I linked to an interview with the excellent translator Robert Chandler here; now I’d like to present a short essay he wrote on translating Pushkin’s The Captain’s Daughter. It begins like this:

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.


  1. The Captain’s Daughter was about the first Pushkin I ever read, before I ever studied Russian. I loved it then, and Chandler’s very fine essay makes me want to go back and read it in Russian. I’ve translated some Pushkin myself and I know there must be a lot more there. The subtleties of his language are just endless.
    (BTW could someone tell me how to italicize in comments?)

  2. marie-lucie says

    I read La fille du capitaine many years ago – I was perhaps around ten years old, so my recollections are extremely vague. I should try to read it again, preferably in Russian, armed with that recommended translation.
    AS, left arrow, i, right arrow; after the quotation, left arrow, /, i, right arrow. For Bold you do the same except use b instead of i.
    Never use a left arrow by itself (eg to point to something, or indicate “from”), as it will cancel everything to the right of it when the text gets posted.

  3. marie-lucie says

    I think I mixed up left and right arrow in my last sentence – anyway, each arrow needs to be matched with its partner.
    Always hit “preview” before you post to make sure your italics or bold (or both) do not go on and on beyond what you intended.

  4. Thanks, m-l, I think I figured it out.

  5. Bravo!

  6. marie-lucie says

    I have not always known how to do it – I too had to ask the Hatters when I first started.

  7. Just now, while writing a little bit of totally unrelated verse, I realized: I am entirely uninterested and unmoved by this sort of sound play. Light onomatopoeia of this kind is quite nearly the very first thing that uncreative pedagogues point to when they want to perform a deep reading on a text—’Do you see here how the author uses hard k- and p- words to reflect the recurring image of pebbles,’ or ‘Do you notice how this character uses quite a lot of sibilants, to associate him with snakes’—and I never really felt particularly moved by these things. I just sort of dutifully acknowledged them as things that an author could do and moved on.
    But I realize now that i really do think that kind of thought is very silly. I cannot think of any passage that I could read where the connotations and denotations of its composing words would not vastly overpower the subliminal impression left by the sounds they are spoken with. And thus I cannot think of any passage that I could write where employing words based on the supposed effect of their sounds would leave it better off than if I had written for the sense of the thing, and not sounding: a) forced, b) like a cartoon character, or c) like some sort of pun.
    i am quite sure that, whenever any author has said, ‘I know, I’ll make this passage up of words with more Rs in them than usual, to subtly foreshadow the revelation of this character’s background as a foundling raised in a Formula 1 racetrack,’ his supposed secondary effect has been lost on every reader who suffered through it—only to be found in the subsequent poring-over by a profession who seems to think that the craft of reading and criticism has mostly to do with being able to point out so-called ‘devices’, so-called not for working an effect on an audience but in giving something for imagination-less pedagogues to point out.
    Words, such as they are, tend all of them have such a vast constellation and meanings on a semantic level. It’s quite insulting to reduce them to a series of simplistic syllables, shorn of their standing as citizens of the artistic … firmament.

  8. That is how you work as a poet and how you feel about sounds. It is not how everyone works as a poet or how everyone feels about sounds.

  9. In particular, Russian poets have often gone on record as being concerned with exactly the kind of thing you dismiss.

  10. Z.D. description of how poets work strikes me as far off the mark.
    Most poets give care to making their lines sound good or sound right, and when you read poetry you often find yourself responding to the sound itself (the “music”), independent of or parallel to the sense — in the best cases the sense and the music work together.
    There are all kinds of ways that poets can make lines sound good, and they’ve been catalogued — rhyme, alliteration, vowel harmony, assonance, etc. That doesn’t mean that poets consciously think “I’ll put a bunch of k’s in here” (though some do, e.g. Baudelaire.) They just write lines that sound right.
    I have never seen Z.D.’s poetry, but it seems that he’s chosen to work under a handicap.

