The farther I read in Chukovsky’s diary, the more at a loss I am to understand on what basis they abridged the English version. They entirely omit the Nov. 20, 1919, entry, which describes the opening and setup of the House of Arts (Дом искусств), one of the most important Russian cultural institutions of the early 1920s, which fed and housed Viktor Shklovsky, Osip Mandelstam, Mikhail Zoshchenko, Alexander Grin, and Vladislav Khodasevich, among many others, during a period of war and deprivation that they might not otherwise have survived. I will translate the entry here; the Russian is below.

So yesterday we opened the House of Arts. A huge cold apartment, in which by some miracle they’ve heated two rooms — a table with a wonderful supply of writing equipment; everything goes like clockwork: a servant, in the bathroom/lavatory a decanter and glass, guests. Gorky wasn’t there, he’s sick. Everyone was so dumbfounded when they were given little caramels, glasses of hot tea, and buns that they immediately chose [Pyotr Vladimirovich] Sazonov as deputy chairman [or “vice president”]! Before, Sazonov — in his capacity as steward/manager [?: I’m not sure what ekonom means here –LH] — would never have been admitted to a board meeting! Now the steward is the leading figure in scientific and literary gatherings. People were looking at him prayerfully: maybe he’ll give us a candle. And he didn’t disappoint: knowing that there weren’t enough glasses, he brought his own from the Fontanka [the canal where, presumably, he lived] to the Moika [the House of Arts was at the intersection of Nevsky Prospect with the Moika] — in a suitcase! I won’t describe the meeting, since Blok described it for me in Chukokkala [Chukovsky’s album of drawings and autographs; the name is a pun on the village of Kuokkala, now Repino]. I made a suggestion to him (about Annenkov). [Vasily Ivanovich] Nemirovich[-Danchenko, older brother of the famous director] presided but was quite helpless: he had to be prompted at every word. “Is it cold where you live?” I asked him. “Yes, three degrees, but I’m writing about Africa and Spain, so I warm up!” answered the gallant old fellow. We went to examine the Eliseev apartment (which we’d rented for the House of Arts). Stunning lack of taste. Mme Eliseeva’s bathroom was covered with painted scenes: ocean waves, shipwrecks. A large quantity of gymnastic equipment reminiscent of torture devices. Blok walked in and asked in a puzzled way, “What’s this for?” (…)
Blok is very impressionable and imitative. Not long ago at a board meeting I gave a talk about how in the 1840s they wrote аплодисманы [aplodismany ‘applause,’ in a French form], мебели [mebeli ‘furniture’] (in the plural), and so on. Today in his article on Andreev was the word mebeli (plural), and in his account of the meeting — aplodismany.
Fyodor Sologub, Merezhkovsky, and Petrov-Vodkin didn’t show up at the opening. Merezhkovsky at this time was at my place, arguing with Shatunovsky. I very, very much want to help Annenkov; he’s in appalling need. He’s doing a portrait of Tikhonov for a pood [16.4 kg, 36 lb] of flour, but Tikhonov still hasn’t given him that pood. At the end of the meeting he called me aside, took me into the other room and showed me an unfinished watercolor portrait of Shklovsky (bigger than life-size — the complicated expression of his eyes and lips is captured amazingly and could only belong to Shklovsky). I suddenly wanted terribly for him to finish my portrait. I started to rework my “Principles of Artistic Translation,” but suddenly got bored and tossed it aside.

Итак, вчера мы открывали «Дом Искусства». Огромная холодная квартира, в к-рой каким-то чудом натопили две комнаты — стол с дивными письменными принадлежностями, всё — как по маслу: прислуга, в уборной графин и стакан, гости. Горького не было, он болен. Все были так изумлены, когда им подали карамельки, стаканы горячего чаю и булочки, что немедленно избрали Сазонова товарищем председателя! Прежде Сазонов — в качестве эконома — и доступа не имел бы в зал заседаний коллегии! Теперь эконом — первая фигура в ученых и литературных собраниях. На него смотрели молитвенно: авось даст свечку. Он тоже не ударил в грязь лицом: узнав, что не хватает стаканов, он собственноручно принес свои собственные с Фонтанки на Мойку — в чемодане. Заседания не описываю, ибо Блок описал его для меня в Чукоккале. Кое-что подсказывал ему я (об Анненкове). Немирович председательствовал — беспомощно: ему приходилось суфлировать каждое слово. — Холодно у вас? — спросил я его. — Да, три градуса, но я пишу об Африке, об Испании, — и согреваюсь! — отвечал бравый старикан. Мы ходили осматривать елисеевскую квартиру (нанятую нами для Дома Искусств). Безвкусица оглушительная. Уборная m-me Е[лисеев]ой вся расписана: морские волны, кораблекрушен&#
1080;е. Множество каких-то гимнастических приборов, напоминающих орудия пытки. Блок ходил и с недоумением спрашивал: — А это для чего? (…)
Блок очень впечатлителен и переимчив. Я недавно читал в коллегии докладец о том, что в 40-х гг. писали: аплодисманы, мебели (множественное] ч[исло]) и т. д. Теперь в его статейке об Андрееве встретилось слово мебели (мн. ч.) и в отчете о заседании — «аплодисманы».
Не явились на открытие Дома Искусств: Федор Сологуб, Мережковский, Петров-Водкин. Мережковский в это время был у меня и спорил с Шатуновским. Очень, очень хочется мне помочь Анненкову, он ужасно нуждается. Он пишет портрет Тихонова за пуд белой муки, но Тихонов еще не дал ему этого пуда. По окончании заседания он подозвал меня к себе, увел в другую комнату — и показал неоконченный акварельный портрет Шкловского (больше натуры — изумительно схвачено сложное выражение глаз и губ присущее одному только Шкловскому). Мне страшно вдруг захотелось, чтобы он докончил мой портрет. Я начал переделывать “Принципы худ. перевода”, но вдруг заскучал и бросил.


