Difficulties in translating Russian classics: Pushkin’s novel “Eugene Onegin” in English and French

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Abstract


A translator of classical literature is faced with the task of identifying the goal and methods of conveying the national originality of a generally recognized literary masterpiece. The article considers this problem in the context of translations of the novel in verse Eugene Onegin by Alexander Pushkin into English and French. At the same time, it raises the questions of the translators’ attitude to their own work, the depth of interpretation of the original, the degree of adaptation of the original text for a foreign reader. In addition, a matter of great importance is the translators’ assessment of the result of their own work, which is reflected in their comments and preface to the translated text. The goal of this research is to substantiate the importance of the linguistic and cultural function of comments and prefaces, which also made it possible to identify the features of the translations themselves and emphasize their continuity. When translating works of classical literature, translators do not limit their task to the translation itself. In this regard, the “preface-commentary” complex is viewed in the article as an important part of the translator’s work. The research material includes about 40 English and over 10 French translations made in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries and presented in chronological order. Mainly those that are accompanied by prefaces and comments were selected for the analysis. The research helps to present the translations of the novel not only in terms of continuity, but also in terms of their authors’ critical attitude to each other, thus bringing these components of translation into the focus of a professional discussion. As a result of comparing various translations, it is possible to identify the difficulties of literary translation of the novel Eugene Onegin , which include the preservation of its poetic form, the panoramic nature of its composition, including scenes of life of the 19th century Russian nobility, and the national spirit associated with the translation of national and cultural vocabulary. The research confirms that the very fact of numerous translations of this novel, which is paradigmatic for the Russian culture, can be viewed as a form of its worldwide recognition, regardless of the professional and reader's assessment of these translations. This enables us to speak of the existence of a strong tradition that has developed in European translation studies around this particular work.


About the authors

Elena N. Remchukova

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

Author for correspondence.
Email: remchukova-en@rudn.ru
6 Mikluho-Maklaya str., Moscow, 117198, Russia

is Professor at the Department of General and Russian Linguistics, the Faculty of Philology, Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University). She is a member of the editorial committee of the research journal Tsennosti i Smysly (Values and Senses) and a reviewer of the research journal Cuadernos de Rusística Española (WoS).

Ekaterina M. Nedopekina

Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)

Email: nedopekina-em@rudn.ru
6 Mikluho-Maklaya str., Moscow, 117198, Russia

holds a PhD in Philology and Slavic Studies (Russia and France). She is an Associate Professor at the Department of General and Russian Linguistics, the Faculty of Philology, Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University). Ekaterina is the coordinator of the RUDN University activities at the Russian-French Network University and the coordinator of the Master program Russia-Europe languages and cultures (jointly with the University of Bordeaux Montaigne, France).

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