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Russia/Ukraine Substitution in a modern Ukrainian Translation of Nicolas Gogol
Thread poster: Nico Rhodionoff

Nico Rhodionoff
India
Local time: 22:28
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Apr 16, 2008

Respected Colleagues!
Few days ago I have found an interesting article in “Literaturnaya Gazeta” (the newspaper of Russian Writers Alliance) about translation of Nicolas V. Gogols’ “Taras Bulba” into Ukrainian language.
There are few remarkable points:

- Originally Gogol was a Ukrainian/South-Russian writer, but he wrote everything using Russian language (flavored with beautiful Ukrainian/South-Russian dialect) so the work of a Ukrainian writer was translated back into the modern Ukrainian language, that was not existing at the Gogols’ time (this is similar to an attempt to translate Goethes Faust into modern German).

- “Taras Bulba” is a very patriotic story describing struggle of Zaporozhsky Cossacks to protect Southern borders of Russia against alien enslavement. During Soviet Time this story was massively used in public schools for patriotic education/propaganda for all Soviet kids (Russians, Ukranians, Georgians etc. – our nationality did not matter). Now Ukranian educational system faces the trouble to use this work of Gogol for propaganda of new Ukrainian patriotism, because Taras Bulba plenty times stresses the word “Russian” like “Long life Russian Cossacks!” “Let us sacrifice our life to the glorious Russia” etc. etc. (although Zaporozhsky Cossacks are Ukrainians). The very interesting point is that the team of modern Ukrainian translators decided to substitute the word Russia, Russian etc. in Gogols’ original with Ukraina, Ukrainian in their translation.

I will very appreciate if you share your opinion on following:

1. Is it the effort worth to translate the brilliant text (Russian but with beautiful Ukrainian flavor) into modern Ukrainian (I mean, If Gogol would want, he would write the story using contemporary Ukrainian language of that time).
2. What do you think about the Russia=Ukraine substitution in such translation?

Please bear in mind, I post this message not to enter into any chauvinistic discussion – it is a linguistic question and nothing else.

With best regards
FOH


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Mariusz Kuklinski  Identity Verified
Local time: 16:58
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Very Orwellian Apr 16, 2008

But not that unique. Countries which have regained their national independence only recently are prone to overdoing the defence of their new identity.

I attended once a lecture at Chatham House given by the Belarusian foreign minister, a few months after Belarus had declared its independence in August 1991. The gist of what he said was that Belarus has been defending its national identity against Polish and Russian opressors for a thousand years. I'm afraid, I rained on his parade when I asked: "Minister, why then are you speaking in Russian?"


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Roman Bulkiewicz  Identity Verified
Ukraine
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Clarification needed Apr 16, 2008


1. Is it the effort worth to translate the brilliant text (Russian but with beautiful Ukrainian flavor) into modern Ukrainian


I am not sure I get your point. Why it shouldn't be worth the effort to translate a brilliant text?
May be you mean whether the translation in question was worth the effort? That is, if it's bad, it certainly is not worth the effort.


(I mean, If Gogol would want, he would write the story using contemporary Ukrainian language of that time).


Hm. If he had, they wouldn't have had to translate it. But he hadn't. That's why they translated it.
Am I missing something?


2. What do you think about the Russia=Ukraine substitution in such translation?


So that we could have any meaningful discussion on this question, could you please quote some actual examples of those substitutions? Otherwise we will be discussing just some article (which you said has little remarkable about it) in a Russian newspaper, rather than the Gogol's work and its translation. Not even the article, but your translated excerpts therefrom.

To begin with, may be you could point us to the phrases you have quoted in the Gogol's text?


Taras Bulba plenty times stresses the word “Russian” like “Long life Russian Cossacks!” “Let us sacrifice our life to the glorious Russia” etc. etc.


You can find the original here: http://az.lib.ru/g/gogolx_n_w/text_0040.shtml
I did search for all occurences of "Russia" and "Russian", but could not find anything resembling either of these two phrases. This does not add reliability to the source you are quoting.

Also, which Ukrainian translation are you (the article) referring to? There are at least two of them in the bookstores, as far as I know. I didn't look closely at either, but one seems to be of the first (1835) version of Taras Bulba, which, indeed, did not contain some of the "patriotic" phrases (remarkably, Taras did not proclaim the coming of "Russian tsar" while being burned by Poles... nor was he burned, either).

Here is the 1835 version in Russian:
http://az.lib.ru/g/gogolx_n_w/text_0380.shtml
May be, it is the translation of this version they were talking about?


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jaanisel
Local time: 18:58
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Ukrainian as a clearly distinct language Apr 16, 2008

To answer your first question - yes, I think Gogol is worth translating into Ukrainian, since Russian and Ukrainian today are two clearly distinct languages, each with its own literary tradition etc. So, from the point of view of development of the Ukrainian language and literature, translations are needed, also from Russian, despite the fact that most Ukrainian readers are able to read Gogol in the original.
As to the second question, well, this kind of substitution seems dubious - if the situation is so simple as you describe. Although, I do not think one should worry much about such cases. For example, when books with Latvian setting are written in or translated into English, American editors tend to suggest substituting Latvian names with Russian ones - because lots of people still think of Latvia as a part of Russia, and therefore, to facilitate reading, they want to make the books more, kind of, Russian. That is life.


