NOTE ON THE TRANSLATION

THE chief problem facing the translator of Dostoevsky lies in coming to terms with the novelist's idiosyncratic style, with its feverishly accelerating sentences and mixture of styles ranging from bureaucratese to the classical cadences of gentry prose. It is a style which has made Dostoevsky the only Russian writer to be recognizably parodied in English (memorably, by Woody Allen and S. J. Perelman).

Russian readers are also familiar with Dostoevsky's solecisms, such as using the word 'again' five times in four lines, or 'suddenly' six times in ten lines, both examples taken from The Idiot. To complicate matters, there are Russian usages which are actually unique to this novel!

Bearing in mind the novelist's breathless readability in his native language, the translator must strive to preserve this distinctive style, while maintaining a convincing natural flow in the English translation. I have aimed at scrupulous accuracy with regard to the original, repetitions and all, unless the effect was outlandish enough to draw attention to itself and hinder the reader's appreciation.

It should be noted that the characters always gravitate towards polite literary speech. Even people outside the upper-middleclass milieu adopt the speech-patterns of their betters, and usually fail through being either over-genteel or over-literary. Raciness is explicitly eschewed--the prince is taken to task by Aglaya for using two colloquial expressions! The characters may speak of their emotions in a very direct and disconcerting manner, but no one employs common, rough, or uneducated language.

As money plays an important role in The Idiot, it may be helpful to establish that the Russian rouble in the novel is roughly equivalent to £2 sterling (or $3) in present-day money.

Russians often use the contracted form of the patronymic in conversation, Ivanich for Ivanovich, for example, or Ardalionich in place of Ardalionovich. I have followed this practice where it

-xxiii-

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The Idiot
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Introduction vii
  • Note on the Translation xxiii
  • Select Bibliography xxv
  • Chronology of Fyodor Dostoevsky xxvi
  • List of Characters xxix
  • Part One 3
  • Part Two 187
  • Part Three 341
  • Part Four 485
  • Explanatory Notes 653
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