Teaching Tolstoy’s Master and Man

In the three decades or so that I have been teaching works by Tolstoy, I don’t remember ever teaching the one known in English as “Master and Man.” This could be because it didn’t speak to me when I first read it or because I have consistently felt there were other, more effective works that… Continue reading Teaching Tolstoy’s Master and Man

Intentional Fallacy, Meaning It, and Generous Ways of Reading

Robert Allen Papinchak’s LARB review of George Saunders’ A Swim in a Pond in the Rain is mostly filled with praise. Among the two objections he notes (the other being Saunders’ tendency to be overly self-deprecating) is what he characterizes as his “bête noire” and the “one persistent objection” he had, in his many years of… Continue reading Intentional Fallacy, Meaning It, and Generous Ways of Reading

The Bizarre Task of the Translator

Janet Malcom’s “Socks” is the latest in the healthy or interminable (depending on your level of interest) debate regarding translations of nineteenth-century Russian fiction into English. The touchstone, yet again, is Anna Karenina, which I wrote about here some time ago on the occasion of a review by Masha Gessen. The primary target of Malcom’s… Continue reading The Bizarre Task of the Translator

That Damned Anna Karenina Again

Erik McDonald has expressed some doubts about my take on the quickly aging Gessen review of AK, so here goes–I’m quoting from his blog XIX vek, of which he sent me a snippet. “I personally love trying to figure out what’s causing a whole group of translators to read something differently than I read it… Continue reading That Damned Anna Karenina Again

Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7

I’m giving a couple of pre-concert talks for the Indianapolis Symphony, which is performing Shostakovich’s 7th Symphony, “Leningrad” on Friday, February 6 (and then again on the 7th in Carmel), under the direction of Krzysztof Urbański. It is such a perfect case of the changing fortunes of a musical work against the backdrop of world… Continue reading Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 7

The Translator’s Answerability

My previous post on Masha Gessen’s review of the two new Anna Karenina translations, one each by Rosamund Bartlett and Marian Schwartz, attracted some criticisms. I’ll respond in a couple of posts to make each one shorter. John Cowan comments, “You write as if the translator had no responsibility to the author at all, and… Continue reading The Translator’s Answerability

The Translation Police arrest Anna Karenina

Masha Gessen’s review of the latest two Anna Karenina translations in the December 24, 2014 Sunday Book Review of the New York Times is a subtle example of what Eliot Weinberger once called the translation police at work. The translation police are those, according to Weinberger, “who write — to take an actual example —… Continue reading The Translation Police arrest Anna Karenina

That book

There’s a scene in Anna Karenina where Levin’s brother, who is always referred to by his last name, Koznyshev, finishes a book he’s been working on for a long time. He is acknowledged as something of a public intellectual figure in the two capitals, a prominent person, so the book he’s writing seems to be… Continue reading That book