Aleksandr Pushkin was one of the greatest Russian poets of all time, and was responsible for modernizing the Russian language. He also has kind of an interesting backstory, considering that his great-grandfather was from Africa and was given as a gift to the tsar, who took a liking to him and made him a general. Puskin himself was a famous poet by the time he was a teenager, because he was just that good. Of course, like so many Russian authors, he got caught up in the “wrong crowd,” who decided to rebel, and even though he wasn’t personally involved, he got arrested for it… and the tsar became his personal censor after that.
One of Puskin’s most famous poems is Winter Evening.
The poem basically says that Russian winters suck, but that there is a way to deal with it–to drink heavily. However, Pushkin’s language is much more eloquent than my own.
Pushkin’s poetry is a good excuse to take a look at translation as a whole, because a lot of meaning gets lost between languages, and translators have a hard job trying to maintain the voice and tone of the author while conveying meaning and staying as true as possible to the original. Sometimes, as in the case of poetry, that means taking some liberties. The first Ardnt translation is my favorite, because it takes a balance between literal translation and keeping true to Pushkin’s original style and rhymes. Sometimes shades of meaning just get lost in translation. One example here is the word “старушка.” The word is translated as “dear granny,” “my dear,” and “dear old granny.” I don’t think any of those translations capture the fear of the word, which is a diminutive that would more literally be an affectionate (while at the same time respectful) way of saying “little old lady.” She’s not necessarily a grandma, and just going with “my dear” doesn’t really capture it right, so it gets lost.
So, for anyone who reads literature of any sort in translation, respect the translators. Their job is harder than it seems, and saves us all the trouble of learning the language of every author we wanna read. =D
Also, side note… the picture in this post is the first statue of Pushkin in the US. It was a gift to the US from Russia, and thanks to an awesome professor, is located on the George Washington University campus in DC.