Jutustajateksti muutlikkus Fjodor Dostojevski romaani „Vennad Karamazovid“ eestikeelsetes tõlgetes / Changeability of the narrator’s text in the Estonian translations of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel The Brothers Karamazov


  • Lea Pild Tartu Ülikool / University of Tartu




Fjodor Dostojevski, polüfooniline romaan, tõlkestrateegia, tõlkedominant, mikrostilistika tõlkimine, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, polyphonic novel, strategy of translation, translation dominant, translation of microstylistics


Käesolevas artiklis uuritakse kõrvutavalt originaaltekstiga Fjodor Dostojevski romaani „Vennad Karamazovid“ kahte eestikeelset tõlget, mille autoriteks on Aita Kurfeldt ja Virve Krimm. Analüüsi objektiks on jutustaja muutlik diskursus, mille eripära avaldub stiili ebaühtluses ehk muutlikkuses. Jutustaja „takerduval“ kõnel on romaanis oluline funktsioon, mis seisneb kaootilise, ebakindla kunstilise maailma loomises. Eestikeelseid tõlkeid vaadeldakse võrdluses lähtetekstiga mitmel mikrostilistilisel tasandil: kesksõnatarindid, sõnade ja sõnatüvede kordus, modaalsõnad, deminutiivid, fraseoloogilised üksused, grammatilistest normidest kõrvalekaldumine.


The article studies two Estonian translations of Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov by Aita Kurfeldt and Virve Krimm, comparing them to the source text. The tradition of translating Dostoyevsky’s works into Estonian has its beginning in the 20th century. It started with Johannes Aavik’s experimental translations and was continued by the classic of Estonian literature A. H. Tammsaare – in 1929, the first Estonian translation of Crime and Punishment appeared in the latter’s translation. In the 1930s, preparations began in Estonia to publish Dostoyevsky’s collected works in 15 volumes, and, as part of this initiative which involved several translators, the novel The Brothers Karamazov first appeared Estonian in Aita Kurfeldt’s translation (1939–1940). Kurfeldt’s translation was later edited and updated by Helle Tiisväli, and the new edition published by the Kupar publishing house in 2001. In the 21st century, the novel was translated for the second time and published by Varrak with an afterword by Peeter Torop in 2015–2016. The translator was Virve Krimm, a capable and talented translator who had already translated Dostoyevsky’s Demons as well as other books by classic Russian authors, e.g., Turgenev’s novel Home of the Gentry, his stories and prose poems; she had also been a co-translator of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. In Krimm’s obituary by the Translators’ Section of the Estonian Writers’ Union, her translation of The Brothers Karamazov was highly appreciated. Both translations were made during times free of the prescriptive norms of the Soviet regime. If ideological coercion in the narrower sense of the word (the authorities’ pressure on translators, editors and publishers) is considered, both translations can be regarded as expressions of the translators’ free choice – both were completed in free Estonia.

A conspicuous characteristic of Kurfeldt’s translation is her word-for-word reproduction of Dostoyevsky’s phrases or whole syntactic periods, preserving even the word order. The author of the later translation as well as the later editor of Kurfeldt’s translation have clearly tried to actively oppose Kurfeldt’s tendency towards literal translation. Still, the first translator’s “literal translation” cannot be claimed to be an indicator of dilettantism, as Kurfeldt’s attempts to copy Dostoyevsky’s syntax and even punctuation may be viewed as an essential effort to revive the narrator’s changeable, clumsy manner of speech in The Brothers Karamazov.

