Doctor Zhivago: First Impressions

So, I’ve read the first chapter of Doctor Zhivago, titled “The Five O’clock Express”. I am loving the book so far, but it is a more difficult read than I expected. Pasternak uses a higher level of vocabulary than was present in the last Russian-language book I read, a vampire novel. But that’s logical, I guess.

The English translation I refer to is so, so bad, though. It actually pains me to read it sometimes. Let’s examine the first sentence. Here it is in the original Russian:

Шли и шли и пели «Вечную память», и когда останавливались, казалось, что ее по залаженному продолжают петь ноги, лошади, дуновения ветра.

The edition I have in English renders it thus:

On they went, singing “Rest Eternal,” and whenever they stopped, their feet, the horses, and the gusts of wind seemed to carry on their singing.

But I much prefer:

They walked and walked and sang “Memory Eternal,” and whenever they stopped, the singing seemed to be carried on by their feet, the horses, the gusts of wind.

It may be a small distinction, but an important one.

Anyway, I am enjoying the book so far—especially the canary that appears in chapter two. Its name is Kirill Modestovich and I love the idea of a bird having a patronymic.

Advertisements