My Classics Club spin #4 is The Brothers Karamazov. I have the Constance Garnett translation on my epad and a Penguin Classic book with David McDuff's translation. The matter of translation seems to have stalled my start. The Brothers K is such a chunkster, I don't want to read the 'wrong' translation after all! When one starts to research the matter of translations, it is easy to get caught up in "original materials restored", "the rhythms, tone, precision, and poetry of the original", "cross-checked references" and "Russified English".
But, of course, the whole thing is really quite simple in the end. You read the version - the translation - that works for you. So to help me work out which translation will work best for me - I give you Constance & David below with the first paragraph of chapter one.
Constance Garnett's translation:
ALEXEY Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov, a landowner well known in our district in his own day, and still remembered among us owing to his gloomy and tragic death, which happened thirteen years ago, and which I shall describe in its proper place. For the present I will only say that this “landowner” — for so we used to call him, although he hardly spent a day of his life on his own estate — was a strange type, yet one pretty frequently to be met with, a type abject and vicious and at the same time senseless. But he was one of those senseless persons who are very well capable of looking after their worldly affairs, and, apparently, after nothing else. Fyodor Pavlovitch, for instance, began with next to nothing; his estate was of the smallest; he ran to dine at other men’s tables, and fastened on them as a toady, yet at his death it appeared that he had a hundred thousand roubles in hard cash. At the same time, he was all his life one of the most senseless, fantastical fellows in the whole district. I repeat, it was not stupidity — the majority of these fantastical fellows are shrewd and intelligent enough — but just senselessness, and a peculiar national form of it.
David McDuff's Translation:
ALEXEY Fyodorovitch Karamazov was the third son of a landowner in our district, Fyodor Pavlovitch Karamazov, so noted in his time (and even now still recollected among us) for his tragic and fishy death, which occurred just thirteen years ago and which I shall report in its proper context. All I shall say now about this 'land-owner' (as he was called among us, though for most of his life he hardly ever lived on his estate at all) is that he was a strange type, one that is, however, rather often encountered, namely the type of man who is not only empty and depraved but also muddle-headed - belonging, though to the class of muddle-headed men who are perfectly well able to handle their little affairs, and, it
would seem, these alone. Fyodor Pavlovitch, for instance, began with practically nothing, was a landowner of the very least important category, went trotting around other people's dinner tables, aspired to the rank of sponge, but at the moment of his decease turned out to possess something to the tune of one hundred thousand roubles in ready money. And yet at the same time he had persisted all his life in being one of the most muddle-headed madcaps in the whole district. I repeat: here there was no question of stupidity; the bulk of these madcaps are really quite sharp and clever - but plain muddle-headedness, and, moreover, of a peculiar, national variety. Muddle-headed madcap or abject, vicious & senseless? Gloomy & tragic or tragic & fishy? Toady or sponge? Certainly with the McDuff translation I'm more likely to view Alexey in a sympathetic light. While Garnett is clearly telling me I shouldn't like him at all, no way, not now, not ever! At this point I'm leaning towards McDuff. If any of you out there in blogger land have another translation of The Brothers K to hand and you'd like to share the first paragraph of chapter one with us, then please do, in the comments below, and, let us know what is your preferred translation (I'm already writing like Dostoyevsky after only one chapter. Poor Mr Books could be in for a very tiresome and madcap Christmas!)