On the Art of Translating: Constance Garnett

    I've obsessed over Camus translations. García-Marquez and Milan Kundera spent years shepherding translations of their works. Others we broach the language and linguistic challenges to "read it in the original", trusting ourselves with the sleight of hand. [Perhaps to suffer the fate of our Great Dame in Paris, as revealed in her diaries: "Reading Proust." Years later: "Still reading Proust."] A wise ole teacher once remarked to me "who translates from a translation betrays twice." or something similar. Another implored us not to give away translations for free, to cheapen and undermine the art, a couple decades before Google did exactly that.



    yes, great topic.

    compare his translation of Gogol’s sleighbells in Dead Souls to Garnett’s. Chudnym zvonom zalivayetsya kolokolchik becomes:

    Garnett: “The ringing of the bells melts into music.”

    Nabokov: “The middle bell trills out in a dream its liquid soliloquy.”

    Who, do you think, has the tin ear?

    These are too different things and this why revisionism is bad but appropriation is good.

    Nabokov was a genius artist of his time, and he's appropriating there. He combines his personality and culture with one from the past.

     We should still want the past. And we should want it accurate. We can have both.  Nabokov is pulling Gogol into 20th century, adding his own brain, making a new meme. Garnett gives you pure original Gogol.

    Nabokov was dismissive because Garnett's work is like a craft and he's into art. But we need craftspeople like her or art would die with the artist.

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