As we mentioned earlier, Ecco and Knopf have competing editions of Tolstoy’s War and Peace out now. Newsweek covers the controversy, and even manages to mention a few things about the art of translating. Overall, they favor the Knopf edition:
Currently two publishers are feuding over rival editions of a book that was published—well, the publication date is one of the things they’re feuding about. Last month Ecco Press brought out a much shorter version of Tolstoy’s masterpiece about Russia during the Napoleonic Wars, translated by Andrew Bromfield. This edition constitutes Tolstoy’s first attempt at the novel, which he published in 1866 in a Russian literary magazine. Tolstoy would spend another three years revising and enlarging his initial vision, ultimately producing the much longer novel familiar to modern readers. That is the version being published this month by Knopf and newly translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, the couple whose earlier translation of “Anna Karenina” became a best seller when Oprah Winfrey picked it as one of her book-club titles in 2004.
In the months leading up to publication, the two publishers took a few potshots at each other, with Knopf editor LuAnn Walther accusing Ecco of making “a serious mistake.” Walther even asked Pevear to draft a response to the Ecco version. Lately both houses have scaled back the rhetoric. Daniel Halpern, Ecco’s publisher, settled for saying in a recent interview that “anything that gets Tolstoy into the headlines has to be viewed as good news.” Walther refuses to comment further on the fracas. “It’s time to let the critics decide,” she says. But she does address what is perhaps a more pertinent question for the general reader: why does the world need yet another translation of “War and Peace,” and why now? “Because,” she says after a long pause, “it’s the greatest book ever written, and it’s never been done like this before. Because all the previous translations left things out and got things wrong. Because it is a great moment to be reading Tolstoy, because we’re at war. And because Richard and Larissa were willing to do it.”
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .