VIII: 2009-10
War and Peace: The Summing Up. How does Tolstoy do it?
Book. I translated a Bunin story; in the words of AJP, “NOBODY expects the Language Hat commenters!!!”
Algernon. Long thread discussing the Bayeux tapestry, inter alia.
La Fange du macadam. My praise of Berman gave rise to the usual meandering conversation, involving reinforced concrete, penguins, and Spanish words for “computer,” as well as marc’s in-thread translation of a Chukovsky poem.
Petersburg: Tomtoms and Butterflies. My final report on one of the great novels of the last century.
The People of Semika. The last of my reports on the worst translation I’ve ever read; don’t miss the previous ones linked therein.
Andrei Voznesensky, RIP. A nice thread about a fine poet, and I’d forgotten about the obit I wrote for the Fortnightly Review.
Somewhere a Dog Barked. I still get e-mails from people sending me new examples of this immortal trope.


  1. dearieme says

    I am not going to learn Russian. Is it worth reading Tolstoy in translation? (Or any of the other great Russki novelists.)

  2. Is it worth reading Tolstoy in translation? (Or any of the other great Russki novelists.)
    Yes, absolutely. One reason I learned Russian was that I loved Tolstoy and Dostoevsky so much in translation. (And to answer the inevitable question: read the first page or two of as many translations as you can find—Amazon’s “Look inside the book” and Google Books are your friend—and pick whichever one appeals to you most; there is no “best translation.”)

  3. Oh Izzy, Izzy: how did you get mixed up in this translation business, for which you were so little suited?
    I loved that.

  4. “How does Tolstoy do it?”
    What I like is the (I hope intended) tone of that question.
    It’s the awe we should always feel in the presence of masters.

  5. marie-lucie says

    dearieme: Should you learn Russian to read Tolstoy?
    Probably, but you need to know French quite well too, since so much of the conversations are in French.

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