What’s the best translation of The Nine Cloud Dream?

I’ve now read this book three times. I’ve read the 2019 Fenkl translation twice and the 1922 Gale translation once. I haven’t read the out-of-print 1974 Rutt translation. The Fenkl translation is more faithful to the original text, but the Gale translation is okay. For more information on all three translations, visit We Love Translations: World Literature in English:

» What’s the best translation of The Nine Cloud Dream?

See below for a list of characters in The Nine Cloud Dream.

I’ve given the character names as spelled by Fenkl and Gale and also the English meanings as given by Fenkl and Gale. Fenkl uses Chinese-style names using archaic-feel Wade-Giles romanization and Gale uses Korean-style names mixed with English names. I’m pretty sure Fenkl is using the same names that Rutt used.

(Scholars have determined that the original was written in classical Chinese, not Korean Hangul, but I think Gale was using a Hangul source text.)

Beware spoilers! Knowing who the characters are is a bit like knowing the plot.

Continue reading What’s the best translation of The Nine Cloud Dream?

How to say the names of years in English words

I saw this on Facebook today, though not for the first time.

Today it made me think of a Chinese friend who’s not always sure how to say years as words in English. I don’t blame her… You see, if answer “A” is a year—and not, like, a quantity of watermelons in a math problem—by default it absolutely does sound like “two zero two four [year]” in Chinese, although it’s also possible to say “two thousand and twenty-four [year]”.

How do we say the names of years in English? Turns out it’s complicated.

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What’s the best translation of The Master and Margarita?

These are the English translations of Mikhail Bulgakov’s novel The Master and Margarita:

  1. 1967 – Mirra Ginsburg
  2. 1967 – Michael Glenny
  3. 1993 – Diana Burgin and Katherine Tiernan O’Connor
  4. 1997 – Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky
  5. 2006 – Michael Karpelson (out of print)
  6. 2008 – Hugh Aplin

It’s a short list compared to, like Don Quixote, which has like 20. I thought, aha, there are only six this time, so the research on this one should go pretty fast.

Well, yes; but actually, no.

I got tangled up in two related questions about the origins of the book:

  • Was Bulgakov’s draft of The Master and Margarita complete?
  • Are all the English translations of The Master and Margarita complete?

I didn’t want to stuff what turned out to be ~1500 words into the beginning of my post at We Love Translations. That post is about choosing which English translation to read.

» What’s the best translation of The Master and Margarita?

THIS post is about the answers to those two preliminary questions.

Continue reading What’s the best translation of The Master and Margarita?

What’s the best translation of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame?

You’ve seen the Disney movie. Maybe you’ve read the novel. But do you recognize the name Frederic Shoberl? Probably not.

He’s the guy who chose the title we now use to refer to Victor Hugo’s novel, which was originally titled Notre-Dame de Paris. Shoberl wasn’t the first translator (the first was the politically motivated William Hazlitt), but his version gets the credit for hitting the bestseller list in England in the 1830s. (Hazlitt’s title was: Notre-Dame: A Tale of the Ancien Regime. Yawn.)

More about the publication history of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame below.

Continue reading What’s the best translation of The Hunchback of Notre-Dame?

Miscellaneous editions of Crime and Punishment

On We Love Translations, I’ve posted to help people answer the question “What’s the best translation of Crime and Punishment?”

But when I was learning about the 14 different translations, I also encountered some interesting adaptations.

There’s a version of Crime and Punishment written for English language learners, some online study guides, a children’s book, some out-of-print comics, a graphic novel, and even a manga version. See below for details.

Continue reading Miscellaneous editions of Crime and Punishment

What’s the best translation of The Idiot?

There are three public-domain translations, two out-of-print translations, and six modern translations available.

  1. 1887 – Fredrick Whishaw
  2. 1913 – Constance Garnett
  3. 1915 – Eva Martin
  4. 1955 – David Magarshack
  5. 1965 – John W. Strahan
  6. 1980 – Henry Carlisle and Olga Andreyeva Carlisle (Signet)
  7. 1992 – Alan Myers (Oxford)
  8. 2002 – Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Vintage/Everyman)
  9. 2003 – Constance Garnett revised by Anna Brailovsky (Modern Library)
  10. 2004 – David McDuff (Penguin)
  11. 2010 – Ignat Avsey (Alma)

Since I’ve now investigated five different Russian Classics in total, the translators’ names are somewhat familiar…

  • Garnett and Pevear and Volokhonsky translated all four of the others (War and Peace, Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, Brothers Karamazov).
  • Magarshack did Anna Karenina, Crime and Punishment, and Brothers Karamazov, but not War and Peace.
  • McDuff did Crime and Punishment and Brothers Karamazov.
  • Avsey did Brothers Karamazov.
  • Whishaw did Crime and Punishment.

