Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The cult and critics of Pevear & Volokhonsky

An interesting discussion on translation regarding my favorite book:


What I find interesting is the growing dissent regarding the work of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. They are being hailed as the masters of Russian translation, and while I can’t speak to the entirety of their output, I do think they have done a great job with Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. Bulgakov? That’s a different story.

Bulgakov is a very different writer and I wonder if their approach fits The Master and Margarita. I read some of their translation and I don’t find it as good as the one by Burgin and O’Connor. This could be due to many factors, the mostly likely being that I first read the Burgin and O’Connor translation and it remains my favorite since it introduced me to this incredible book.

Regardless, there are people who worship Pevear and Volokhonsky and others, like Chad Post (http://www.rochester.edu/College/translation/threepercent/index.php?id=1075 ),
who fear P & V are becoming an unquestioned brand name. Me? I’m just glad that they are helping revive some interest in the Russians.