  11. I can sympathize with your irritation to a point. Certainly it can seem pedantic when these things are pointed out as pure pattern, unrelated to anything else (which I don’t see Chandler as doing, by the way). But when you say you can’t think of a passage you might write where “employing words based on the supposed effect of their sounds would leave it better off than if I had written for the sense of the thing,” you are, first of all, making a false dichotomy, and second, not thinking very hard. Any time you put a comprehensible sentence together you are doing both, and if you don’t attend to sound at all it can quickly become gibberish. I’m not even talking about “artistic” writing. Even translating an article on interior decorating, as I happen to be doing now, it can be quite a struggle, once you have got all the “denotations and connotations” in mind, to put them in a sequence and rhythm that actually sounds like English. A clumsy, unreadable, unevocative sentence does not, to mind, convey the same thing at all as a well written one. And that of itself will mean attending to vowel and consonant sequences, avoiding clashes, and so on, though it’s not something we normally dwell on.
    I think your first intuition, that this is something writers just do, is the more valid one. And there is no reason great writers can’t do it more vigorously. That’s what you often find in classical writing, and in writing intended for reading aloud, such as the Bible or sermons. It can sound overdone and “stagey” to readers more oriented towards the page. But it is, to say the least, no small part of our literary and poetic tradition.

  12. Danil Kharms says

    Pushkin liked to throw stones. If he saw stones, then he would start throwing them. Sometimes he would fly into such a temper that he would stand there, red in the face, waving his arms and throwing stones. It really was rather awful!

  13. I don’t want to give anyone the impression that the sound of words doesn’t factor into my writing (and into what I consider good writing); of course it does and I don’t think I claimed otherwise. Clumsy and unreadable is clumsy and unreadable the world round, and—in poetry particularly, of course!—rhythm is absolutely essential to aesthetic pleasure as well as meaning.
    And further I didn’t mean to give the impression that good writing is just ‘done’; I do believe in actual devices, and fighting them on the beaches, and all that. I have lovingly diagrammed as much Catullus as the next man. But can you show me how using words with allegedly more p and r sounds is at all like using short anglo saxon words and parataxis for a choppy feeling, or anaphora for—well, all the things that anaphora is good for? I can’t imagine reading Chandler’s translation and coming away from those passages with anything more aesthetically powerful than, ‘That Beaupre chap is awfully pee-arry.’
    indeed, speaking of handicaps is exactly what brought me to my (now apparently very controversial) opinion. Because I found that every time I did have the poor judgement to try to employ an alliteration or two in some bit of free verse, it always got edited out later on because the meter suffered for it. Now I’ve read enough of my Beowulf not to ever claim that alliteration itself has no place in the world of verse. Certainly not my world, much as I’d like, but I wouldn’t be normative about it.

  14. Well, you ought to read the translation and see what you think. I don’t think Chandler’s “devices” stick out, but I do think they work in English in a way that is comparable to how the Russian works. But then I’m extremely biassed. Chandler is a truly excellent translator, and I had the great pleasure of corresponding with him on this translation.

  15. The Captain’s Daughter is one of those works even a schoolchild can understand at some level, yet one gets to fully appreciate years and decades later. At first reading, it seems too light and laconic for Russian prose, but that’s a false aftertaste of the Big Russian Novel.
    Pushkin most likely cared how his prose sounded. For all his amazing prosodic gift, he could produce a hundred versions of a single line trying to bring it to perfection. The same probably applies to his prose, at least to some degree. But I would be surprised if he counted his r’s and k’s and whatnot.
    On a related note, see his discussion of poetic boldness: “We find these expressions courageous, for they strongly and unusually render a clear thought and poetic visions… The highest courage is that of invention and creation, where a vast plan is enveloped by creative thought — such is the courage of Shakespeare, Dante, Milton, Goethe in Faust, Molière in Tartuffe.”
    Pushkin contrasts this with an inferior kind of courage: “The French still wonder at Racin’s audacity in using the word pavé, pavement:
    Et baise avec respect le pavé de tes temples.
    And Delilles is proud of using the word vache. A despicable literature, submitting itself to such niggling and capricious criticism…”
    (In modern Russian, the word помост Pushkin apparently uses for pavement, means a platform or dais. — A.)

  16. In Pushkin’s “Mozart and Salieri”, supposedly Pushkin identified with Salieri because writing was difficult for him, with his Polish friend Mickiewicz (who wrote with ease) playing the Mozart-figure. When Rimsky-Korsakoff made Pushkin’s little play into a little opera, he also regarded himself as a Salieri, with Musorgsky as the Mozart. In the latter case it wasn’t relative degrees of laboriousness that distinguished them, but schooled music vs. naive or natural music.
    With both Musorgsky and Satie people have always wondered as to whether they were incompetent or original. Seemingly they broke the rules without ever having learned them very well. My opinion is that they didn’t bother to learn what they didn’t care about (specifically voice-leading and counterpoint — both worked on the piano, where voice-leading is a fiction anyway.)