  1. Five posts! Crown and I are beaming!

  2. And he’s still on 1919.

  3. And he’s still on 1919.

  4. I heard recently that Beauvoir’s The Second Sex has been newly translated into English. It was discovered that the guy who did the original translation in the 50’s left quite a bit out that he thought superfluous or uninteresting.
    I read the thing myself in French a year ago, and will gladly admit that there are many longeurs in it. In particular, either the first or second volume (I think it was the first) is essentially a series of rather scatter-gun comments on representations of women by male French writers.
    These include Montherlant and Stendhal, but also lots of others whom the non-connoisseur of French literature couldn’t care less about. The first volume, or most of it, could be abridged away for a general audience, but at least an abridgement should be advertised as such, for pete’s sake.

  5. “А это для чего?” == “Who is this for?”

  6. Is that a reminder that “А это для чего?” also means “What is this for?” ?

  7. Yup, and I’ll fix it. Obviously I did a quick-‘n’-dirty translation!

  8. Sazonov as comrade chairman!
    hey, hey, – NOT comrade chairman, it simpy means – deputy chairman.
    also econom I think means manager or treasurer.

  9. Well, times have changed. Today’s with-it metrosexual knows all about “sex toys” and such, so when he reads
    A large quantity of gymnastic equipment reminiscent of torture devices.
    he might well ask “Who is this for ?”, without batting an eyelid.
    Back in the day, perhaps only Herr Sacher-Masoch and a few others could have been so knowing. Like the Cookie Monster asking: “Is that a cookie ?”.

  10. Blok walked in and asked doubtfully
    Blok was walking around and asking puzzlingly

  11. докладец
    little report, gave talk?

  12. asking puzzlingly
    “asking in a puzzled way”. Ain’t no adverb “puzzlingly” in normal use, even though it does adhere to the adverb-forming rule.

  13. The OED has three citations for “puzzlingly”, but that doesn’t change the fact that “asking puzzlingly” sounds rather ESL.
    But your English is extremely good, Sashura, if I may say so. Otherwise I wouldn’t have bothered.

  14. Changes made; thanks, all!

  15. And anyway, it was he that was puzzled not puzzling, so if anything it shoulda been “puzzedly”.
    Oooh! – I like those portraits.

  16. *puzzledly

  17. Well, the verb puzzle can have multiple senses.

  18. OED has three citations for “puzzlingly”
    I myself was surprised to see it in my Oxford American Dictionary (on the computer).

  19. эконом
    I looked it up in my Ozhegov: заведующий хозяйством, i.e. manager, keeper. Not treasurer. Ozhegov (mine is 1999) doesn’t mark it as archaic, but it has long gone out of use. Завхоз normally is a lowly position, someone looking after chairs and brooms, supervising cleaners. Hence Chuk’s amused observation that Sazonov wouldn’t be allowed to sit with the board before, but in times of hardships their role dramatically increased.
    Ain’t no adverb “puzzlingly” in normal use.
    I was surprised to see it in my American Oxford D. (on the computer). Thanks for confirming my suspicions.

  20. “asked puzzlingly” would mean ‘asked in a way that confused those listening to the question’. As Grumbly Stu suggests, it’s difficult, but not impossible:
    “So you would have told him if I had asked you not to, but because I asked you to tell him, thinking you wouldn’t tell him, you told him anyway, because you knew I wanted you not to tell him??” she asked puzzlingly.
    “Why do you keep calling me ‘Steve’?” Steve asked his friends puzzlingly.

    “puzzledly” is, to me, more difficult. The translator could set off ‘puzzled’:
    She looked at him puzzledly.
    Puzzled, she looked at him.
    [better] She looked at him in a puzzled way.
    [even better] She gave him a puzzled look.

  21. mollymooly says

    “asked in puzzlement”

  22. This is starting to remind me of the story in Cockburn’s “Corruptions of Empire” where Robert Laughlin, who was writing a Tzotzil-English dictionary, starts wondering whether certain words he was getting out of his native speakers were real words, or just potential words that his long-time informants, who had developed an unusual degree of linguistic sophistication over the years, had been induced to construct according to the principles of Tzotzil.

  23. Well, times have changed. Today’s … Back in the day
    Maybe, but then there’s Weimar Berlin (around ten years and a thousand kilometers away), with its Stiefelmädchen color-coding guide-books.

  24. I’ve asked the Chukfamily web-site people about cuts in the English translation of Chukovsky’s diary. It appears that the Russian edition of the diary taken into translation was its first published version, already severely cut by Soviet censors. Then, that cropped version was again cut by publishers in the West who absouletely wanted to squeeze it into one volume. If that’s what happened it would explain why there seems to be no clear pattern for cuts – they were made by several teams of people for several different reasons.

  25. That makes a lot of sense. Thanks! (But it’s depressing that Yale UP didn’t dare do a two-volume edition. If the university presses are chickening out, what’s left?)

  26. My mother has been working in a Russian Academy journal for 40 years – she has seen ideological pressures replaced by financial, and these are worse, because only what sells goes.

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