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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best translation of this glorious novel, 5 Sept. 2012
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This review is from: Anna Karenina (Wordsworth Classics) (Paperback)
Louise and Aylmer Maude's translation, as used by Wordsworth Classics, is by far the best translation of Anna Karenina. They translated what Tolstoy wrote, rather than putting their own spin on things, as Peaver and Volkhonsky have done. The Maude translation is also better than Garnett's groundbreaking work which tends to get a bit lost in places.
The famous opening lines, as translated by the Maudes read thus:
"All happy families resemble one another, but each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way"
This is exactly how Tolstoy wrote it in the original Russian and it is exactly what he wanted the reader to understand.

However, the Peaver/Volkhonsky version translates Tolsoy's words slightly differently:
"All happy families are the same...etc"
This subtle difference may not not seem important but in fact it is very important. "Resemble" does not mean "the same" and the difference in approach to translation between the Maudes and Peaver is quite striking and makes a huge difference to the overall reading experience. While the Maudes give us, as near as possible, what Tolstoy actually wrote, given the sometimes impossible to translate differences between English and Russian, the Peavers give us the same story but not in the language that Tolstoy intended. What they give us is a slightly dry, modernised and ultimately flat reading of a what was once a beautifully written novel.

Garnett mis-translates the opening in her own fashion:
"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

We may forgive Constance her errors simply because she was the one who first gave the great Russian writers to the English speaking world. But there are now better translations.

If you want to read Anna Karenina in language, nuance and meaning as intended by Tolstoy, read the Maude translation.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 14 May 2013 01:13:43 BDT
Sergiu says:
I think the Garnet translation is in fact better, more natural. I was enjoying it and bought this translation, and the level clearly goes down, after comparing just a few phrases. It is dry and academic, humourless. Garnet translation is a joy, really, definitely closer to original.

In reply to an earlier post on 12 Aug 2013 21:31:22 BDT
But the Garnett isn't Tolstoy, it's Garnett. This version is the closest to Tolstoy's original.

Posted on 26 Aug 2014 01:38:10 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 30 Aug 2014 09:44:04 BDT]
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