Friday, February 25, 2011

Raskolnikov Revisited

Warning!!  Very Long Post!  No Pictures!

Corrected 10/2/2016

To the delight of some of you and the despair of a few others, I imagine, Crime and Punishment is a book that has steadily grown on me after reading, as some of its subtleties have percolated through the ol' brainpan.  It probably helped that Mrs.5000 picked it up right after I put it down, which led to various conversations as she worked her way through it (about three times as fast as me, true to form).  I read a few pages to her at one point, and was surprised by how well the text read out loud.  Then too, looking at some of the simplifications -- and especially tearing through the Korkos and Mairowitz graphic novelization, a kind of half-hour Crime and Punishment for today's active lifestyles -- made me a little more appreciative of the complexity of the story, which I dismissed in my original review as so much marching in place while Raskalinikov stewed in his own juices. 

Crime and Punishment was published in Russian in 1866.  Since then, it has been translated into English quite a few times, and as a classic it has also been simplified, synopsized, and made the point of departure for new works of literature many hundreds of times.  In the rest of this post, I'm going to lay out the first few paragraphs from a bunch of different translations (like I did once upon a time for Don Quixote).  This is a lot of work, but I'm willing to do it because I am awesome, and because I love you. If you do not see the value of this gift, well, we'll see you tomorrow for something about flags or postcards or The Bear or whatever.  

The Jesse Coulson Translation, 1953 (The one I read)
Towards the end of a sultry afternoon early in July a young man came out of his little room in Stolyarny Lane and turned slowly and somewhat irresolutely in the direction of Kamenny Bridge.
He had been lucky enough to escape and encounter with his landlady on the stairs.  His little room, more like a cupboard than a place to live in, was tucked away under the roof of the high five-storied building.  The landlady, who let him the room and provided him with dinners and service, occupied a flat on the floor below, and every time he went out he was forced to pass the door of her kitchen, which nearly always stood wide open.  He went past each time with an uneasy, almost frightened, feeling that made him frown with shame.  He was heavily in debt to his landlady and shrank from meeting her.
It was not that he was a cowed or naturally timorous person, far from it; but he had been for some time in an almost morbid state of irritability and tension.  He had cut himself off from everybody and withdrawn so completely into himself that he now shrank from every kind of contact.  He was crushingly poor, but he no longer felt the oppression of his poverty.  For some time he had ceased to concern himself with everyday affairs....

 The Pevear and Volokhonsky Translation (1993)
At the beginning of July, during an extremely hot spell, towards evening, a young man left the closet he rented from tenants in S___y Lane, walked out to the street, and slowly, as if indecisively, headed for the K____n Bridge. 
He had safely avoided meeting his landlady on the stairs.  His closet was located just under the roof of a tall, five-storied house, and was more like a cupboard than a room.  As for the landlady, from whom he rented this closet with dinner and maid-service included, she lived one flight below, in separate rooms, and every time he went out he could not fail to pass by the landlady's kitchen, the door of which almost always stood wide open to the stairs.  And each time he passed by, the young man felt some painful and cowardly sensation, which made him wince with shame.  He was over his head in debt to the landlady and was afraid of meeting her. 
It was not that he was so cowardly and downtrodden, even quite the contrary; but for some time he had been in an irritable and tense state, resembling hypochondria.  He was so immersed in himself and had isolated himself so much from everyone that he was afraid not only of meeting his landlady but of meeting anyone at all.  He was crushed by poverty; but even his strained circumstances had lately ceased to burden him.  He had entirely given up attending to his daily affairs and did not want to attend to them.
The Magarshack Translation (1951)

The McDuff Translation (1991)

The Monas Translation (1968)

The Garnett Translation (1914) -- Overwhelmingly the most common translation seen online, often unattributed.
On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge. 
He had successfully avoided meeting his landlady on the staircase. His garret was under the roof of a high, five-storied house and was more like a cupboard than a room. The landlady who provided him with garret, dinners, and attendance, lived on the floor below, and every time he went out he was obliged to pass her kitchen, the door of which invariably stood open. And each time he passed, the young man had a sick, frightened feeling, which made him scowl and feel ashamed. He was hopelessly in debt to his landlady, and was afraid of meeting her. 
This was not because he was cowardly and abject, quite the contrary; but for some time past he had been in an overstrained irritable condition, verging on hypochondria. He had become so completely absorbed in himself, and isolated from his fellows that he dreaded meeting, not only his landlady, but anyone at all. He was crushed by poverty, but the anxieties of his position had of late ceased to weigh upon him. He had given up attending to matters of practical importance; he had lost all desire to do so.

The Penguin Reader Level 6 (?) "Retelling" (2008)

Graphic Novel by Korkos and Mairowitz (2008) -- Contemporary Setting.

NEXT on the Reading List: Rabbit, Run

On Deck: To the Lighthouse


Nichim said...

I think I like the Monas the best, with the Coulson second, although I could happily read the whole book in parallel translations like this. It's interesting to see what the semantic sticking points are. What exactly is the young man's condition like? Hypochondria? Depression? Some rather more Russian mental/emotional/spiritual affliction? And what exactly did come with his room? An evening meal and clean linens?

mrs.5000 said...

This is similar to what I did in the aisle of Powell's before settling on the Coulson translation, which we already had anyway. It's tauter and maybe more physical than most (I like "shrank" and "crushingly poor"). Never heard of the Monas, but it does seem to have some of the same virtues. And I confess I like the place names spelled out. Here, the McDuff struck me as the lamest--it's hard to get past "he rented this room with dinner and a maid," for instance, without getting the wrong idea.

Michael5000 said...

I believe D___ put the place names in as initials, as was the fashion, but since they refer to obvious real-world places some translators choose to spell 'em out.

Aviatrix said...

I like the Magarshack translation best, but it seems to draw heavily on the earlier Garnett, so it's hard to say. I do appreciate the various translations, but I think you err in not providing the original and allowing us to judge for ourselves who has kept most faithfully to the word and the spirit of the original.

Michael5000 said...

To err is human.