  17. But I would be surprised if he counted his r’s and k’s and whatnot.
    It does not matter whether he counted them or consciously thought about it. What matters is the effects he produced. If artists had to consciously think about every single thing that was going on in their poetry or music, they’d never create a thing. If you absorb enough poetry that uses intricate phonetic effects, you will absorb those effects, just as you absorb the grammar of your native language without having to think about it.

  18. (Racine, not “Racin”, of course.)
    John — I strongly doubt Pushkin saw himself as Salieri. What was Salieri’s big grudge with Providence? That the “idle reveller” Mozart was so incredibly gifted while the hard-working, music-worshipping Salieri was not. Unfair, says Salieri: no justice on earth, no justice up there either. When it comes to talent, surely Pushkin was more like Mozart than Salieri, and he knew that. He was also a womanizer (until his marriage) and a gambler. When inspired however (see “Ere Apollo calls the poet // To make a sacred offering”), he would lock himself up in his room and compose — which included much pen-gnawing as he scribbled down those multiple versions.

  19. John is thinking of Puzhukrishnan, the Dravidian Pushkin. The Russian Pushkin certainly did not think of himself as Salieri.

  20. My source is translator James Falen’s “Introduction” to his Boris Godunov and Other Dramatic Works, p. xxvii. Falen in turn credits Akhmatova and others with the idea.
    Pushkin may have been less worshipful of himself than later generations were of him, and I am sure that his identification with Salieri was not total, pretty much being limited to thinking of himself as a serious-minded writer for whom writing was difficult, in contrast to others who could work quickly and easily.
    As I recall (I can’t find my copy and had to rely on Google Books) the Salieri in Pushkin’s play is not as horrible as the caricature in the stupid movie (just as the Mozart in Pushkin’s play, and in reality, was not as unbearably annoying as the caricature in the stupid movie.) In Pushkin it is possible to empathize with Salieri a bit.

  21. But I would be surprised if he counted his r’s and k’s and whatnot.
    Me too. But I’m sure he was constantly “trying it out.” If you have a particularly tricky pattern, that’s the only way to know if it works. So to that extent, I can understand being impatient with paper analyses.
    I was thinking too that it was Akhmatova who thought Pushkin identified with Salieri. Of course everyone had always assumed he thought of himself as Mozart. The story about Mickiewicz, though, sounds plausible (M apparently used to improvise verses at parties, to P’s astonishment).
    I think obviously he could identify with both. And Salieri is in many ways the more interesting character.

  22. I think Salieri’s question is of Pushkin’s own making — perhaps the poet questioning himself, why this unearned talent? and what to do with it? But Salieri’s “correcting” the Creator’s “error” by killing Mozart, restoring the world to Salieri’s idea of harmony — that’s something Pushkin would have hardly sympathized with.
    Pushkin was not universally thought of as a serious writer until perhaps Dostoyevsky’s Pushkin speech. Even dismissed as lightweight at times.

  23. It was probably Georges Dantes who Pushkin identified with Mozart. But something went terribly wrong.

  24. Pushkin was not universally thought of as a serious writer until perhaps Dostoyevsky’s Pushkin speech.
    True, but he definitely thought of himself that way, despite the aristocratic imperative of pretending otherwise.

  25. But Salieri’s “correcting” the Creator’s “error” by killing Mozart, restoring the world to Salieri’s idea of harmony — that’s something Pushkin would have hardly sympathized with.
    No, but he clearly found the psychology that would lead to it intriguing. And maybe could see something of it in himself.
    Identification with Mozart, on the other hand, would have been easy and obvious for someone who was also a prodigy. But by the same token, not so interesting.
    Salieri dominates the play. Of Mozart he gives us only a sketch, just enough to get the point across (unlike Schaffer in Amadeus, who doesn’t know when to stop).
    Pushkin was not universally thought of as a serious writer until perhaps Dostoyevsky’s Pushkin speech. Even dismissed as lightweight at times.
    So was Mozart. They both had a light touch that the later 19th century, in its earnest ponderousness, didn’t always appreciate.

  26. A complicating factor: in the play Mozart is shown as the lighthearted, playful, childish one, whereas Salieri is shown as the hardworking, methodical, competent professional.
    The stupid movie really has obscured a lot of better and more interesting stuff, because the Rimsky / Musorgsky relationship is a whole other level.

