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 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Garnett’s translations, in their time, were groundbreaking; though some say they’re out of date, updated versions exist alongside the originals.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 Brothers Karamazov?

Is this just another chapter in the ongoing Garnett vs. Pevear & Volokhonsky debate? Well, there are three other in-print translations of The Brothers Karamazov.

The MacAndrew translation is thought to be too loose, and the McDuff translation is even more literal than the Pevear & Volokhonsky translation, which makes it even harder to read. The Avsey translation appeals to some, but he’s also on the loose end of the spectrum, having gone so far as to change the title to “The Karamazov Brothers” to make it sound more idiomatic in English.

To read about these translations, and the ones that are now out of print, visit We Love Translations: World Literature in English, where you will also find cover images, extracts for comparison, ISBNs, and pagecounts.

» What’s the best translation of The Brothers Karamazov?

🙂

Harry Potter in Russian

This copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban in Russian (ISBN 9785389077881) was a gift from Ilya Sergey (a colleague of my husband who does theoretical computery things) and his wife Lilia Anisimova (an illustrator who does computery things of an entirely different kind).

It is the latest addition to my collection of translations of Harry Potter books, which consists mostly of translations of book 3, but also includes some translations of book 1.

The title page of the Russian translation looks like this:

The text inside looks like this:

It’s incomprehensible and unpronounceable yet blessedly phonetic!

The book features a beautiful new cover illustration by Kazu Kibuishi. The spines of the books in the seven-book set form an image of Hogwarts, like so:

New versions in many languages now feature Kibuishi’s illustrations; only buy the Russian edition if you’re a crazy collector like me—or if you can actually read Russian.

A Piece of Paradise (2013)

I’m pretty sure this was listed as A Piece of Paradise in Air China’s in-flight entertainment guide, even though the subtitles call it The Heavenly Corner. The Russian title is Pайский Yголок. According to Google Translate, the two words correspond to the words ‘paradise’ and ‘corner’.

My college friend who studied Russian expressed extreme surprise when I said a Russian movie I’d watched had a happy ending, but it does!

The basic idea here is that the female protagonist has everything she ever dreamed of (a successful husband, two lovely kids, and a comfortable life) but is unhappy in her marriage. She gradually realizes that her husband has become a real lowlife. He gets his comeuppance and she gets a new guy. Ta-da! That’s it, really. Still, it’s interesting because of the setting and language. I mean, how often do you get to watch a Russian movie? Not often, right?

For more information, you could follow this link, but it won’t help you much unless you or your web browser can read Russian. I’m just not finding anything in English on this movie at all.

http://www.kino-teatr.ru/kino/movie/ros/105810/annot/