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How the Translation Affects the Meaning of Pushkin's "The Captain's Daughter"

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Introduction

Zelkin Final Essay: The Captain’s Daughter The work of a translator is forever held in question. The French refer to it as “les belles infidèles”, meaning that a woman, or translation, is either beautiful or faithful, never both. In Italy, the similarity between the word translator, “traduttore”, and traitor, “traditore” is often noted. Even the esteemed poet Robert Frost once said “Poetry is what gets lost in translation.” These viewpoints are harsh and unyielding and are woefully unfair to those who dare to undertake the task of translating the work of a world-renowned writer. As faithful to the original as they try to be, they undeniably leave their own mark on the text. As such, a translator’s version of the work is a testament to their interpretation of the author’s intentions and style. This is extremely evident in Robert Chandler’s translation of A.S. Pushkin’s The Captain’s Daughter. Chandler’s translation of the subtle verbal nuances of the characters’ speech illustrates their traits and place within the novel. This characterization is the largest impact that Chandler had on Pushkin’s great work. The abundance of colloquial expressions the Pushkin has scattered throughout the novel is an important tool used by the author and the translator in the characterization of several major personages. One of the most language-specific remarks is constantly made by Ivan Kuzmich Mironov, the commandant of the Belogorsky Fortress, to his wife. ...read more.

Middle

In the original Russian, “love and concord” might better be written as “peace and happiness.” In preserving the spirit of Pushkin’s work, if not the language, Chandler establishes the duality of Pugachyev character; both as the executioner of Masha’s father, and ironically, the filing of that role as a surrogate parent. The work of a translator is never easy. It is not enough to be fluent in multiple languages, but they must also possess the skills of an analyst of literature and the talent of a novelist. They interpret the author’s choices and intentions and select words and structures that have connotations reflecting the ideas of the writer. A translator’s challenge is to choose whether to preserve the style and spirit of a piece, or to stay true to a literal translation. Robert Chandler does the former. Chandler’s interpretation of the speech patterns of Ivan Mironov, Vasilisa Yegorovna, and Emelyan Pugachyev are integral to the translation. He may have strayed from the specificity of Pushkin’s word choice, but preserved the linguistic beauty and flow that gave rise to the most famous poet in Russia. ________________ Final Essay Outline Thesis: The work of a translator is forever held in question. The French say “les belles infidèles”, meaning that a woman (read: translation) is either beautiful or faithful, never both. In Italy, the similarity between the word translator, “traduttore”, and traitor, “traditore” is oft quoted. ...read more.

Conclusion

The repetition in this statement by Pugachyev is twofold. There is the overt parallelism and juxtaposition of the acts of hanging and pardoning, but closer reading reveals that a similar phrase was said to Pyetr by Ivan Kuzmich before he died. In Chandler?s version, the phrase is exactly the same, ?love and concord.? However, this was a liberty taken by the translator; a departure from the original text. There, there a too different phrases, one meaning literally meaning ?love and concord? and the other ?peace.? However, Chandler is well within his rights to take this liberty as it emphasizes how Pugachyev acts as Pyetr?s and Masha?s protector after he kills the real father, Ivan Kuzmich. Conclusion: The work of a translator is never easy. They not only have to have an almost complete fluency in at least two languages, but they also must have the skills of an analyst of literature. They interpret the author?s choices and intentions and must choose words and structures that have connotations that fit the ideas of the writer. In addition to these difficulties, a translator must choose whether to preserve the style and beauty of a piece and thus keeps its spirit, or to offer a version that stays true to the specificity of the author?s choice. Robert Chandler does the former; he may have strayed from the specific word choice of Pushkin, but the beauty and flow that gave rise to the most famous poet in Russian is unchanged. Chandler?s interpretation of the speech patterns of Ivan Mironov, Vasilisa Yegorovna, and Pugachyev are integral to the translation. ...read more.

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