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Письмо N 4

Дата: 2001 February 2
От: Mark Hooker <mthooker@indiana.edu>
Кому: Владимир Свиридов <selim@freemail.ru>
Тема: Подпоручик Киже

Dear Dr. Sviridov,

It was interesting to see that you liked my comparison of drawing and painting. It was intrigued by your application of Bohr's principle of complementarity in quantum mechanics. I will have to read a bit more about it. I had heard of that problem, but did not know that it had a name.

I like the story of the elephant and the three blind men and had used it myself in my book. A good story finds its way around because it is a good story; "Lord of the Rings" being a longer case in point.

VS> But I am rather less optimistic in hope for coming a "definitive
VS> translation". Complementarity does not means unitability. Literariness
VS> is not soluble in literalness (by the way, what a beautiful opposition
VS> you've found!).

Thank you for the compliment on my opposition. I like your formulation that "literariness is not soluble in literalness". Perhaps we could call that the Sviridov principle of literary translation.

I would be happy with something that was not necessarily perfectly literal and perfectly literary. What I would find perfectly acceptable is a more literal literary text. The current literary texts are too free to suit my tastes, and they could be closer to the original without giving up literary readability. In the example that we were working on, my подстрочник is really too literal. I would swap the end of my подстрочник for Volkovskij's. I think that the rest could stand up pretty well. I also dislike using common existing words for "The North-men" and "The Southrons", and would like something a bit more exotic. How does Севернники and Южец > Южцы sound? Would my version below fly as "literary Russian"?

Велик был лязг оружий при их встрече. Но белая ярость Севернников пылала жарче, и их рыцарство было искуснее во владении длинными копьями и более лютым. Их было меньше, но Южцы не устояли перед их яростным, как лесной пожар, натиском.

If not, how would you translate this segment?

VS> Such a translation will be perceived simply as a crippled Russian text
VS> - what is the case with the translation of Gruzberg.

I've had mixed opinions on that score. The publisher of the CD-ROM liked it enough to put all the effort into getting it published. And it was a case of liking the translation and not just publishing a hot title. I will, however, try to make extra clear in the foreword to my book that in my system of evaluation literalness comes before literariness. What I am really looking for is not so much "they got the words wrong" as "they got the idea wrong", or "right" as the case may be. Often, however, that comes down to a single word. In LotR, for example, just before they enter Mordor, the three hobbits stop for supper. Tolkien says that this may be their last meal together. M&K say that it may be the last meal of their lives. That is a big philosophical jump that impacts on they perception of the story. One implies hope. The other implies doom. Hope is a key element of Tolkien's story-line. Removing it is a major change to the text.

I liked the story of your thesis. It is a point well taken. Coming back to the analogy of a joke that we began with, even the best joke can fall flat if the delivery is off.

VS> In fact you've corroborated my statement that exact (in its sense)
VS> translation of a complex text tends towards literariness rather than
VS> literalness.

But, from the point of view of my book, it shows what can happen to the story when it is turned into a literary translation. I kept the envelope but the contents are different. Sure, it sound familiar to my reader, but it is a different story than we started with. What I am trying to explain to the reader of my book is the differences between the translations, which makes Gruzberg look better to my reader, because there are fewer differences. The approach is determined primarily by my "English" audience. Though a "Russian" audience will undoubtedly find it interesting, I expect some negative reaction to my "subjective" evaluations, which are aimed at the "English" reader. The "objective" evaluations should go over well for both. Dmitryj already has two chapters of my book and I was planning to send others. If you have not seen them, ask him.

VS> We could verify this judgement if you would allow me to publish the bet
VS> for my colleagues in TTT team.

Do you mean to post it on the Web? or just e-mail it around. Either is OK with me. If you post it, please pass me the URL so I can put a link on my site. I think that "outsiders" might find the discussion of interest. I would be most interested, however, in the comments of the TTT team.

I liked you story of the three drunks. When I read it, I thought "Подпоручик Киже" all over again. I love those particles. Thanks for the explanation. My "drunken" Russian took a big step forward because of it.

Regards, Mark (Hooker)

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