this case, since I was reading “1805” in the original periodical publication, I quoted its text; I could have sought out a modernized edition to quote, but I’m lazy. I figure interested parties can probably handle a few extra hard signs.

  18. marie-lucie says:

    Trond: I have wondered if there is (ever was) a linguistic reason for the hyphenation — sentence prosody or something.

    Not prosody, but the link between syntactically closely related elements, which may also be linked phonologically (as in the case of dit-il etc). This is especially useful with verbs, but also with complex nouns, for instance:

    un pot au feu ‘a pot on the fire’ (no liaison) but un pot-au-feu ‘a pot roast’ (with liaison)

    un pied à terre ‘a foot on the ground’ (no liaison) but un pied-à-terre ‘a place kept as a temporary lodging’ (with liaison – here sounding as t)

  19. The speech makes use of dialect and slang in order to take on the persona of a particular character. The peculiar speech, however, is integrated into the surrounding narrative, and not presented in quotation marks.

    In short, like Mark Twain’s first-person narratives, or O. Henry’s. Perhaps the Hogbens stories by Henry Kuttner were or are so popular in Russia because in Russian they align stylistically with a form of Literature (as opposed to Genre Fiction)? I wonder how Manly Wade Wellman’s Silver John tales would go into Russian.

  20. equally ancient but even more dated piece of trivial Leskovian jollity dependent on verbal contortions

    This is very unfair to Leskov. His “verbal contortions” were not simply for “jollity”, but even if they were, they are really good.

    Reply to John Cowan: it’s more than imitation of prostorechje. It uses wordplay of the folk-etymology kind.

  21. SFReader says:

    Very good observation. I didn’t realize that it was such a specific sub-genre, but, yes, it’s quite popular – Huckleberry Finn and Hogbens in translation and Leskov in Russian.

    In modern Russian SF, I think many works by Strugatsky brothers employ this device – “The Kid from Hell” is the best, but “Roadside Picnic” is very good too.

  22. SFReader says:

    It’s funny, but I just realized that imitation of American/(or simply foreign) local dialect and slang in Russian is so much easier.

    If you are trying to imitate a local Russian dialect, you need to be a Sholokhov, otherwise you will be mocked to death for failing to present accurate rendition of local speech.

    But no one has any idea how American dialect is supposed to sound in Russian translation…

  23. Here’s a little bit of John the Balladeer, the opening of “O Ugly Bird!”:

    I swear I’m licked before I start, trying to tell you all what Mr. Onselm looked like. Words give out—for instance, you’re frozen to death for fit words to tell the favor of the girl you love. And Mr. Onselm and I pure poison hated each other. That’s how love and hate are alike.

    He was what country folks call a low man, more than calling him short or small; a low man is low otherwise than by inches. Mr. Onselm’s shoulders didn’t wide out as far as his big ears, and they sank and sagged. His thin legs bowed in at the knee and out at the shank, like two sickles point to point. On his carrot-thin neck, his head looked like a swollen pale gourd. Thin, moss-gray hair. Loose mouth, a bit open to show long, even teeth. Not much chin. The right eye squinted, mean and dark, while the hike of his brow twitched the left one wide. His good clothes fitted his mean body like they were cut to it. Those good clothes were almost as much out of match to the rest of him as his long, soft, pink hands, the hands of a man who never had to work a tap.

    You see what I mean, I can’t say how he looked, only he was hateful.

    And the ending to “Call Me From the Valley”:

    The cabin was dark inside now, and I could see by the moon that it was a ruined wreck. The roof fallen in, the window broken, the logs rotten—you’d swear nobody had set foot there for fifty years back. But inside, Jeremiah Donovant and Lute Meechum were together at last, and peaceful. So peaceful most folks would think they were dead and gone.

    On along the trail that was now so clear, I found a tree that looked hollow. Down in its dark inside I put the bottle, and left it there.

    It seemed to me I ought to be shaky and scared, but I wasn’t. I felt right good. That dumb [silent] supper, now—the way I’d heard it said, sometimes a dumb supper calls up things that oughtn’t be there; but now I’d seen a dead haunt [ghost], setting a dumb supper to tole [summon] a living man to her. And it wasn’t bad. It wasn’t wrong. They were happy about it, I knew that.

    And here’s the complete “Find the Place Yourself”:

    It might be true that there’s a curse on that house. It’s up a mountain cove [valley] that not many know of, and those who do know won’t talk to you about it. So if you want to go there you’ll have to find the place yourself.

    When you reach it, you won’t think at first it’s any great much. Just a little house, half logs and half whip-sawed planks, standing quiet and gray and dry, the open door daring you to come in.

    But don’t you go taking any such a dare. Nor don’t look too long at the bush by the door-stone, the one with flowers of three different colors. Those flowers will look back at you like hard, mean faces, with eyes that hold yours.

    In the trees over you will be wings fluttering, but not bird wings. Round about you will whisper voices, so soft and faint they’re like voices you remember from some long-ago time, saying things you wish you could forget.

    If you get past the place, look back and you’ll see the path wiggle behind you like a snake after a lizard. Then’s when to run like a lizard, run your fastest and hope it’s fast enough.

  24. I’m a big fan of Leskov, and if you read Walter Benjamin’s essay on Leskov, it is like a matching wine. 🙂 Enjoy retirement! And keep on reading. 🙂

  25. In short, like Mark Twain’s first-person narratives, or O. Henry’s. Perhaps the Hogbens stories by Henry Kuttner were or are so popular in Russia because in Russian they align stylistically with a form of Literature (as opposed to Genre Fiction)?

    Yes, as SFReader says, a very astute observation.

    Enjoy retirement! And keep on reading.

    No fear on either count!

  26. Congratulations on your retirement!
    I happen for no particular reason to be watching a documentary series on The Crimean War, and was surprised to learn that Tolstoy had served as an artillery officer during the Siege of Sevastopol and is an important primary source on the Russian side. I suppose this is an unintentional confession of abject ignorance. He was also, to go by the pictures, a devastatingly handsome young man, nothing like the craggy Old Testament prophet of his old age.
    I am putting the Sevastopol Sketches on my list of things to read.

  27. Congratulations on the retirement!

  28. @Y: Leskov’s master trick is to outsource the telling of a story to some colorful narrator who would produce an elaborate anecdote, generously offering her observations and creatively imputing motives to the protagonists. This puts off the moment when the sadness of the tale sets in.

    Leskov was obviously fond of coinages but preferred to ascribe them to commoners, petty gentry and/or undereducated characters. Even in his atypically sentimental The Toupee Artist, he introduces plakònchik: a fusion of flakòn, “flask,” with plàkat’, “to weep,” ending with the diminutive suffix -chik.

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