ASP Abridged: Dostoevsky as a Translator of Balzac

We are pleased to present the latest in our ASP Abridged blog series, in which authors give readers a short and sweet introduction to their latest book.

Here, Julia Titus introduces us to her new book, Dostoevsky as a Translator of Balzac.

Tell us what Dostoevsky as a Translator of Balzac is about in simple terms.

My book describes young Dostoevsky’s experience as a translator of the famous novel by Balzac Eugénie Grandet and discusses how this encounter with Balzac’s text shaped his own writing. Comparing Balzac’s original and Dostoevsky’s free style translation side by side, it focuses on specific changes that Dostoevsky made and looks into the possible reasons behind his choices. The book also traces many textual connections between the themes and imagery of Eugénie Grandet and Dostoevsky’s major novels.

How does Dostoevsky as a Translator of Balzac make a unique contribution to the field?

My book is quite unique because although many studies have been published on Dostoevsky and Balzac, there is almost nothing analyzing his work as a literary translator. Dostoevsky was only twenty- two years old when he worked on his translation of Eugénie Grandet, and it was his first literary publication.  He approached Balzac’s text with great creative freedom, highlighting the themes that he saw as the most important – self-sacrifice, compassion, love and devotion of Balzac’s Eugénie / Dostoevsky’s Evgenia that he developed later in many of his female characters. The themes of avarice and monomaniac passion that are central to Balzac’s novel also found its resonance in many of Dostoevsky’s novels later on. I approach Dostoevsky’s experience translating Balzac as a laboratory of his future work as a writer and see it as an important pre-cursor of his own legacy, highlighting translation’s constitutive role in his artistic development. Using Dostoevsky’s example, I hope that my book will contribute to a better understanding of a creative process behind literary translation and its impact on a formation of an author in general. 

Educated in Russia and the United States, Julia Titus has been teaching courses in Russian language, literature, and theater at the department of Slavic languages and Literatures at Yale University for more than twenty years. Her research interests include Russian and French literature of the nineteenth century, translation theory, and heritage language studies. She is the editor of an annotated reader The Meek One (Yale University Press, 2012), and Poetry Reader for Russian Learners (Yale University Press, 2015).

Dostoevsky as a Translator of Balzac is available now for purchase from ASP or wherever you buy your books.