Friday, November 05, 2010

Pasternak, Maupin, Morton, & More

BORIS PASTERNAK:  Ann Pasternak Slater, a writer, translator of Tolstoy, and the niece of Boris Pasternak, crucifies the new translation of Dr. Zhivago in her hard-assed review in The Guardian.  Since no one dares to question the superiority of award-winning translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volkhonsky, her declaration that their new translation is clumsy and too literal is shocking.

Slater says:

"It's instructive to check Volokhonsky-Pevear's English against the Russian. Its painful ineptitudes can regularly be defended by a Russian source. Yet the original isn't inept. It's simply been badly translated. Pasternak's Russian is packed, concise, colloquial and muscular. Volokhonsky-Pevear's English is prosaic, flabby and verbose. It often renders Pasternak's more philosophical passages incomprehensible. It's far worse than the compact, natural and always lucid prose of Hayward and Harari."

I am enjoying this new translation but do find it dense in parts. Occasionally I skip back to the old Haward-Harari translation.

My main problem, however, is not with the translation but with the design of the Pantheon edition:  the 513-page book is enormous, there is too much print on the huge pages, and I would much prefer, though this sounds trivial, to see more readable print on, say, 1,000 pages.

TALES OF THE CITY:  Armistead Maupin's Mary Ann in Autumn:  a Tales of the City Novel is new on the bookshelves.  I love this series; maybe it's time to reread it.  In this review in The San Francisco Chronicle, the reviewer, however, has a few problems with the characters' age.

"The Castro in 2010 isn't nearly as much fun as Russian Hill in 1978, and Collingwood Street cannot compare with Macondray Lane. To make matters worse, Anna Madrigal in Armistead Maupin's new book, "Mary Ann in Autumn," is old - when we first meet her she is lying on the kitchen floor having what she calls a little snooze - and Mary Ann Singleton is 57. Lord, what would Laura Linney think of that?"

Of course we loved fresh-faced Mary Ann from Cleveland and her rapturous adjustment to the mores of San Francisco in the '70s, but the change is inevitable.  I personally am looking forward to her middle age. 

KATE MORTON:  Kate Morton's The Distant Hours will be out next week.  I loved The Forgotten Garden, a mystery with fairy-tale overtones about three generations of women, which was also partly a homage to The Secret Garden. I am looking forward to this new one.  Publisher's Weekly says:

"A letter posted in 1941 finally reaches its destination in 1992 with powerful repercussions for Edie Burchill, a London book editor, in this enthralling romantic thriller from Australian author Morton (The Forgotten Garden)."

CLEOPATRA:  Reviewers in The Washington Post and The New York Times have praised Stacy Schiff's new biography,  Cleopatra:  A Life , but two other biographies were published earlier this year, Duane W. Roller's  Cleopatra:  A Biography, and Joyce Tyldesley's Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt.  Too many biographies means I won't get around to any of them.  

And that's all for this week, folks!


Buried In Print said...

I have to admit, the type in the new edition of Dr. Z. is a bit off-putting. With so many more-eye-friendly options, it's harder to choose this volume over the others at hand.

Frisbee said...

These small things do make a difference. The other translation of Doctor Zhivago is available in a paperback edition and is easier to read because of the "eye-friendly" print.

But I'm certainly not judging the other translation. Both seem very good to me.

Frisbee said...

BIP, I hope I haven't spoiled this for you for the read-along. It's such a great book, but the other translation is excellent, too.