Garnett’s translations, in their time, were groundbreaking; though some say they’re out of date, updated versions exist alongside the originals. Meanwhile, Pevear and Volokhonsky have taken the world by storm, leaving other recent translations standing in their shadow. Which one is really “best” depends on what you’re looking for, though.

For cover images, sample extracts for comparison, ISBNs, pagecounts, and links to relevant articles, visit We Love Translations: World Literature in English.

What’s the best translation of The Idiot?

What’s the best translation of The Three Musketeers?

Five years ago, someone on reddit said there are “very few” translations of The Three Musketeers into English.

Wrong!

There are at least nine, counting distinct translations still in print; arguably as many as sixteen, counting one edited translation, an abridged edition, a likely abridged translation that’s out of print, and four unabridged but out-of-print translations.

  1. 1846 – Anonymous
  2. 1846 – Park Benjamin (out of print)
  3. 1846 – William Barrow
  4. 1853 – William Robson
  5. 1893 – H.L. Williams (abridged)
  6. 1894 – A. Curtis Bond (out of print)
  7. 1903 – Alfred Allinson (out of print)
  8. 1950 – Lord Sudley (out of print)
  9. 1950 – Jacques Le Clercq
  10. 1952 – Isabel Ely Lord (abridged?)
  11. 1984 – Lowell Bair
  12. 1991 – Barrow edited by David Coward
  13. 2006 – Richard Pevear
  14. 2006 – Eleanor Hochman
  15. 2014 – Will Hobson
  16. 2018 – Lawrence Ellsworth

Nineteenth-century translations were bowdlerized; that is, they left out things that weren’t considered suited to Victorian readers’ tastes. The twenty-first-century translators of The Three Musketeers are putting that stuff back in, like Robin Buss did with The Count of Monte Cristo.

The popular translation these days seems to be the one by Pevear, best known for the translation he and his wife did of Anna Karenina, which led to many other translations of Russian works.

But the most intriguing one is the one by Ellsworth. That’s not even his name. His name is Lawrence Schick, and he only became a translator in the first place because he’s obsessed with historical storytelling for various types of role-playing games, and started reading Dumas in French, and then decided the existing English versions weren’t good enough—or complete enough. He dug up a lost sequel and has embarked on a project to translate a million and a half words of Dumas’ fiction. Hats off to you, Lawrence!

For details on all sixteen translations, including cover images, ISBNs, pagecounts, links to relevant articles, and extracts for comparison, visit my Three Musketeers posts at We Love Translations. Here’s a link to the first of the two:

» What’s the best translation of The Three Musketeers (Part 1)

Snobbery vs Connoisseurship

Someone in the Classic Literature Book Club on Facebook made a thought-provoking post about the “discernment of quality” and mentioned Ulysses, Lady Chatterly’s Lover, To the Lighthouse, coffee, and a pair of very fine horses in The Count of Monte Cristo.

He said we should resist the tendency “to believe that distinctions others make and we don’t see are just imaginary, used as part of a code for in group inclusion.

I agree. It’s interesting that he chose coffee as the non-literary example. I immediately thought of wine.

Wine connoisseurs claim to notice differences that don’t exist for me. But I believe those differences do exist, I just haven’t learned what they are. Actually, I’d rather not know, because then I’d only enjoy drinking expensive wine. (Not that any wine is cheap in Singapore, lol.)

It’s weird to find myself saying anything that boils down to “ignorance is bliss”. I hate that stance. I’m sure that the pleasure of a good wine is real, even if I don’t quite know what I’m missing.

But actually, as OP mentioned as well, we simply can’t be experts about everything. Thanks to the inherent scarcity of time, there is such a thing as “rational ignorance”, even outside the realms of politics and economics. Rational ignorance means it’s totally legit that I find it personally convenient not to have to turn up my nose at cheap wine.

Still. I shouldn’t turn up my nose at people who turn up their noses at cheap wine. That just makes me a snob too—probably a worse kind!

The way I see it, there are at least four different kinds of snob…

Continue reading Snobbery vs Connoisseurship

Learning Chinese in Singapore in 2022: How It’s Going

As you may know, I have been trying to learn Mandarin Chinese.

A previous post talks about how it started.

This post talks about how it’s going.

Upshot: I took the official HSK 3 test and the HSKK Beginner test on Sunday. I think it went well!

Here’s what I’ve been doing for the last two months to prepare.

Update July 12: Scores are in!
HSKK Beginner: 85/100.
HSK 3: 284/300.
Yay! 🙂

Continue reading Learning Chinese in Singapore in 2022: How It’s Going