This article analyses the narrator’s transmutable discourse, the peculiarity of which is expressed in the inconsistent or unstable style, as well as its translations into Estonian. In the novel, the narrator’s inconsistent speech has an essential function which consists in creating a chaotic, unstable artistic world. Studies of Dostoyevsky’s poetics have often drawn attention to the peculiarity of the narrator’s style and tone in his works. Mikhail Bakhtin noted that the narrator’s word constantly fluctuates between two extremes – the dryly informative, recording word and the word depicting the character. The researchers who have followed or developed Bakhtin’s theoretical conception have also noted that such inconsistent and hesitant narration style approaches, or actually is, non-literary language. As Aage A. Hansen-Löve has shown, the spontaneous or chaotic manner of narration was characteristic of the vanguard or initial period of Russian realism, but it was also preserved in the movement during its later years. Dostoyevsky modelled the type of the “non-professional” narrator as early as in the 1840s. The speech of this narrator is knowingly “non-literary”. The writer’s “carelessness with words” has also been described and analysed in literary studies as a deliberate device realised at different levels of the narrative: in composition (e.g. the stylistic inconsistency in chapter headings), syntax, lexical paradigm, structure of phraseological expressions and deviations from language norms.

In this article, the Estonian translations are viewed in comparison with the source text on several microstylistic levels: participial constructions, repetition of words and word stems, modal words, diminutives, phraseological units, deviation from grammatical norms. The comparative analysis of the translations in the article does not attempt to characterise the translations in full, but only discusses the key tendencies in rendering the narrator’s unstable speech. The theoretical basis for the analysis derives from the virtual model of different translation types presented in Peeter Torop’s article “Tõlkeloo koostamise printsiibid” (“Principles of compiling translation history”, 1999).

In conclusion, it appears that Kurfeldt’s translation is a text dominated by an orientation towards the expressive plane of the source text. The word order in sentences, punctuation marks, modal words and their positions in the text are rendered exactly. Still, the translation is inconsistent at the microstylistic level: the translator tries to replace functional repetitions occuring in the text with synonyms, changes participial constructions into subordinate clauses, and presents participles as verbs in the third person; in a number of cases Kurfeldt also omits words and phrases. The edited translation has undergone essential changes in its turn – the editor has striven for stylistically correct, fluent, “proper” speech which sometimes remains rather far from the original.

Krimm’s translation has a considerably more complicated structure. Initially, it can be said that Krimm’s translation is oriented simultaneously towards the content plane of the source text, i.e. towards lexical and semantic precision, and sometimes also towards an equivalence with the rhythmic and intonational level of the expression plane of the original. Still, the precision of translating other levels of the expression plane of the original depends on the essentiality of the translated elements in the structure of the novel. Similarly to Kurfeldt, Krimm does not attempt to preserve diminutives, as these grammatical forms are not characteristic of the Estonian language. Thus, opting for an orientation mainly towards the expressive plane of the target text, Krimm continues many aspects of her personal tradition of translating Russian classics from the second half of the 20th century. Choosing the expression plane of the target text as a dominant was characteristic of many other Estonian translators in the Soviet period, as such a translation strategy compensated for the lack of political freedom.

The conclusions of the article concern only the recreation of the narrator’s uneven speech in the Estonian translations of The Brothers Karamazov by Kurfeldt and Krimm and, at this stage, do not expand to encompass other layers of the complicated structure of Dostoyevsky’s novel in the texts by the two translators. The article serves as the beginning of a study: further, both translations could be viewed in a broader ideological context, considering the dependence of concrete translation solutions on the translation norms of the 1930s, the normative requirements for literary translation in the 21st century, problems of editing of translations, as well as aspects related to political, literary, linguistic, intermedial and other translation-related contexts.


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Author Biography

Lea Pild, Tartu Ülikool / University of Tartu

Lea Pild – PhD, Tartu ülikooli slavistika osakonna vene kirjanduse vanemteadur. Tema teadushuvide hulka kuuluvad 19. ja 20. saj vene kirjanduse ajalugu ja poeetika, vene sümbolismi ajalugu, tõlkelugu, eesti-vene kultuurikontaktid.

Lea Pild – PhD, Senior Reasearcher of Russian literature, Department of Slavic Studies, University of Tartu. Her research interests include Russian literature of the19th and 20th centuries, history of Russian Symbolism, history of translation, and Estonian–Russian cultural contacts.