Saturday, May 26, 2012

The devil is in the details . . .

A Youthful Fyodor Dostoevsky (1847)
Portrait by Konstiantyn Trutovsky

I've had a devilish time lately with a number of diabolical quotes from Dostoevsky's novels, but perhaps some kind soul can help me out in my quest. The first quote is Latin and poses no problem, either in its location or its translation, but the eight that follow lie beyond my ken:
"Satan sum et nihil humanum a me alienum puto." - Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

1. Notes from Underground: "The devil only knows what choice depends upon . . ."

2. The Idiot: "The devil knows what it all means!"

3. The Eternal Husband: "I can go to the devil, sir, but let's first have a drink!"

4. Demons: "As if the devil had carried the town in a basket and scattered it about . . ."

5. The Gambler: "To the devil with that zero!"

6. Humiliated and Insulted: "The wary old devil had become so sensitive . . ."

7. Crime and Punishment: "Where reason fails, the devil helps!"

8. The House of the Dead: "As though possessed by a devil . . ."

These are the quotes, but they're from English translations, slightly modified for effect, but what do they correspond to in the original Russian, I wonder, and are they adequately translated?

Any readers out there who can judge? If some kind connoisseur of Dostoevsky's works could provide the original Russian and a closer translation, I'd be forever grateful . . .

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At 6:03 AM, Anonymous Erdal said...

#5 is in Chapter 12, about 5% of the Chapter into the Text:

Брось этот пакостный зеришко к черту.

Literally: "Stop this dirty Zero to hell!"

More reasonably: "Stop with that deceitful Zero! To hell with it!"

"Zero" as in Roulette, but you probably knew that.

At 6:15 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Erdal. I didn't realize that you also know Russian!

You must be a renaissance man, expert also in martial arts and an artist as well!

Contact me by email, and I'll reveal the secret behind this request for the Russian originals.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 6:24 AM, Anonymous Erdal said...

#7 is in Chapter 6, 13th paragraph from the end:

Не рассудок, так бес!

Literally: "I don't care/mind/bother/have no idea, thus Bies"


"так бес" is a common interjection like "so what the fuck!"

At 6:30 AM, Anonymous Erdal said...

Concerning 7: I know it's the right place even though the similarity is so weak, because the German translation of the passage is: "Wo der Verstand nicht hilft, hilft der Teufel!" (1956 Translation, Röhl)
No idea why. Either Röhl copied the English translation, or the other way round.

This is tremendous fun!

At 6:45 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

This is very interesting, Erdal, and it confirms what I suspected, namely, that the devil is missing in some of these details.

What I need are devil-filled quotes in the original Russian, but none of this will make any sense to you until you've seen my project, which involves Paradise Lost, Faust, and The Master and Margarita, among other works of literature.

My email is easy to locate by Googling my name and "Milton List" together . . . if you're interested.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:23 AM, Anonymous Erdal said...

Upon reflection: "Не рассудок, так бес!" can reasonably mean: "No idea, thus demons (must come to help)!

The translator's Russian is certainly way better than mine, but really, I think their translation is just pompous. "так бес" is a very commonplace interjection, at least these days.

#6 probably originates from this (part 1, Chapter 1, about halfway):

В этой смиренной, покорной торопливости бедного, дряхлого старика было столько вызывающего на жалость, ...

"дряхлого старик" is the term in question and means "a very old and frail pitiful man". And again, the German tanslation conforms to the English one in its imagery: "mit einem kläglichen Lächeln, dem demütigen Lächeln eines armen Teufels" but puts it in the sentence before, substituting the "old frail man" man for "he" in the russian one above.

At 7:52 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

So, the English is cribbing the German, or vice-versa. Interesting.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:21 AM, Anonymous Erdal said...

#8: Chapter V, last paragraph:

... и вдруг решительно ни с того ни с сего — точно бес в него влез — зашалил, накутил, набуянил,...

"... whe [he] vehemently, suddlenly an without reason - like he had Bies in him - zashalil, nakutil, nabuyanil"

The latter three are some sort of semi-sensical spell or incantation (the last syllable is made to rhyme, it should eg. really be набуяню, not набуянил) and all 3 mean basically "chaos, disorder, mayhem"


At 8:31 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Erdal. This is helpful. I see that my concerns were correct, i.e., that the devil is missing from several of these details.

For my project to be truly complete, I need the devil in each Russian quote -- in English alone won't suffice!

Jeffery Hodges

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At 9:32 AM, Anonymous Erdal said...

#2 is from Part 4, Chaptre I, a litte past half:

Какое тут прежнее! — воскликнул Ганя. — Прежнее! Нет, уж тут черт знает что такое теперь происходит, а не прежнее!

"Bah, old story", shouted Ganja, "old story! No, (it's about) hell knows what's going on now, not previosly!"

черт : hell

At 9:36 AM, Anonymous Erdal said...

#2 "cribbed" again? »Ach was, die alte Geschichte!« rief Ganja. »Die alte Geschichte! Nein, weiß der Teufel, was jetzt hier vorgeht! Etwas Neues!

At 9:41 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Interesting, how this process has revealed a dependence of translations in one language upon those in another. There's probably an interesting article to be written on the subject.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't know how (or if) in the devil this might help, but #3 kinda reminds me of or something Ephesus related. Corinthians I think.


At 4:54 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

That's why I need to know the original Russian and its more literal translation -- to see if the word "devil" is really there, and any literary allusions would be noticeable, though I don't expect any (unless an expression is proverbial).

Jeffery Hodges

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