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Sunday, March 18, 2007

swiffer and gogol -- part II

After reading "The Overcoat", I'm mad at Gogol now too.

Consolation: I bought (with my allowance -- the greatest idea if you do your household budget -- let the grownups in the household have a monthly allowance -- it takes the sting out of paying all those boring grownup bills) Dostoyevsky's The Idiot. It's the new edition translated by the dream team of Volokhonsky and Pevear, about whom I've effused in a past post. I actually heard them (V and P) speaking on an Ideas show (CBC radio at 9 on weekdays -- really good) that was all about translation. They were asked what the hardest type of thing is to translate and Richard Pevear said peasant-type dialogue is hard -- which makes sense, and Larissa V said that Russian is full of these crazy (my word not hers) endearments like "Little Dove" and even "Little Falcon". That one kills me, little falcon. Also "little father" and "little mother" for people who -- er-- aren't parents. I noticed that Mitya in Brothers Karamazov was called "little father" (presumably "batushka") a lot, when he was, I understand, neither little nor a father. Discuss. Just kidding. Please don't discuss it.

Anyway, The Idiot is wonderful, and it has a stylish cover to boot -- all kind of cool and edgy. If I weren't a technopeasant I would show it to you, but you'll just have to trust me, or go find it yourself. The book is all about this totally virtuous young man who also happens to be a prince, but to him this seems to be no more interesting or important than having green eyes or a cowlick. I'm only two chapters in and I already just love this character. If you read BK and feel bereft of Alyosha after you're finished, Prince Myshkin is just the ticket. Ah, virtuous men. But I'll stop there.

3 comments:

Susan Katherine said...

okay, so we can't talk about the translation of idiomatic (?) language expressions e.g. 'Little Dove' (russki) or 'Yeia Xara' (literally wishing you health and joy in Greek - can you imagine me saying that to someone? nope, me neither). So two things occurred to me, as my eyes went fuzzy from cutting up brocade for a new corset: 1. How far does the way we use language shape our perception of things in life e.g. our health, our friends, etc. - I suppose you could say 'gang' or 'kids' but you're not likely to say 'paidi mou' (lit. my little kids) to your chums.... or are you!? Also compare Brits who say "I'm fine" as opposed to Greeks who say "mia xara" (see above). and 2. Why do you want me to read proper liturachoor instead of the entertaining rot my brain likes bettur? Is you saying I needs edyookaishun? :-D

thomasw said...

The idiot is one of my favourites, too. Your discussion of idioms made me chuckle to myself as I thought of certain comtemporary ways of expressing approval of the character of Prince Myshkin.

"PM rocks!"

"Prince M is badass!"

"Prince M is crazy!"

"Prince Myshkin is righteous!"

"PM for the people!"

"PM is a dude!"

"PM is hot!" <---especially uttered by a woman who is attracted to him.

"PM is sooooo hot!" -->see above inserting a very after is.

"Prince Myshkin roxxors my boxxors!" --->see above, replacing woman with man.

--->yes these examples could be multiplied.

Is this a sign of creative usage or a degenerate language? Or neither?

Glad to hear from you, Jenny!

Love to you and yours, Thomas

Simply Victoria said...

idioms are the most difficult part of any language, because they make absolutely no sense taken literally, (which is how you must learn a language...literally!).
I remember some strange french endearments "mon petit chou" (my little cabbage), or my little flea, etc. wha??!!

kurt really liked The Idiot. I have to admit I didn't really care for it. though I can't remember why. p'raps I'll give it another try. (a BIG p'raps. sometimes life is too short to read books you don't like. another reason why I haven't gotten through crime and punishment, although kurt highly recommends this one as well. ah well, what can ya do?)