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How often should we say “even”?

May 26, 2020

Anyone who’s here will definitely want to read Russell Scott Valentino’s post about translating даже ‘even’ and ведь (which is often close to ‘after all’ in meaning, but not like anything in English in the way it’s used) and about the pros and cons of avoiding anachronistic language to translate Dostoevsky’s Underground Man.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. languagehat permalink
    May 26, 2020 8:07 am

    Thanks, that was an interesting read. Obviously translators should avoid simplistic word-for-word renderings when they don’t work, and даже and ведь should be treated as part of an overall fabric of rhetoric rather than as individual lexical items to be translated as such.

    That said, his suggested version with “like” is truly awful.

    • May 26, 2020 11:05 am

      I kind of like it, but I’d try to make the whole thing a bit more contemporary and spoken language-y if I had the nerve to use “like.”

      Where RSV has
      “This is my forty-year-old conviction. I’m forty now, and forty is, like, a whole life. It’s, like, the ripest old age. Living more than forty years is improper, disgusting, immoral! Who lives beyond forty? Answer me truthfully. Be honest. I’ll tell you who: bastards and fools.”

      I might try
      “That’s what I’ve thought for forty years. I’m forty now, and forty is, like, a whole life. It’s, like, the ripest old age. Being over forty isn’t proper, it’s disgusting, it’s immoral! Who lives past forty? Tell me the truth. Be honest. I’ll tell you who: bastards and fools.”

      Either for this Russian:
      Это сорокалетнее мое убеждение. Мне теперь сорок лет, а ведь сорок лет — это вся жизнь; ведь это самая глубокая старость. Дальше сорока лет жить неприлично, пошло, безнравственно! Кто живет дольше сорока лет, — отвечайте искренно, честно? Я вам скажу, кто живет: дураки и негодяи живут.

      I’m sure the use of “like” will grate on a decent number of readers no matter what’s around it, though. But I bet a good audiobook narrator could make it work!

  2. Muireann Maguire permalink
    May 26, 2020 12:28 pm

    Thank you for sharing this entertaining post!

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