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Mariusz Kuklinski  Identity Verified
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Wrong way to defend national identity Apr 16, 2008

I'm afraid, such a "translation" has rather remote relation to the original and it looks like editing rather than translation. Any explanation of historical context - as it is seen now - should have been provided preferably in the preface or - second best as it interrupts the flow of reading - in footnotes. "Improved" translation is simply a falsification produced to fit the latest political fashion

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Roman Bulkiewicz  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 18:58
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Usage of "Russia" and "Ukraine" in Gogol's Taras Bulba Apr 16, 2008

The word "Russia" (Россия) is used as many as... two (!) times in the story (the "canonic", 1842 version). Both time in author's speech, and quite neutrally, just to name the geographic area.

Nikolay Gogol, having been a conscientious writer (unlike, it seems, his modern "advocates"), would not make the 15th's century cossacks pronounce a name which did not exist at that time.

The word "Ukraine" (Украйна) is used, in the same 1842 version, 15 times, of those 8 times - in the characters' direct speech.

http://az.lib.ru/g/gogolx_n_w/text_0040.shtml

It is interesting that Ukraine is spelled differently in the 1835 and 1842 versions (ar least in the scanned on-line texts):
1835 - consistently Украина
1842 - consistently Украйна


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Nico Rhodionoff
India
Local time: 22:28
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details as required Apr 16, 2008

Respected colleagues thank you very much for your replies and attention!

One more time – my post has to do with translation questions only and I have no intension to unleash nationalist issues.

If you want to check out details of the publication I have mentioned you may use the link http://www.lgz.ru/article/id=3758&top=26&ui=1207152079620&r=374 – this is the digital version of publication.

These are some samples of substitution:
«вся южная первобытная Россия» (whole pristine South-Russia) = «УкраЄна, весь прадавнiй пiвдень (same but Ukraine instead of Russia)
«широкая, разгульная замашка русской природы» (generous Russian nature ) = «широкий гуляцький замiс украЄнськоЄ натури» (generous Ukrainian nature).

If you want, you may find more details using the link I have mentioned.

I in no way condemn this translational effort – I am curious: the Russia/Ukraine substitution, does it mean “semantic interpretation” comparing to common “verbal interpretation”.

As per my other point: the language of Goethe and Shakespeare are quite different from what we hear about modern German and English. So – I think – translating Goglols texts (old South Russian) is quite same to translate Faust into modern Hochdeutch.

With best regards

FOH


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Nico Rhodionoff
India
Local time: 22:28
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statistics Apr 16, 2008

[quote]Roman Bulkiewicz wrote:

The word "Russia" (Россия) is used as many as... two (!) times in the story (the "canonic", 1842 version). Both time in author's speech, and quite neutrally, just to name the geographic area.

Respected Roman,
try to go little further in your research and do recherché for «рус{ский]» - you will get plenty. It seems to be very interesting thing, that Gogol has used both – Russia and Ukraine (and related word forms), and in translation we discuss Russia (with related words, like Russian etc.) it is sometimes substituted with Ukraine (and related words).


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Nico Rhodionoff
India
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no worry - just curious Apr 16, 2008

jaanisel wrote:


As to the second question, well, this kind of substitution seems dubious - if the situation is so simple as you describe. Although, I do not think one should worry much about such cases.


Respected jaanisel, thank you very much for your reply!

Please do not get me wrong – I am not worried abot Russian/Ukrainian substitutions at all, I am happy as I am within framework of my culture etc. If I touch this subject – I do it from professional point of view, because may be with revision of national history of Ukraina, Georgia, India, Vietnam etc. etc. we will have to change our attitude to understanding and translation of such common terms as country names etc…


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Roman Bulkiewicz  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 18:58
Member (2004)
English to Ukrainian
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This is "Literaturka"?! Apr 16, 2008

Oh, my God. My condolences...

That "interesting article" is neither worth of nor (definitely) appropriate for discussion at this forum. If we are to discuss translation issues, why not compare the actual texts, rather than what's-his-name's interpretations? (By the way, even in the article you referred to I don't seem to have seen the two phrases you quoted in your first post.)

Anyway, if we consider the issue "as a matter of principle", without considering if and how this approach has been implemented in the actual translation -- in my opinion, this approach is wrong. I agree with Mariusz, all interpretations should be separated from the text.

"Converting" the adjective "русский" (Russian) into "український" or "козацький" would be (or is) plain stupid -- in the historical context, it can, and ought to, be translated as "руський", which derives from Русь/Rus' (as opposed to "російський", from Росія/Russia) and has no "undesirable" political implications.
(With all due respect to Ivan Malkovych... and with none to whatever's-his-name.)

