Thursday, November 29, 2007

Can Pevear and Volokhonsky bring me Tolstoy?

Dostoevsky is my master and spiritual mentor. Certainly translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky are greatly to be thanked; I don't know Russian, and their translations brought me a vital Dostoevsky. While their translations have great verve and are wonderful to read, they aren't entirely responsible for Dostoevsky's role in my life. Pevear and Volokhonsky brought me The Brothers Karamozov, Crime and Punishment, and Demons (and they'll soon be bringing me The Idiot), but Jessie Coulson brought me Notes from the Underground. It is Dostoevsky himself that made himself my master--I must only thank the translators for bringing him to me. And Pevear and Volokhonsky have been particularly joyful.

And now I make the confession that is difficult for a pacifist vegetarian English professor: I've never read Tolstoy's War and Peace. But that's not entirely true: I read the first 200 or 300 pages...and stopped. Whether it was my own life getting in the way, Tolstoy himself who could not move me, or whether translator Rosemary Edmonds could not bring the novel to life for me, I cannot know. I should like Tolstoy--everything suggests it. But Tolstoy did not offer me the intensity, the madness, the ideas of Dostoevsky.

And now Pevear and Volokhonsky have translated War and Peace. And now, perhaps they can be the translators to bring me Tolstoy.

No comments:

Post a Comment