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18:30 - 20:00 29 October 2015

Translating Russian literature: Alexander Pushkin and the myth of untranslateability


Archaeology Lecture Theatre G6 | UCL Institute of Archaeology (link Map)
31–34 Gordon Square | London | WC1 | United Kingdom

Open to: Academic | Alumni | Public | Student
Admission: Free
Ticketing: Pre-booking essential

Speaker information

Robert Chandler, Literary Translator, studied Russian at Leeds University and spent the academic year 1973-74 as a British Council exchange scholar in Voronezh, a city 200 miles south of Moscow. His translations of Sappho and Apollinaire are published in the series ‘Everyman’s Poetry’, but he is best known for his translations from Russian, including Vasily Grossman's 'Life and Fate'. He has compiled three anthologies of Russian stories and poetry for Penguin Classics and is also the author of a 'Brief Life’ of Alexander Pushkin. His translations have won prizes in both the UK and the USA.

The three most important figures in the history of translation from Russian stand for very different approaches. Constance Garnett - like most of the best translators - was a pragmatist. Vladimir Nabokov and Joseph Brodsky, in contrast, both clung to extreme ideologies. Nabokov thought it acceptable to sacrifice all aspects of the original other than exact adherence to meaning; Brodsky was equally ready to sacrifice everything other than the metre and rhyme scheme. Might these two writers' adherence to ideology have been a way of avoiding the pain inherent in the process of choice and negotiation that is central to a translator’s work? After a brief look at Nabokov’s version of Eugene Onegin, Robert Chandler will go on to examine a few of the more recent translations, proposing that these offer a rare example of real progress in the art, culminating in Stanley Mitchell’s superb version.


Dr Geraldine Brodie
+44 (0)20 3108 1317 | g.brodie@ucl.ac.uk


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