Customer Review

83 of 89 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Do not, under any condition, buy the Classics House translation, August 7, 2009
This review is from: The Master and Margarita (Paperback)
This review does not refer to Master and Margarita, which is a powerful and genius work of art. This review, instead, refers to the Classics House translation of a powerful and genius work of art.

I will sum it up like this: I came across the phrase 'bum-freezer made of air' on the second page of the Classics House translation. I am fluent in Russian and have many Russian friends, and I asked one of them for their Russian copy of Master and Margarita, so what in the world the translator was intending to convey. In short, they had translated 'vasdooshnei pidjakot' (which means an airy or diaphanous jacket) as 'bum-freezer made of air'. Good job, translators!

Throughout the text, I found extremely strange phrases and sentence constructions that were clearly the result of some of the shoddiest translation I have ever seen. What more, the typeset of this book was chock-full of typos and mistakes - I have counted seventeen on the page I am looking at right now. When reading a novel, it is not fun to be constantly jolted out of the reading experience by noticing all the strange typesetting mistakes and constant strange phrases that make me wonder what word the translator bungled this time. And I really do not recommend this edition to anyone who is not reading it for the laughs.
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 11 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Apr 22, 2010 3:24:02 AM PDT
SR says:
I wish I would have read this review before I bought this edition. I was so excited to read the work, and the comments in this review are absolutely correct. I don't speak know Russian, but the unbelievable number of typos is so distracting as to make the book unreadable. I remained stunned that such a poor quality work would be listed on Amazon; it was a waste of money. I'm looking for a new version now.

Posted on Sep 29, 2011 6:31:28 PM PDT
marshall says:
I agree! This translation is very poor. I'm a native Russian speaker and buy "Master and Margarita" sometimes as a gift for my friends. The best translation I came across was by Larissa Volokhonsky and Richard Pevear.

In reply to an earlier post on May 7, 2012 7:31:20 AM PDT
Irina says:
Thank you for your suggestion! I read that the Michael Glenny translation is very good, but Amazon only stocks the hardcover ($$) version. I'm a semi-native Russian speaker, and while I can't read Russian with enough ease to just read the original, I would notice incongruous translations and it would definitely be distracting for me. I'll look into the version you suggest! Thank you, S.T. Neb for your critique!

Posted on Jan 5, 2013 1:23:17 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 5, 2013 1:30:00 AM PST
Kerplunk says:
Overreaction -- in regard to the "bum-freezer" term. Much ado about nothing.

Note that the Oxford Dictionary of Modern Slang defines "bum-freezer" as:

"Noun, mainly British: A short coat, jacket, or the like"

Further note that the fairly highly praised Burgin/O'Connor translation translates the full description of the item of clothing as: "a skimpy little checked jacket that was made out of air." The Pevear/Volokhonsky translation reads: "a short checkered jacket also made of air." The Ginsburg translation reads: "a checked jacket, much too short for him and also woven of air.

Glenny's translation -- "he wore a short check bum-freezer made of air" -- isn't hard to understand. I'd never heard of a "bum-freezer," but I got the picture when I first read it. Running across this review just now, I thought I'd look the term up, and discovered that definition.

[I should add that apparently there are OCR scans of Glenny's translation that are being sold, which are full of errors. The Everyman Classics version isn't one of them -- it is clean.]

