Anna Karenina

Translations into English

  • Anna Karénina, Translated by Nathan Haskell Dole (Thomas Y. Crowell & Co., New York, 1887)
  • Anna Karenin, Translated by Constance Garnett. (1901) Still widely reprinted. Revised by Leonard J. Kent and Nina Berberova (New York: Random House, 1965). Revised version reprinted by Modern Library.
  • Anna Karenina, Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude (Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1918)
  • Anna Karenin, Translated by Rosemary Edmonds (Penguin Classics, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, 1954)
  • Anna Karenina, Translated by Joel Carmichael (Bantam Books, New York, 1960)
  • Anna Karenina, Translated by David Magarshack (A Signet Classic, New American Library, New York and Scarborough, Ontario, 1961)
  • Anna Karénina, Translated by Margaret Wettlin (Progress Publishers, 1978)
  • Anna Karenina, Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky (Allen Lane/Penguin, London, 2000)
  • Anna Karenina, Translated by Kyril Zinovieff and Jenny Hughes (Oneworld Classics 2008) ISBN 978-1-84749-059-9
  • Anna Karenina, Translated by Rosamund Bartlett (Oxford University Press)[8]
  • Anna Karenina, Translated by Marian Schwartz (Yale University Press)[8]

Comparisons of translations

Writing in the year 2000, academic Zoja Pavlovskis-Petit compares the different translations of Anna Karenina on the market. Commenting on Garnett's revised translation she says: "The revision (1965) ... by Kent & Berberova (the latter no mean stylist herself) succeeds in 'correcting errors ... tightening the prose, converting Briticisms, and casting light on areas Mrs Garnett did not explore'. Their edition shows an excellent understanding of the details of Tolstoi's world (for instance, the fact that the elaborate coiffure Kitty wears to the ball is not her own hair–a detail that eludes most other translators), and at the same time they use English imaginatively (Kitty's shoes 'delighted her feet' rather than 'seemed to make her feet lighter'–Maude; a paraphrase). ... the purist will be pleased to see Kent & Berberova give all the Russian names in full, as used by the author; any reader will be grateful for the footnotes that elucidate anything not immediately accessible to someone not well acquainted with imperial Russia. This emended Garnett should probably be a reader's first choice."

She further comments on the Maudes' translation: "the revised Garnett and the Magarshack versions do better justice to the original, but still, the World's Classics edition (1995) ... offers a very full List of Characters ... and good notes based on the Maudes'." On Edmonds's translation she states: "[it] has the advantage of solid scholarship ... Yet she lacks a true sensitivity for the language ... [leading] to [her] missing many a subtlety." On Carmichael's version she comments: "this is a–rather breezily–readable translation ... but there are errors and misunderstandings, as well as clumsiness." On Magarshack's translation she comments: "[it] offers natural, simple, and direct English prose that is appropriate to Tolstoi's Russian. There is occasional awkwardness ... and imprecision ... but Magarshack understands the text ... and even when unable to translate an idiom closely he renders its real meaning ... This is a good translation." On Wettlin's Soviet version she writes: "steady but uninspired, and sounds like English prose written by a Russian who knows the language but is not completely at home in it. The advantage is that Wettlin misses hardly any cultural detail."[9]

In In Quest Of Tolstoy (2008), Hughes McLean devotes a full chapter ("Which English Anna?") comparing different translations of Anna Karenina.[10] His conclusion, after comparing seven translations, is that "the PV [Pevear and Volokhonsky] translation, while perfectly adequate, is in my view not consistently or unequivocally superior to others in the market."[11] He states his recommendations in the last two pages of the survey: "None of the existing translations is actively bad ... One's choice ... must therefore be based on nuances, subtleties, and refinements."[12] He eliminates the Maudes for "disturbing errors" and "did not find either the Margashack or Carmichael ever superior to the others, and the lack of notes is a drawback." On Edmonds's version he states: "her version has no notes at all and all too frequently errs in the direction of making Tolstoy's 'robust awkwardness' conform to the translator's notion of good English style."[13]

McLean's recommendations are the Kent–Berberova revision of Garnett's translation and the Pevear and Volokhonsky version. "I consider the GKB [Garnett–Kent–Berberova] a very good version, even though it is based on an out-of-date Russian text. Kent and Berberova did a much more thorough and careful revision of Garnett's translation than Gibian did of the Maude one, and they have supplied fairly full notes, conveniently printed at the bottom of the page."[14] McLean takes Pevear and Volokhonsky to task for not using the best critical text (the "Zaidenshnur–Zhdanov text") and offering flawed notes without consulting C. J. Turner's A Karenina Companion (1993), although he calls their version "certainly a good translation."[14]

Reviewing the translations by Bartlett and Schwartz for The New York Times Book Review, Masha Gessen noted that each new translation of Anna Karenina ended up highlighting an aspect of Tolstoy's "variable voice" in the novel, and thus, "The Tolstoy of Garnett... is a monocled British gentleman who is simply incapable of taking his characters as seriously as they take themselves. Pevear and Volokhonsky... created a reasonable, calm storyteller who communicated in conversational American English. Rosamund Bartlett... creates an updated ironic-Brit version of Tolstoy. Marian Schwartz... has produced what is probably the least smooth-talking and most contradictory Tolstoy yet." Gessen found Schwartz's translation to be formally closer to the original Russian, but often weighed down with details as a result; Bartlett's translation, like Pevear and Volokhonsky's, was rendered in more idiomatic English and more readable.[15]

Anna Karenin vs. Anna Karenina

The title has been translated as both Anna Karenin and Anna Karenina. The first instance "naturalizes" the Russian name into English, whereas the second is a direct transliteration of the actual Russian name. Vladimir Nabokov explains: "In Russian, a surname ending in a consonant acquires a final 'a' (except for the cases of such names that cannot be declined and except adjectives like OblonskAYA) when designating a woman; but only when the reference is to a female stage performer should English feminise a Russian surname (following a French custom: la Pavlova, 'the Pavlova'). Ivanov's and Karenin's wives are Mrs Ivanov and Mrs Karenin in Britain and the US—not 'Mrs Ivanova' or 'Mrs Karenina'."[1]

Nabokov favours the first convention—removing the Russian 'a' to naturalize the name into English—but subsequent translators mostly allow Anna's actual Russian name to stand. Larissa Volokhonsky, herself a Russian, prefers the second option. Other translators, like Constance Garnett and Rosemary Edmonds, both non-Russians, prefer the first.

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