Notes from a Dead House
Notes from a Dead House continues the spirit of the Russian diary coming from Gogol’s overcoat in 1835 with Diary of a Madman. Sane, the narrator retells the story of the horrifying tale of his experience in the 19th century Russian penal system.
Russian is difficult to translate into English, but Russian profanity is impossible. In their translation of Notes from a Dead House, translators attempt to surmount these difficulties. Key phrases, for instance, come across such as the major’s taunting “bread” and “instead”. These are worthwhile renditions. But, there is no comparison to the largess of the original 19th century Russian “dran.” After all the Italians say, “traddutore traditore.”
It might be appropriate, however, to ask why the authors chose Notes from a Dead House in the first place. Dostoevsky’s memoir as a Petroshevist in prison is only one of the many memoirs to emerge from the Czar’s famous, yet completely ineffective crackdown on seditious groups. Russian revolutionaries eventually overturned the regime, laying the Romanov’s bear. Sparks ignite a fires but Dostoevsky’s is only one flicker in the flame of Petroshevsky’s circle. Why not translate a lesser known memoir not yet in English?
Fyodor Dostoevsky, Richard Pevear, Translator, Larissa Volokhonsky, Translator