Object 3: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
May 27, 2021
Anna Karenina is a novel originally written in Russian and later translated to English. Overall, there are 9 translated versions all slightly different from one another. As a bilingual, Russian and English speaker I was very interested to investigate these differences.
Every author has his or her unique idiosyncratic style of writing which is hard to stay true to during translation. For example in part 1 chapter 29 and part 2 chapter 21 of the Russian version, Anna and Vronsky use the exact same phrasing to describe how they are feeling, however, no translator picked up on this repetition. While this may not seem significant on its own, the build up of such small differences and modifications can lead to a lack of communication of the story as a whole, as well as a lack of representation of Tolstoys creative way of using language. In language, the true meaning of several words and phrases is often rooted in the cultural and historical knowledge that is typically exclusive to native speakers. This is particularly true for words with connotations that extend beyond their literal translation to secondary meanings. These subtle differences lost in translation pose many challenges to communication of knowledge. Anna Karenina is therefore included in this exhibition as an example of how the details lost in translation can alter the overall reading of a story and the loss of valuable knowledge.
Furthermore, Anna Karenina is a story with several interpretations unique to different groups of people. For example teenage girls might see the story as melodramatic, where as adults are more likely to pick up on the irony. Tolstoy also writes the story in a style that constantly changes our feelings towards each character. This opens up the possibility for endless interpretation and gives a responsibility to each translator not to communicate their bias in translation.
Image, Book cover, Amazon. Accessed April 20th 2021. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Anna- Karenina-Penguin-Classics-Tolstoy/dp/0140449175
Image, “The Birth of Venus by Botticelli: Artworks: Uffizi Galleries.” The birth of Venus by Botticelli | Artworks | Uffizi Galleries. Accessed April 25th, 2021. https://www.uffizi.it/en/artworks/ birth-of-venus.
Image, Réhahn. “INTO THE LAND OF INDIGO: VIETNAM.” REHAHN, March 15, 2021. Accessed April 28th 2021. https://www.rehahnphotographer.com/indigo-vietnam/.