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The Brothers Karamazov: Translated by Richard Pevear & Larissa Volokhonsky

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Fyodor Dostoevskys final novel, published just before his death in 1881, chronicles the bitter love-hate struggle between a larger-than-life father and his three very different sons.

When Alyosha presents us with Zosima’s life and works in Book Six, or when he sees his miraculous dream during Father Zosima’s funeral in Book Seven, I tried to be mindful of this rich high-style source and render it with my own elevated language. The main character is based not on any figure in Dostoyevsky but, rather, on his first and most enduring English-language translator, a woman of Victorian energies and Edwardian prose, Mrs. Those three are from the page preceding the famous “Rebellion” chapter, if you would like to check the context. We learn that Fyodor may have fathered an illegitimate son, named Smerdyakov, who is now his unctuously obedient servant; that Grushenka was sexually abused by a much older man when she was just 17; and that Katerina planned to sacrifice her virtue to save her father from financial disgrace.

The majority of pages are undamaged with some creasing or tearing, and pencil underlining of text, but this is minimal. In the Sidney Monas “Crime and Punishment,” the translator uses “pal” instead of something like “old boy. Unlike Garnett, who started small and then worked her way up to the big, baggy monsters of Dostoyevsky and Tolstoy, Pevear and Volokhonsky began with the bulkiest and most complex masterpiece imaginable.

Let me repeat: it was not stupidity, for most such eccentrics are really quite intelligent and cunning, and their lack of common sense is of a special kind, a national variety. One need go no further than the title, the standard English rendering of which is The Brothers Karamazov.I live in a small college town in central Vermont, where during a normal academic year, the college provides ample opportunities for cultural enrichment: concerts, plays, films, lectures, and so on. Not long before publishing his own “Onegin,” Nabokov took to the pages of The New York Review of Books and, like the lepidopterist he was, picked the wings off a translation by Walter Arndt—which, to his rage, went on to win the Bollingen Prize. So most English-speaking readers glimpse Homer through the filter of Fitzgerald or Fagles, Dante through Sinclair or Singleton or the Hollanders, Proust through Moncrieff or Davis, García Márquez through Gregory Rabassa—and nearly every Russian through Constance Garnett. By using the Web site, you confirm that you have read, understood, and agreed to be bound by the Terms and Conditions.

That humor appears most memorably in Fyodor Karamazov’s buffoonish outbursts and in satirical scenes with the wealthy, obtusely Westernized Madame Khokhlakov, but also in the more quietly comic cameos of Dr. This award-winning translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky remains true to the verbalinventiveness of Dostoevskys prose, preserving the multiple voices, the humor, and the surprising modernity of the original. Mrs Khokhlakova, a wealthy lady, always dressed with taste, was still quite young and very comely in appearance, somewhat pale-skinned, with very lively, almost completely black eyes. The translation is… fine, though I’ve had to read some sentences multiple times, and some word choices strike me as off (e.But then came the pandemic: the students had been sent home, the library was closed (books could still be fetched for faculty, but there was no browsing or schmoozing). Wilson had been extraordinarily kind to Nabokov, making introductions for him that led to teaching jobs, a Guggenheim fellowship, contracts with book publishers, and publication in The New Yorker and The New Republic. The poor girl had been unable to walk for about half a year already, and was wheeled around in a long, comfortable chair.

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