Page 20-21 - H&W Brochure #3

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Alexander Pushkin; Henry Spalding (translator).
Eugene Onéguine: A Romance of Russian Life.
London: Macmillan, 1881. Octavo, original pictorial green cloth gilt. $9500.
First English translation of Alexander Pushkin’s pioneering novel in verse,
serialized in Russian from 1825 through 1832, and first issued as a complete work
in 1833. Often credited as the first modern work of Russian literature,
places Russian society—even the sleepy provincial village where Onegin
and Tattiana first meet—squarely in a wider European context. The story of
cynical, jaded Onegin, “the British spleen / Transported to our Russian clime,”
owes a great deal to English literature: he and Tattiana reveal their characters
through their close reading of Byron and Richardson. It would take another
half a century for English readers to encounter Pushkin’s novel, as the Victorian
enthusiasm for Ivan Turgenev created a new Anglo-American readership for
Russian works in translation.
Eugene Onegin
poses particular challenges for the
English translator, both in its subtle shifts in tone and in the intricate “Onegin
stanza,” with its dovetailing rhymes: “But my Onéguine the whole eve / Within
his mind Tattiana bore, / Not the young timid maid, believe, / Enamoured,
simple-minded, poor, / But the indifferent princess, / Divinity without access / Of
the imperial Neva’s shore.” A near-fine copy of a landmark in Russian literature.
Leo Tolstoy; Constance Garnett (translator).
The Library Edition of the Works of Leo Tolstoy.
London: William Heinemann, 1901-1904. Six octavo volumes,
original green cloth gilt. Two frontispiece portraits of Tolstoy. $2200.
Heinemann’s “Library Edition” of the works of Leo Tolstoy, the first appearance
of Constance Garnett’s influential English translations.
Anna Karenina
in two volumes in 1901,
The Death of Ivan Ilyitch and Other Stories
in 1902, and
and Peace
in three volumes in 1904: the novels were also issued by Heinemann as
individual works, in different bindings. In 1893, while at work on her translations
of Turgenev, Garnett visited Tolstoy at his country estate, Yasnaya Polyana. The
meeting confirmed her ambition to translate his novels into English, although
Tolstoy had hoped to interest her in his spiritual writings, a harder sell. Her lucid
translations, more than any others, secured Tolstoy a wide English readership.
Garnett’s three-volume
War and Peace
represents the first direct and complete
English translation of that work: “‘What is life? What is death? What force
controls it all?’ he asked himself. And there was no answer to one of these
questions, except one illogical reply that was in no way an answer to any of them.
That reply was: ‘One dies and it’s all over. One dies and finds it all out or ceases
asking.’” A bright, near-fine example of an important edition.