George Bernard Shaw once wrote that “it is impossible for an Englishman to open his mouth without making some other Englishman hate or despise him”. The speech of a character in a novel written in English would describe them better than the most detailed CV. If the author wants to sketch a memorable image of a character, add some local colour, revile (or extol) social differences, picture national conflicts — he or she would always find a common expression, foreign accent or inimitable dialect. To say nothing of the situations when a novel puts together British and American characters ‘divided by a common language.’ How can one translate all that polyphony into Russian? In the course of our session, we will have a look at the methods of different translators, and try our hand at a few short texts.
Victor Sonkin is a scholar, translator and writer. For several years, he worked as a Serbian-English translator at the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia in The Hague. As a literary translator, he has worked on works of Patricia Duncker, Dan Rhodes, Nassim N. Taleb, Julian Barnes, and two novels of the American author Hanya Yanagihara — “A Little Life” (published in 2016 and having caused a torrent of both praise and indignation in Russia) and “The People in the Trees” (2018). Most of his translations into Russian are done together with his wife and long-time colleague Alexandra Borisenko; they also teach literary translation at Moscow State University and the new ‘outside the classroom’ organization Creative Writing School. In 2012, Moscow’s Corpus Publishers has published “Here Was Rome”, his literary and historic guidebook to Ancient Rome, the city which has been his passion since childhood. Next year, the book received the Enlightenment Award, the country’s most prestigious award for nonfiction. In 2015, Moscow-based publishing house “A Walk Through History” published his illustrated encyclopedia for children “We Live in Ancient Rome”. In the summer of 2017, “Here Was Rome” was published by Skyscraper Books, London, in the author’s English translation.
Alexandra Borisenko, associate Professor at the Department of Discourse and Communication Studies, Faculty of Philology, Moscow State University, graduated from Moscow State University in 1992. Her PhD thesis (2000) focused on the Soviet translation school. Since 1997, she has been teaching jointly with Dr. Victor Sonkin a workshop on literary translation in the Department of Philology at MSU. The workshop has published several books translated by her students, including two major anthologies of British and American crime fiction (2009, 2011). She teaches courses on translation studies, children’s literature, crime fiction, cultural studies. Borisenko has published numerous critical and theoretical works on literary history and literary translation. Apart from her educational work, she is a literary translator, technical translator and conference interpreter, member of The Literary Translators’ Guild. Separately and jointly with Victor Sonkin she translated two books of Pamela Travers about Mary Poppins, "Lost in translation" by Eva Hoffman, "Gaudy Night" by Dorothy Sayers, two novels by Patricia Duncker, two novels by Julian Barnes, "A Little Life" by Hanya Yanagihara.