Which translation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment should I read?

I read the Garnett translation. I was happy with it, to the extent that “happy” is the right word to describe the experience of reading what I found to be a depressing novel, but I did some research on the other available translations, which I have presented in a post on Medium called “Which translation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment should I read?”

That post focuses on in-print translations. I count seven in-print translations of thirteen total, listed here:

# Translator Year Publisher
Frederick Whishaw 1885
1. Constance Garnett 1914 Heinemann
David Magarshack 1951 Penguin
Princess Alexandra Kropotkin 1953
Jessie Coulson 1953 Norton
Michael Scammell 1963 Washington Square
2. Sidney Monas 1968 Signet
Julius Katzer 1985 Raduga
3. David McDuff 1991 Viking
4. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky 1992 Knopf
5. Oliver Ready 2014 Penguin
6. Nicolas Pasternak Slater 2017 Oxford
7. Michael R. Katz 2018 Liveright (Norton)

The copy I read was the Garnett translation published as a cheap paperback by Wordsworth. Here’s a link to buy that version from Amazon (which you won’t see if you have certain browser features enabled to block ads or tracking):

Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Constance Garnett

I didn’t particularly like Crime and Punishment… it was third-person omniscient but drifted into unreliable narrator territory because the protagonist is crazy, and you spend a lot of time watching him very closely as he goes around in circles being indecisive. I find his behavior dull at best and really frustrating at times—which is perhaps the point, but it’s unpleasant and rather drawn-out. I think I was expecting more overt philosophy, but there’s only a couple of scattered bits.

I read the Constance Garnett translation of Crime and Punishment. If you are trying to decide on a translation, check out my post over at Medium on which translation of Crime and Punishment you should read.

More on what I liked about the translation and didn’t like about the novel below.

Continue reading Crime and Punishment Fyodor Dostoevsky, translated by Constance Garnett

When and Why I Read Crime and Punishment

I was too tempted by the price! Bought it for 50% off SG$5.89. But according to the rules I've been trying to follow for a couple of years now, if I buy it, I can't just put it aside for another day. Last in, first out. Means I have to read it. So that's what I'm doing!

Genre: Classic Literature (Russian)
Date started / date finished: 28-Mar-20 to 05-Apr-20
Length: 485 pages
ISBN: 9781840224306
Originally published in: 1867/2000
Amazon link: Crime and Punishment

Which English translation or edition of The Count of Monte Cristo should I read?

So you want to read Alexandre Dumas’ classic adventure, The Count of Monte Cristo. And you don’t read French.

No problem. This massive novel has been available in English since the 1840s. You’ll find a copy in any decent library or bookstore, and if you like reading ebooks, you can download the novel for free because it’s not under copyright. That’s sorted, then.

Not so fast!

As soon as you visit the library or bookshop or click over to Amazon, you realize there are a host of publishers offering a myriad of paperback and hardcover editions and dozens of digital versions. What’s the difference?

Unexpurgated, unabridged, abridged, children’s, illustrated, and film versions are available. Keep reading to learn how to choose an edition that’s right for you.

Continue reading Which English translation or edition of The Count of Monte Cristo should I read?

The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Surendranath Tagore

Not a lot happens in The Home and the World, but a lot is felt and thought and said. The novel explores male and female gender ideals, the changing role of women in the modern world, and approaches to political change. It showcases contrasting character traits: patience and impulsivity, thoughtfulness and recklessness, candor and cunning, generosity and jealousy, conscientiousness and ambition, practicality and idealism.

The main character, Bimala, is an Indian woman caught in a love triangle with her mild, loving husband Nikhil and the charismatic, impetuous nationalist Sandip. She has always had a place in the home, but what is her place in the world?

See my Backlist books post on Asian Books Blog for more on this Bengali novel. See below for what stood out when I read it.

Continue reading The Home and the World by Rabindranath Tagore, translated by Surendranath Tagore

Threelogy Lah by Casey Chen

This box set contains three folk tales told in Singlish style: The Three Little Pigs Lah, The Red Riding Hood Lah, and The Goldilocks Lah.

The plots are not very different from other adaptations of these familiar tales. The characters are not very different, except that the bears in the story of Goldilocks are not bears but wolves, a change presumably made to connect the third book with the first two. The setting for the stories is Singapore. The illustrations are a mix of drawings and photos of objects and places, and each book’s drawings are by a different artist.

The appeal of these books (in general and for me specifically) is that they use and teach Singlish dialect and slang expressions. The target audience includes both those who want to see their own dialect used for humorous effect and those who are unfamiliar with Singlish and interested in increasing their understanding of it.

See below for more details about these books.

Continue reading Threelogy Lah by Casey Chen

Does your language control you? Lingering questions.

