January 22, 2015 by AK
Following up on this, I must admit haven’t read the dramatic trilogy, The Coast of Utopia by Tom Stoppard, and I’m not sure I’m going to, any time soon. The brothers Ostrovsky, who translated the work into Russian, faced difficult choices but all in all, the Russian text works well on stage. For the fun of it, they rendered “Miss X can go hang!” literally as “Miss X can go hang,” a lovely calque.
But the reason for this post is Turgenev’s Smoke, once again: Stoppard puts these words by a Turgenev character straight into the writer’s mouth. A bit suspicious: Potugin is a chinovnik, a civil servant, a bureaucrat who rose to a respectable rank after twenty-two years of service. He came from the second estate, the priestly estate that gave birth to some great Russians but was much inferior to the aristocracy socially. Turgenev, in contrast, was the only son of a very wealthy landowning family. But like Potugin, Turgenev – if old rumors had it right – lived in thrall to a woman who was neither his wife nor proper mistress, for years upon years. Besides, Dostoevsky claims that Turgenev conveyed Potugin’s views to him directly, in the first person – but Dostoevsky could not stand Turgenev. Admittedly, Turgenev did complain about new Russian composers getting stupid ideas instead of following Mozart but that was not his best call.