  27. In 1979, several years before the execrable Amadeus, there was a miniseries on Soviet TV of the Little Tragedies. I’m sure the Russians on the list will remember it. The Mozart and Salieri sequence had the late great Innokenty Smoktunovsky (known to Western audiences mainly for playing Hamlet in Kozintsev’s film version) in the role of Salieri. I only learned of this film very recently: I found excerpts on Youtube(!)
    I think it’s brilliant. The adaptation adds just enough cinematic stuff to take advantage of the medium, and cuts very little (for the M & S, more or less the same lines that Rimsky cut for his libretto). It’s never been released in English, but I recently made a Youtube version of the Mozart and Salieri sequence with my own subtitles. (I’d give a live link but I don’t know how they’re handled in comments here)
    For those who don’t need subtitles, the whole movie is available on DVD.

  28. I have that series on videotape (at least I hope I do, after all the moves of recent years); it’s truly wonderful.

  29. Bathrobe says

    No need to go as far as Pushkin. I realise that Tennyson isn’t terribly fashionable nowadays, but he was a poet who knew how to use the sound of words to great effect. Even when you have to struggle to find anything deep in what he says, he could turn out some remarkable lines.

  30. marie-lucie says

    Edgar Poe was another one. Not what you would call depth, but beautiful, evocative sounds.

  31. Baudelaire translated not only Poe, but Longfellow. Longfellow was a poetry machine and scavenged the languages of the world for meters, etc.
    “The Song of Hiawatha” uses Finnish meter. I don’t know where Evangeline’s Da da da Da da da Da da comes from, but it’s a rare meter.
    Poe stated the idea that the poet engineers poems the way an engineer engineers machinery, Baudelaire theorized it, and they had a lot of followers in both countries.

  32. Robert Chandler says

    I have only just caught up with this discussion – sorry not to come in earlier. The complete version of my article is published by the New York journal, “Cardinal Points”. What I emphasize there is that Pushkin uses a device like alliteration, often indeed a mere surface effect, to convey an extraordinary depth of meaning. Here are a few more lines from my article: “The first paragraph of chapter eight contains a supremely moving example of alliteration. Pugachov has just captured Fort Belogorsk. Pyotr’s life has been spared, but he has no idea what has happened to Masha. He enters her home to find that ‘it had been laid waste. Chairs, tables and chests had been broken up; crockery had been smashed; everything else stolen. (…)Her bedclothes had been ripped and her wardrobe broken open and ransacked (…) But where was the mistress of this humble, virginal cell? A terrible thought flashed through my mind; I pictured her in the hands of the brigands. My heart clenched tight. I wept bitter, bitter tears and called out the name of my beloved.’ The first ten lines of the original sound staccato and harsh. There is a great deal of assonance, alliteration and some syllables are repeated several times: pere… pere… ras… perer… razb… razl… grabl… braz… razb… gor… gor… grom.. roiz…’ Then the harsher consonants drop away and are replaced by repeated ‘P’, ‘L’ and ‘Sh’ sounds at the moment that Palasha the maid, as if reborn out of the sounds of her own name, suddenly takes centre-stage: ‘I heard a soft rustling and from behind the wardrobe appeared Palasha, pale and trembling.’ (‘poslyshalsya legky shum, i iz-za shkapa poyavilas Palasha, blednaya i trepeshchushaya.’ Until this moment, the narrator has consistently referred to as PalashKa, using a familiar form of her name that fits her lowly status; she is, after all, a mere serf and has, at least to some degree, been a figure of fun. Now for the first time she appears as PalaSHa, and the narrator will continue to use this more dignified form of her name for the rest of the novel. Her owners have been killed and she is free to act in her own right; she will show both courage and initiative and will play a crucial role in enabling Pyotr to rescue Masha from the hands of Shvabrin.”

