Avgust Pokhlebkin   1
  • 1 Independent Researcher, Oktabrsky Prospekt, 1A-32, Podolsk, Russian Federation 142117

No Kidding: Some Notes on Mistranslations of Bertrand Russell’s Witticisms

2017, vol. 16, No. 1, pp. 126–137 [issue contents]
A new Russian translation of Bertrand Russell’s 1950 Nobel lecture is necessary on the basis of the critique of the two previous attempts. The first attempt by Dr. Boris Gilenson in 1998 is considered deficient for having over one hundred major and minor mistranslations. Ten examples of Gilenson’s mis-translations are cited and discussed. The second attempt, by an anonymous translator of Yunost magazine in 2001, is ruled inadequate for omitting 24% of the text. The author of this paper suggests that a deficiency of sources may have hampered the efforts of previous translators, and presents a more holistic approach as a way to detect and overcome the errors. In particular, a brief history of the publications of the speech and its translations into other languages is related. A gramophone recording of the speech is used as a source to help conclusively distinguish between the statements Russell makes in earnest and the ones made in jest. Additionally, some difficulties with the literal translation of particular expressions are commented upon. A specific memoir from Russell’s autobiography is invoked to support the claim of the interdependency of his writings. Above all, the lecture is presented to the readers as a keystone document of the laureate’s political worldview, and as a typical specimen of his wit and style.
Citation: Pokhlebkin A. (2017) Bez shutok. O tom, kak ne nado perevodit' ostroti Bertrana Rassella [No Kidding: Some Notes on Mistranslations of Bertrand Russell’s Witticisms]. The Russian Sociological Review, vol. 16, no 1, pp. 126-137 (in Russian)
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