“In these days one longs so much to live honestly and productively! One wants so much to be part of the general inspiration! and then, amidst the joy that grips everyone, I meet your mysteriously mirthless gaze, wandering no one knows where, in some far-off kingdom, in some far-off land. What wouldn’t I give for it not to be there, for it to be written on your face that you are pleased with your fate and need nothing from anyone. So that somebody close to you, your friend or husband (best if he were a military man), would take me by the hand and ask me not to worry about your lot and not to burden with you with my attention. And I would tear my hand free, swing, and…Ah, I’ve forgotten myself! Forgive me, please.” (p. 129)
Forget the Russian Revolution, the Bolsheviks and the aristocracy, the Ural Mountains and even the translations. What I love most about Dr. Zhivago is the love story. So slowly developing between Yuri and Larissa, their affair is tender and sweet, perhaps even more so for its backdrop of war.
I read Boris Pasternak’s novel several years ago, the cover of which I’ve pictured here. It was translated by Max Hayward and Manya Harari, and lest I sound like I’m spitting in the eye of Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, I loved it.
The Brothers Karamazov and War and Peace translations by Peavear and Volokhonsky were outstanding. I read them both, and I enjoyed them both very much.
But somehow, their translation of Dr. Zhivago, to which the New York Review of Books declared “the English-speaking world is indebted” leaves me a bit surprised. There’s nothing wrong with it, of course. It just reads a bit like “bricks are falling out of one’s mouth” as a pastor I know described the American Standard translation of the Bible. It’s choppy somehow, and I had to read it very slowly so as not to get lost, while I practically breezed though the translation you see above. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me.
In any case, I love Russian novels. I love Dr. Zhivago
, no matter who’s bringing it to me. And I look forward to discussing it in further detail the next time it comes around, which will be for Book Two on November 30, 2010. Read-along hosted by the lovely Frances
(Find thoughts which amplify mine about the new translation from the Guardian here. In a nutshell: “Volokhonsky-Pevear are ruled by the principle of literal fidelity, Hayward-Harari by the imperatives of clarity, elegance and euphony.”)