4. A Russian Realistic Novel

Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821–1881)
Crime and Punishment: a Russian Realistic Novel
London: Vizetelly & Co., 1886

This English edition of Crime and Punishment was published in Vizetelly’s one-volume novel series. The translation is presented anonymously in the book but is usually attributed to Russian-born British novelist Frederick Whishaw, who was known primarily for writing children’s fiction. The Vizetelly series mainly featured new works and first translations, and made numerous French and Russian novels accessible to English-speakers at the affordable price of six shillings or less. Crime and Punishment was well-received, but Whishaw’s translation was criticized for treating speech and thought too similarly and for failing to preserve the simple syntax and vocabulary of the novel’s numerous internal monologues.

Translators of Crime and Punishment endeavour to make their translation both readable in the new language, and true to the original – a notoriously difficult task for Dostoevsky’s prose. Constance Garnett’s famous 1914 translation features many English embellishments that have become antiquated since its publication, while Oliver Ready’s recent translation sounds better to a contemporary reader: in Ready’s translation, Raskolnikov appeals to a police official saying ‘Have a heart, Captain, and put yourself in my shoes for a moment’, while Garnett has ‘Excuse me, Captain, will you enter into my position.’ The Ready translation seems to capture the spontaneity of natural speech better.

Taryn Plater

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