Linguistic and Cultural Aspects of the Russian Postmodern Novel and its Translation: Кысь by Tatyana Tolstaya
This dissertation, entitled Linguistic and Cultural Aspects of the Russian Postmodernist Novel and its Translation: Tatyana Tolstaya’s ‘Кысь’, is in five chapters, of which the first relates primarily to themes of the Russian source text. The translation in question is by the American Jamey Gambrell, and inevitably it is referred to in Chapter 1, although Chapter 2 offers an overview of the translation theory against which the translation is assessed. Chapters 3 and 4 cover the translation of language and meaning respectively. The fifth chapter introduces a French-language translation to compare two translations operating under two different sets of norms. I conclude by proposing a format for a translation that could make the novel more accessible to a non-Russian readership. In this Introduction, brief biographical details of Tatyana Tolstaya and a synopsis of the novel Кысь are followed by extracts of interviews conducted with Tolstaya over the last 20 years. As the dissertation will show, the novel has aroused no little conflict of opinion and it is appropriate that the author puts her side of the story first. Many of the texts quoted in the following are only available in Russian and my translations are attributed by ‘trans. LCK’. In the sections dealing with the technicalities of translation, I have given page numbers using the shortened notation (R: -) to refer to the source text (Tolstaya 2000) and (E: -) to refer to the English translation (Tolstaya 2003a). Where I have transliterated from Russian into English, I have followed the Library of Congress system except where alternative English equivalents have become well established. For example, I will refer to the name of the author at the heart of this dissertation, officially transliterated ‘Tat’iana Tolstaia’) as ‘Tatyana Tolstaya’, in line with common usage. The novel Кысь is generally acknowledged to be a demanding book and it is a tribute to its complexity that this dissertation cannot possibly hope to cover all the issues explored by the author. I have, however, endeavoured to analyse some themes and certain passages in considerable detail, and have been struck by the skill and perseverance of the two existing translations of this novel. Comments offered here are not to be taken as criticism but are offered as alternative approaches to attempt to meet those challenges posed by the source text.