Classics of Translation: Concept, Problems
Cultural contacts are overwhelmingly mediated through language, and language implies translation. The difficulties and pitfalls of translation are well-known, and some will be mentioned. Theorists of translation have had much to say on such matters, and it is not my purpose to add to their insights. The main focus of this paper, rather, will be a topic of considerable cultural importance that is not much discussed: the concept, nature and role of a 'classic' translation, particularly in the literary sphere, and the place it occupies within the receiving culture. In this country a small number of translators have had great significance as mediators of Russian culture to the public: Constance Garnett is the obvious example, and one can add Aylmer Maude who worked with Tolstoi. The Harrison/Mirlees translation of Avvakum, assisted by Mirsky, will also be discussed. Are these classics by their nature 'untouchable', or may they legitimately be revisited and reworked?
Aylmer Maude and Louise Maude (Shanks)
Paper given at the Fifth Fitzwilliam Colloquium in Russian Studies "British Perception and Reception of Russian Culture, 18th-20th Centuries", Cambridge, 2012. Full text published in A People Passing Rude: British Responses to Russian Culture, ed. By Anthony Cross. Open Book Publisher, 2012.