Translating into Russian
October 13, 11 am-15 pm Pushkin House
When we translate a literary text from any language, it is essential to understand the social and everyday reality of the world it is describing, even if most of that information would remain unknown to the reader. The translator, however, is burdened with the necessity to know it all. The political structure of Russia and the Russians’ attitude to Napoleon is indispensable for translating “War and Peace”; it is impossible to translate Anthony Trollope without understanding the subtle differences between High, Low, and Middle Church; without knowing the class structure and relationships of the 19th century, it would be very hard to grasp the ideas of Elizabeth Gaskell, and without the knowledge of British literary life of the early 20th century the works of Dame A. S. Byatt would remain largely misunderstood. Where, and, most importantly, how and to what extent can a translator access this information, how should she internalize it, and is it necessary to display the results of such research in the translation? Our class will discuss these problems, followed by translation exercises centered on this topic.
Victor Sonkin is scholar, translator and writer. For several years, he worked as a Serbian-English translator at the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. As a literary translator, he has worked on works of Patricia Duncker, Dan Rhodes, Nassim N. Taleb, Julian Barnes, and two novels of the American author Hanya Yanagihara — “A Little Life” (published in 2016 and having caused a torrent of both praise and indignation in Russia) and “The People in the Trees” (2018). Most of his translations into Russian are done together with his wife and long-time colleague Alexandra Borisenko; they also teach literary translation at Moscow State University and the new ‘outside the classroom’ organization Creative Writing School. In 2012, Moscow’s Corpus Publishers has published “Here Was Rome”, his literary and historic guidebook to Ancient Rome, the city which has been his passion since childhood. Next year, the book received the Enlightenment Award, the country’s most prestigious award for nonfiction. In 2015, Moscow-based publishing house “A Walk Through History” published his illustrated encyclopedia for children “We Live in Ancient Rome”. In the summer of 2017, “Here Was Rome” was published by Skyscraper Books, London, in the author’s English translation.
Alexandra Borisenko, associate Professor at the Department of Discourse and Communication Studies, Faculty of Philology, Moscow State University, graduated from Moscow State University in 1992. Her PhD thesis (2000) focused on the Soviet translation school. Since 1997, she has been teaching jointly with Dr. Victor Sonkin a workshop on literary translation in the Department of Philology at MSU. The workshop has published several books translated by her students, including two major anthologies of British and American crime fiction (2009, 2011). She teaches courses on translation studies, children’s literature, crime fiction, cultural studies. Borisenko has published numerous critical and theoretical works on literary history and literary translation. Apart from her educational work, she is a literary translator, technical translator and conference interpreter, member of The Literary Translators’ Guild. Separately and jointly with Victor Sonkin she translated two books of Pamela Travers about Mary Poppins, “Lost in translation” by Eva Hoffman, “Gaudy Night” by Dorothy Sayers, two novels by Patricia Duncker, two novels by Julian Barnes, “A Little Life” by Hanya Yanagihara.