FOH wrote:
As per my other point: the language of Goethe and Shakespeare are quite different from what we hear about modern German and English. So – I think – translating Goglols texts (old South Russian) is quite same to translate Faust into modern Hochdeutch.


Your analogy is wrong. According to you, "translating Faust into modern Hochdeutch" would be similar to translating Gogol into modern Russian (?). Translating Gogol into Ukrainian is more like translating Goethe into English, similarity of the languages notwithstanding.

"Usefuleness" - let's call it this - of such a translation is quite a different matter, and is defined more by the quality of each particular translation (which can be a masterpiece per se), on one hand, and by the individual background of the "recepient", on the other hand. My younger daugher is fond of Marshak's verses in beautiful Malkovych's translations, and my older one... is studying Gogol in her foreign literature classes. That's why I know how many translations are in the bookstores. In case you wonder, I bought her the original, but this does not make the translating "not worth the effort".


[Edited at 2008-04-16 20:29]


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Nico Rhodionoff
India
Local time: 22:28
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Goethe etc. Apr 16, 2008

Dear Roman, thank you for your reply, understanding and interesting ideas!

When I write about translation of Goethe into modern Hochdeutsch in our discussion, I mean – Taras Bulba must be translated not into modern Ukrainian language, but into Ukrainian language of Gogols’ time – it will be reconstruction of what Nikolas Gogol would write using Ukrainian language (you may agree Ukrainian language of Gogols’ time differs from modern Ukrainian in the same way Pushkins’ Russian language differs from modern Russian (Pelevins’ Russian for example).

Take it easy
FOH


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Roman Bulkiewicz  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 18:58
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Dear FOH Apr 16, 2008

FOH wrote:
try to go little further in your research and do recherché for «рус{ский]» - you will get plenty. It seems to be very interesting thing, that Gogol has used both – Russia and Ukraine (and related word forms), and in translation we discuss Russia (with related words, like Russian etc.) it is sometimes substituted with Ukraine (and related words).


Sure, I did research it. Thing is, Russia and Russian are not that closely related, that is, Russian is not a derivative from Russia -- not in the context of the 15th century (I commented on it in my previous post). We both know this, and even that newspaper guy knows this - but our colleagues who don't speak Russian might be, unintentionally, brought into confusion by the way these two words are being mixed here...


Taras Bulba must be translated not into modern Ukrainian language, but into Ukrainian language of Gogols’ time – it will be reconstruction of what Nikolas Gogol would write using Ukrainian language


Reconstruction? Imitation, may be... Do they do so when translating... whoever... Shakespear, Goethe -- into, say, Russian, nowadays? Perhaps they do... hm... what Shakespear would write using Russian language... what an idea...
Anyway, how do you know they did not do that (or at least try to), in the Ukranian translation of Taras Bulba?

Besides, according to the Literaturka man, the Ukrainian translation is not that modern -- about as close, in time, to Gogol as it is to us. (You may have missed this part when you wrote about "the team of modern Ukrainian translators".)

And this fact makes those political allegations quite... illogical, to say the least. According to the article, what the modern publisher (Malkovych) actually did was to "roll back" at least some of the "Russian-to-Ukrainian" substitutions in the century-old translation!
May I also note that the proposition (yours or that other chap's, I am not sure) that "Ukranian educational system faces the trouble to use this work of Gogol for propaganda of new Ukrainian patriotism" is quite arbitrary; at least it does not directly correlate with the fact that a private publisher has chosen to print some old (or even new) Ukrainian translations of Gogol's works. But I understand, this may be an extrapolation of some different realities...
Well, at least, my limited experience of interaction with the Ukrainian educational system through my teenage daughter does not suggest anything like this.


may be with revision of national history of Ukraina, Georgia, India, Vietnam etc. etc. we will have to change our attitude to understanding and translation of such common terms as country names etc


No, we don't have to. No worries.

Cheers,
Roman


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Nico Rhodionoff
India
Local time: 22:28
Russian to English
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... Apr 16, 2008

Dear Roman,

Even if our concepts are somehow different, I would like to whish all success in development of Ukrainian culture, literature; philology, lore, science and state!
With best regards
FOH


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Roman Bulkiewicz  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 18:58
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Thank you! Apr 16, 2008

FOH wrote:

Dear Roman,

Even if our concepts are somehow different, I would like to whish all success in development of Ukrainian culture, literature; philology, lore, science and state!
With best regards
FOH


You put too much responsibility on my shoulders, but thank you anyway! I will pass your good wishes to those active in these different areas on every occasion.

Wishing the same to you.

Roman


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Mariusz Kuklinski  Identity Verified
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Уважаемые колеги Apr 17, 2008

FOH wrote:

Respected Colleagues!


Dear FOH

Please, DON'T write "Respected Colleagues" - it's bad English and a linguistic calque from Russian (Уважаемые колеги). "Dear Colleagues" is absolutely fine.


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Russia/Ukraine Substitution in a modern Ukrainian Translation of Nicolas Gogol

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