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Goncharov on LibriVox

March 22, 2013

Oblomov illustrationOblomov is now available as a free audiobook from LibriVox. I have mixed feelings about LibriVox, since I love old books legally available on the internet, and I love audiobooks, and I want to love their volunteer method of creating audiobooks. In practice I find that the average LibriVox book is competently read, but not as good as the average audiobook read by a professional actor, and that this makes a surprising difference. My dream is that someone (a consortium of libraries?) will someday pay actors a reasonable amount of money to record themselves reading a public domain book, on the condition that the book be freely available online forever. Or that audible.com will someday be as cheap as kniga.com.

None of this is to criticize Kevin W. Davidson, who (based on a brief sample) seems to do a good job reading Goncharov’s novel. Here is a post on his blog about reading Oblomov for LibriVox. He gets extra points for prominently mentioning the translator, C. J. Hogarth, and he has evidently taken some Russian. And I’m very grateful to everyone who takes the time to make recordings of good books for other people’s benefit.

A major caveat: the translation Davidson uses is the one Barry Scherr calls “clearly unsatisfactory.” Here’s how much Hogarth apparently abridged the novel: Davidson’s reading of his translation lasts 6 1/2 hours, compared to just under 24 hours for Vyacheslav Gerasimov reading the original Russian. On the other hand, there aren’t very many audio editions of Oblomov in English, period. There seems to be a recording of Stephen Pearl’s translation, but one that isn’t in any libraries on WorldCat or on audible.com.

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