Posted on Feb 7, 2013 8:00:51 PM PST
AGRayburn says:
I'm coming to this discussion late, I know, but I wonder if you could tell me which translator did the Classics House edition? I speak enough Russian to be painfully aware of the differences in translations... but not enough to comfortably read the works in Russian (though I am taking on Anna Karenina in Russian after reading it 13 times in English... really) I like Garnett for Tolstoy very much, but she's awful for Dostoyevsky - P&V are best for him. I read M&M back in college, can't find that copy - looong time ago. The HB here is M. Glenny, with whom I am unfamiliar, is there anyone you recommend?
I have to disagree with you Kerplunk (love the name!), within the flow of the book a jarring phrase yanks you right out of the story. It can be terribly annoying and indeed ruin the experience. You only get to read a novel for the first time 1ce. (Aha, I see S.T. Neb already made that point for me...see what a careful reader I am?)
However, another recent example of this, my son & I happened both to be reading The Brothers Karamazov, he, the "updated" Garnett translation & I the P&V. In the section where the theme is, in P&V, "Strain", Garnett translates as "Self-immolation", and in my older Garnett version "Lacerations"... perplexing, and not QUITE the same thing. I bought him the P&V.
In my experience, not surprisingly, different authors require different translators. Bulgakov is very different from the 19th century classicists - hence my excessively wordy question. >.< Any assistance would be appreciated. Amazingly few people actually read these books for fun. Amazon rocks.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 7, 2013 9:43:06 PM PST
Kerplunk says:
Think of the Classics House edition as a joint Michael Glenny/OCR translation. It's Glenny's translation, updated with numerous random typos courtesy of OCR.

I agree with your preference for Pevear/Volokhonsky in regard to Dostoyevsky. For Tolstoy I still slightly prefer Rosemary Edmonds over P&V -- but since their translations have appeared, I have felt free to dispense with my Tolstoy translations by Garnett and the Maudes. At this time, I only plan to reread Tolstoy in Edmonds' or P&V's translation. (I have also compared selected passages in the translations by Dunnigan and Briggs, neither of which did much for me.)

While for Bulgakov I prefer Glenny, for the other Russians that P&V have translated, I prefer their work.

I'm eagerly awaiting their new translation of Leskov short stories, due out late March, very sorely needed indeed. (The translations in the three Leskov books I own are not very good -- two, in fact, are barely tolerable.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 8, 2013 10:35:06 AM PST
AGRayburn says:
Thank you, I'm looking forward to M&M.
Huh. P&V for Tolstoy as well? I'll give them a try, though having first read Garnett's Anna Karenina at the age of 12 - and then 12 more times, most recently this past month, I'm not sure I'd be objective - brainwashed is more like it. I just re-read War & Peace as well so I'll wait a year or so, but that would be fun.
Re: Leskov... not sure how it happened, but I've not read any of his work, and I've read A LOT of Russian lit. In the short stories v. novels arena, I prefer novels. I read too quickly to really enjoy short stories unless studying them. That being said I love Chekhov, and his stories have stayed with me for 30 years. Is there any particular Leskov work you'd recommend I start with?
Thanks again!

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 8, 2013 10:44:12 AM PST
AGRayburn says:
Just for future reference, since presumably you've solved the M&M dilemma by now; if Amazon doesn't have a good (cheap) used copy available, try ebay, Abe Books or The Strand is online as well. Also B&N sometimes has great deals on classics. However, I too, make every effort to use Amazon Prime. Best Deal Ever.
I do think some books are worth getting in HC. I recently inherited my fathers library and it really is amazing.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 8, 2013 12:26:39 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 8, 2013 12:27:58 PM PST
Kerplunk says:
Leskov, while far from unknown, is unfairly overlooked by the multitudes. The stories in P&V's translation are -- The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, The Sealed Angel, The Enchanted Wanderer, Singlemind, The Devil-Chase, Deathless Golovan, The White Eagle, A Flaming Patriot, Lefty, The Spirit of Madame de Genlis, The Toupee Artist, The Voice of Nature, A Little Mistake, The Pearl Necklace, The Spook, The Man on Watch, A Robbery -- about half of which I've read (in other translations). All were good to excellent.

"The Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk," "The Man on Watch" [presumably this is the same story as "The Sentry"], "Lefty" ["The Tale of Cross-Eyed Lefty of Tula and the Steel Flea"] and "The Sealed Angel" are among his very best, in my opinion. The "White Eagle" and "The Enchanted Wanderer" are very good as well.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 1, 2013 7:18:42 AM PDT
By the way, "The Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk" was the inspiration for Shostakovich's famous opera of the same name, which is in the repertoire of many opera houses in the US and Western Europe.
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