PUBLISHERS OF LITERARY FICTION SINCE 1983
Comparing the Penguin with the Dedalus leaves one in no doubt that, whatever Nabokov might have made of it, Dedalus's is superior. It reads fluently, and when you check it off against Nabokov (which is, for all Wilson's despair, frustratingly essential if you don't have any Russian), you find far more often not that he has kept to the sense, style and technique of the original. This is a clever trick to pull off, particularly when you consider that Beck is actually a musician, an occasional translator from German, who learnt Russian precisely in order to translate this work. He has not, to put it mildly, wasted his time. Giving himself the freedom to use half-rhymes - some so far off that they amount almost to carte blanche ('bigot' and 'Melmoth'?)- is entirely forgivable, and means that he can follow the sharp, breathtaking handbrake turns of Pushkin's own mood. And now so can you.
Eugene Onegin is a bitter-sweet love story. It is set in a particular place, Russia, and in a particular time, the 1820s - but it is also, as is all great literature, universal and timeless.Pushkin is one of the small, sublime company of aesthetic geniuses who can be drawn from any art, from any country and any time. This fine new translation is wholly welcome.
A bored young man inherits a country estate, where a shy, book-loving local girl falls for him. Alexander Pushkin, father of Russian literature, crams laughter, literature, duelling and tempestuous romance into his playful 1820s verse novel. A series of distilled Russian settings serve as backdrops. First: theatres, dancing, lamplit snowy streets, soft summer nights by the glass-smooth River Neva and hungover rides home in the Petersburg morning-after. Then young Onegin’s rich uncle dies, leaving him the country estate. Inside, there are brocaded walls, portraits of tsars, tiled stoves and homemade liqueurs. Pushkin lovingly details (although they bore the novel’s hero) traditional rye beer, berry picking, seething samovars and little dishes of jam."