  33. does it come through in English that Pushkin’s narrative is highly stylised – to resemble the 1770s archaic Russian? With quotes from C18th poets as epigraphs to chapters to accentuate this?
    And, also, (compare Palashka to Palasha) the Daughter in the title, does it convey the dochka diminutive of the Russian original Kapitanskaya dochka? The -ka/-ok suffix is often rendered into English with the addition of ‘little'(“Золотой телёнок” – The Golden Calf – The Little Golden Calf), but not in the this case. I have often wondered why?
    May I also offer a big thank you to Robert Chandler for his effort and his insights into this, I think, underrated masterpiece of Russian literature – and L.Hat, of course, for blogging this. It is not as epic as War and Peace, or as deep as the Karamazovs, or as perfect as Fathers and Sons, but as a defining point, a peak in Russian belles-lettres, I think, it is the best, there nothing even close to The Captain’s Daughter. Unfortunately, it is often read as part of an early course in Russian literature (both in Russia, and in the West), when the fine points are lost – and a more mature reader does not often come back to the novel.
    LH links to his previous post with a reference to Svanidze’s ‘Istoricheskiye chroniki’. I would like to support your high recommendation, it is, today, a rare effort and a tremendous achievement, especially considering the scarce resources they have.
    For those who are interested in the sources of modern Russian language and culture, I would also like to recommend Yuri Lotman’s ‘Besedy o russkoy kulture’ (Talks on Russian Culture), published in a series of books and also serialised by Russian TV in the 90s. I looked for references to him on this blog, but couldn’t find any.

  34. I have often wondered why
    Probably because “little daughter” in English sounds like a girl under ten years old, which would give a false impression.
    As for Lotman, I simply haven’t gotten around to him yet. When I do, I’m sure I’ll be writing about it.

  35. Here is Lotman’s article ‘Ideological Structure of The Captain’s Daughter’. It is devoted to the development of Pushkin’s historical thinking. The famous Pushkin’s phrase from the novel, ‘God save us from seeing the Russian revolt, meaningless and merciless’ just didn’t fit with the portrait of Pushkin the Revolutionary. So, to keep him on-side, mainstream Soviet critics simply claimed that Grinev was not speaking for Pushkin. Lotman shows how close Grinev’s attitudes were to Pushkin’s own.
    The Beaupré incident, which Robert Chandler mentions, is also, I think, an important marker of the decline of French cultural influence in Russia.
    But why vodka in the comical phrase ‘мадам, же ву при, водкю’ is rendered into English as ‘vodkoo’ which is the phonetic straightforward of Accusative (водку)? Does vodkyu or vodqueue not sound right in English?

  36. “little daughter” in English
    Tranlsate The Captain’s Daughter back into Russian and you get Капитанская дочь. Which is correct, but loses an important key in Pushkin’s narrative – familiarity. Grinev’s strength is in his family, the commandant of the fortress treats him as one of his own family, Pugachev is on familiar terms with his ‘court’ – and with Grinev, and Masha talks to the Empress in a familiar situation.
    Is there no other way to express this in English? Arthur Ransome uses ‘little’ abundantly to convey Russian suffixes.

  37. Does vodkyu or vodqueue not sound right in English?
    It would be a little harder to process/pronounce and add no value. See, as a Russian you’re thinking “But vodku is just the accusative form!” but English speakers don’t know or care. All that’s important is that the word be humorously deformed.
    Is there no other way to express this in English?
    No. This is one of the unavoidable problems in translating Russian; there’s nothing you can do about the diminutives except try to add a layer of affectionate familiarity some other way. Adding “little” just sounds stupid in general (cf. “little father,” which I assure you does not come across remotely the way батюшка does in Russian).

  38. “Little mother” would come across even worse.

  39. It seems that Ma, Mom, Mam, Pa, Pop, Dad, Daddy, Girly, Kid, Aunty, etc. could be used in various contexts.

  40. “Mama”.

  41. The Captain’s Girly? Naah.

  42. “The Captain’s Girl” would almost work, if it weren’t for the ambiguity (ie that it could mean girlfriend). As applied to a daughter it conveys about the right degree of familiarity.

  43. The ones I listed are all terms of address, mostly not reference.

  44. “The Captain’s Girl” would almost work, if it weren’t for the ambiguity
    Exactly, and, again, translated back you’d get
    Burgess’s ‘devochka’.
    The Captain’s Dear Daughter?
    His Captain’s Daughter?
    I asked my wife and daughter, who are both Engish-French bilingual and speak Russian, to have a go, and they came up with The Captain and His Daughter.
    If I were a rusopyat I’d say, ha, see, mighty English can’t even express a little affection in the form of a suffix. As I am not, I ask myself, ok, they can’t translate -ka, but how do I put into Russian the English diminutives of, for example, ‘itsy bitsy teenie weenie yellow polka dot bikini’?

