Springfield’s answer to two questions noone asked

People often ask me: zolltan, what is the best Master and Margarita translation into English? Actually, no one ever asks me that. So, instead of getting that opinion to the people who actually want it, I will put it up on the internet.

The best Master and Margarita translation into English is Burgin / Tiernan-O’Connor. It somehow manages to be both readable and true to the words / spirit of the original. A lot of the things that are said in the Master and Margarita are really declaimed — and the BTO translation manages to capture that flair and turn of phrase better than any other. The Ginsburg translation is a decent second-best that misses some things in the original and occasionally sounds clunky but is more-or-less reasonable. Pevear / Volokhonsky is a translation that somehow manages to drain the book of a lot of the humour and make it nearly unreadable despite being very true-to-the-letter. It’s definitely a faithful translation, but somehow the impression to me is that the wording is conveyed in a maximally stilted manner, and every time a less apposite lexical choice could be made, it is indeed made.

The annotations provided in Burgin / Tiernan-O’Connor are a mixed bag. They are undoubtedly helpful, but seem to be pitched at the academic and obtuse. They not only explain the jokes, they then feel the need to reassure you the jokes are indeed funny, with all the subtlety of Lindy Ruff. Still, overall I think they add rather than subtract. The other thing is of course the choice to translate Bezdomny’s name as “Bezdomny” rather than “Homeless” (as Pevear / Volokhonsky and Ginsburg both do). I was initially strongly against this choice, but have started to come around to it. The information that Bezdomny means Homeless and that this was a frequently used pseudonym style (like Maxim Gorky and Demian Bedny) at the time is conveyed in a note. Although it’s possible someone will miss it, it’s unlikely. Whereas having a Russian person whose last name is obviously English just sticks out and is distracting. A note that a translation of Homeless is a reasonable-sounding Russian last name is a lot less natural than the other way around. I remember in reading Ferdydurke that I couldn’t understand why, when most people had normal, Polish names, one family had the last name Youthful. The translator evidently thought that the family name’s connection with youth is important enough to make sure the reader doesn’t miss it, and yet couldn’t call them the Youngs, either, since that is a normal English last name. I have no idea what they were named in the original, but I’m assuming they had a normal Polish last name which means “Young”. But it took me a while to get that, and it was confusing. Keeping the Russian and then having a note for the meaning is a little too “explaining the joke”, but I think it might still be the better choice.

People often ask me: zolltan, what are your thoughts on NHL realignment? Actually, it would be weird if this happened often, because the realignment was only announced yesterday. Anyway, I think it’s stupid. The new alignment makes the conferences unbalanced in number, and that makes one easier than the other. This is unfair. Although it’s unfair in the Canucks’ favour, I still don’t like it. The “wildcard” thing seems like the usual Bettman-era NHL “all the other North American sports are doing it so it must be good” touch. While I understand the need to reshuffle Winnipeg (and I guess Columbus and Dallas) at some point, it’s also the case that something is gonna happen to the Coyotes soon, and if they move, the whole thing will have to be reshuffled again. And, selfishly, I hate to lose Detroit from the Conference.

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4 Responses to Springfield’s answer to two questions noone asked

  1. Zuuko says:

    So when I read Master and Margarita about a decade ago, did you recommend the Burgin / Tiernan-O’Connor translation? I can’t remember. I don’t remember a character named Homeless, but I do vaguely recall a Bezdomney.

  2. Pingback: 2016 in Review: Articles etc. | Rated Zed

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