February 5, 2015
- Maya Chhabra (a.k.a. between4walls) has a book review blog, with mostly contemporary titles, but also Walter Scott, Friedrich Schiller, and N. N. Sukhanov on revolutionary Russia (“Even when he clearly admires a person, such as the Menshevik leader Martov, he still has an almost too keen eye for their weak points”).
- Lizok on “the indescribable literary magpie” Marina Stepnova and her book The Italian Lessons (Бежбожный переулок, literally Godless Alley, 2014). If Dr. Ogarev “had been born in the nineties, he probably would have been some sort of criminal. Instead, he’s a talented doctor who’s almost criminally unhappy.”
- I’m amazed by this story of 9-year-olds with bilingual dictionaries but no knowledge of French translating Rimbaud: “What they produced were not masterpieces, but they were generally as accurate as, and occasionally wittier than, any of the existing scholarly versions.” If that’s true, it has to say more about the scholarly versions (or the French originals — poetry is hard) than the children’s translations. Or maybe the observer had an ax to grind. People make basic errors translating even newspaper articles when they don’t know a language well; I haven’t seen 9-year-olds try, but I’ve seen and made such errors every year since I was 12. That said, I love the idea of the experiment. That’s from Russell Scott Valentino responding to John Cowan and quoting Eliot Weinberger.
- Alison Smith follows the case of the dead cheese master down a sidestreet to commerce on the Rhine shortly after the French Revolution.
- Tchaikovsky and his father correspond about egalitarian marriage.
- Political scientists Gerard Toal and John O’Loughlin look at the popularity of Putin, Obama, and Lenin among Ukrainians, Russians, and Tatars in Crimea and parts of southeast Ukraine. It’s not the first time I’ve read something with the thesis “political opinions in Ukraine are not driven by ethnicity or language use,” and every time it seems to me that the data presented by the people making that claim show that ethnicity and language use do matter — just not as much as some people think.
- Alexei K. catches Tom Stoppard putting a Turgenev character’s words in Turgenev’s mouth. I only now realized that the phrase “The Coast of Utopia” comes from translator Avrahm Yarmolinsky (1890-1975).
- Languagehat and his correspondents explain the idiom живи не хочу. (On the other half of the post, I’ve always taken “punch above one’s weight” the way Harley Cahen does, as a positive thing.)
- LH also reads Robert Maguire’s wonderful essay on translating Gogol. Has anyone tracked down Constance Garnett’s alleged “tea with little plums”?
- Russian pet peeves.