See below for discussion of the following questions related to my recent Funzing talk on language:

  • How do people like the Hopi whose language does not have words for left and right keep track of the cardinal directions?
  • The Hopi have a less egocentric idea of the locations of things. Does that correlate with a less egocentric kind of worldview or ethics?
  • Since language has a biological basis, doesn’t that mean that linguistic relativity is a myth?
  • What’s the difference between studying a language and using it?
  • How does using sign language differ from using a spoken language?
  • How do memes (macro images), smileys (aka emoticons or emojis), text-speak and other digital innovations relate to more traditional forms of communication?
  • Why might reading something in two different languages produce two different impressions?
  • Do there exist languages (like a fictitious Star Trek alien one) that are extremely difficult or impossible to translate because they rely noticeably more on metaphors and allusions?
  • What are some other properties of language that might make one language appear strange compared to another?

Continue reading Does your language control you? Lingering questions.

Public talk 7 August 2018: Does your language control you?

I am excited to be giving a public talk on language for Funzing Singapore next month. Hope to see you there!


Does your language influence—or even control—your very thoughts? Join us for a scintillating night as we delve deep into the spookier aspects of language. You’ll never think about language the same way again…

In this talk we’ll look at how much we rely on our language to frame our understanding of the world. You’ll be surprised to see how different languages choose to express or emphasise seemingly basic aspects of experience like gender, direction and colour!

Some languages, including Classical Chinese, lack separate words for ‘blue’ and ‘green’. Meanwhile, Eskimos are said to have dozens of words for snow. What do we make of these oddities?

Do differences in our words reflect differences in thought? In other words, do speakers of Chinese view the world differently from speakers of English, Malay, Tamil, and other languages of the world—or do we all talk differently but think somewhat the same?

What would happen if people purposely changed the language we use? Would they be able to improve or impair our thinking as in the film Arrival or the novel 1984? Examining insights from research on ‘linguistic relativity’ and examples from literature and popular culture, we’ll uncover just how much our words affect our lives!


Venue
Distrii (a co-working space at 9 Raffles Place, Republic Plaza, 048619)

Date / Time
Tuesday 7th August, 7 p.m. (Talk starts at 7.30 p.m.)

Tickets
Available online for $9 (or use your Funzing Unlimited Pass)
No tickets will be sold at the door.

Isle of Dogs (2018)

Having watched The Grand Budapest Hotel at the behest of at least one fan of Wes Anderson, I decided I was not also a fan of Wes Anderson. Maybe a different movie (a stop-motion canine dystopia set in Japan) would change my opinion?

Nope. Still not a fan of Wes Anderson.

https://itunes.apple.com/us/movie/isle-of-dogs/id1363298490

Articles about Isle of Dogs

Vulture: “What it’s like to watch Isle of Dogs as a Japanese speaker”
The writer shares some thoughts about language, setting, and the possibilities and pitfalls of cultural appropriation, adding thoughts from several Japanese speakers.

The New Yorker: “What Isle of Dogs gets right about Japan”
The writer considers the film’s use of Japanese language and culture to be thoughtful and nuanced, and says, yes, actually there are Japanese in-jokes as well as a lot of culturally accurate details. Personally, I agree that the American in the story is not a “white savior” because although she rebels, she’s ultimately ineffective.

The New Yorker: “Isle of Dogs is a stylish revolt against (American) political madness”
“Thrust into situations of utter degradation, places of utter ruin, and fates of utter despair, these [canine] victims unite in resisting the forces that would destroy them and, in the process, tap into a latent sensibility and forge a sublime style of their own….. The movie looks closely at deportation, internment in a prison camp, and the threat of extermination—all from the perspective of the victims.” Welp, now I feel silly taking the story at face value. Of course it’s all a political metaphor.

Vulture: “Isle of Dogs: Did you fall asleep?”
The writer explains some reasons why Wes Anderson, or at any rate, this film of his, is not for everyone: Anderson is deadpan, the visuals are precise, and there’s a lot of dialog in Japanese.

The Atlantic: “The beauty and sadness of Isle of Dogs
The writer says this fable about evil, told with “magnificently deadpan humor”, is “filthy and fetid, yet somehow utterly gorgeous”. Personally, I don’t see how something can be disgusting and beautiful at the same time. And that’s my biggest problem with the film: I kept wanting to look away.

The Fugitive by Pramoedya Ananta Toer

I enjoyed this short, out-of-print book more than I necessarily expected to. It got off to a slow start, especially for such a short novel, but it gave me lots of food for thought.

The Fugitive was written by a highly regarded Indonesian nationalist. In writing about the book, I learned that the author’s name, though in three parts, is not a first, middle, and last name with the family name last. It’s just a name. He is referred to as “Pramoedya” (which is also spelled “Pramudya”) or just “Pram”.

Read more about the book in my Backlist books post about The Fugitive at Asian Books Blog.

When and Why I Read The Fugitive

I am reading this Indonesian novel for my Backlist books column at Asian Books Blog.

Genre: Fiction (historical)
Date started / date finished: 17-Apr-2018 / 23-Apr-2018
Length: 171
ISBN: 0688086985
Originally published in: 1950/1990
Amazon link: The Fugitive