Wednesday December 9th, 2009

Translation’s Rock Stars

At The Millions, Anna Clark interviews translators Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, a longer and more satisfying interview with them than recent ones I’ve seen. A taste:

TM: What are the greatest misconceptions about Tolstoy?

RP and LV: The greatest misconception might come from believing what Tolstoy said about his artistic work after his “conversion to true Christianity,” as he called it; that is, from believing what he preached in the series of tracts and polemical works he wrote after 1880. He was never able to practice what he preached. He remained a deeply divided and contradictory man all his life. And that nourished his artistic work. We took a phrase from W. B. Yeats as the epigraph for our introduction to Anna Karenina: “We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, but of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry.” That is even more true of Tolstoy in his later works, because his inner quarrel was more intense.