  45. the word be humorously deformed
    I see, you are right of course.
    Chandler renders Savelitch’s phrase as ‘Madam, zhe vu pri, vodkoo’. I have several English editions of the novel and looked up Natalie Duddington’s version. She puts it as ‘Madame, shu voo pree vodka’ which is also funny, but more removed from ‘je vous prie’. And I think she missed completely the bit about vodka, which Chandler wonderfully caught with the word ‘pronounce’ in this phrase:
    ‘…my Beaupré soon grew accustomed to the Russian home-made brandy and, indeed, came to prefer it to the wines of his own country as being far better for the digestion.’ (Duddington)
    ‘…even came to prefer them to the wines of his fatherland, pronouncing them incomparably better for the digestion’ (Chandler)
    I asked about ‘vodkoo’, because to us, Russians, the tsimmes of this phrase is in the -ю at the end, where Beaupré apparently put the stress. Not ‘vódkoo’ as in accusative ‘прошу вóдку’, but ‘zhe voo pri vodkYU’, shifting the accent to the end to create a ‘French’ effect. I wonder if this is another ‘lost in translation’ subtlety.
    In the never-ending fight against Russian drunkenness there was a phase in the early eighties when someone came up with a clever design. To stop men drinking in parks and streets, stand-up watering holes were set-up in cities where people could walk in and buy their shot of vodka by the ryumka, a 50cl glass, with a zakuska chaser-snack of pickled gherkins or herring. The price per glass made a bottle about three times more expensive than in shops, but the ‘ryumochnaya’ did roaring trade. As young men, we would march in our local after work and shout: ‘madame, je vous prie, vodkYU!’

  46. The Captain’s Little Lass?

  47. Well, if you’re going to go that route, The Captain’s Lassie would be better. But no.

  48. is it because of Lassie the Red Colly I grew up with watching the tv series in america or because of the folky-country connotation?

  49. Lassie the dog is sort of a subsidiary problem, but basically “lassie” just isn’t part of contemporary English outside of Scotland (and probably parts of England), and it sounds like a joke.

  50. The original novel Lassie Come-Home (1940) by Eric Knight is set in Yorkshire, where lass, lassie are still current. The dog is originally just called “Lassie”, but is renamed by the boy hero, Joe Carraclough:

    “Ye’re a come-home dog, aren’t ye, Lassie?” he crooned. “Aye, that ye are. And ye brought us luck. ‘Cause ye’re a come-homer. Ye’re my Come-home. Lassie Come-home. That’s thy name! Lassie Come-home!”

    Later, of course, the title was reinterpreted as an imperative. And for what it’s worth, Eric Knight is a wonderful writer, and I greatly recommend his story collection, The Flying Yorkshireman, which consists of modern tales of Sam Small, the Yorkshire version of Pecos Bill.

  51. As for Lotman, I simply haven’t gotten around to him yet. When I do…

    12 years on it was my turn to be surprised why there is nothing more targeted about Lotman on LH.

    Especially now when Lotman is all the rage after him being infamously confused with Mark Twain. Both ended up being enemies of the people, in equal measure, but the story brought everyone’s attention to Lotman, 100 years after his death. If you google Лотман now, all the top hits will be to the Mark Twain / Russian National Library story.

    As I understand, with Lotman being a St Petersburg native and a decorated WWII hero, his centennial was widely celebrated there. The RNL currently hosts two Lotman Centennial exhibits into two buildings. But when, a couple days ago, they posted Lotman’s portrait on the library’s main staircase to celebrate the Day of Russian Culture, a scandal erupted. The security manager took the portrait down, assuming that it depicted Mark Twain. In a series of urgent meetings, it was revealed that while Lotman exhibits have been properly vetted, his portrait wasn’t; and that it can’t be approved because of Lotman’s son’s statements about Ukraine. Oh, and what was wrong about Mark Twain in the first place? The problem was that some other library patrons may potentially confuse the two, just like the security manager did. And Mark Twain would have been wholly inappropriate due to his unfriendly-nation citizenship.

  52. If you google Лотман now, all the top hits will be to the Mark Twain / Russian National Library story.

    I tried it, and sure enough. Wow. Russia is going through a strange time.

    And I still haven’t read Lotman.

  53. …attention to Lotman, 100 years after his death

    Birth. And Lotman made his main contributions to linguistics while living in Tartu, which is as unfriendly as they go.

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