Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Reading (or not) in the original Russian

My dad gave me his copy of "The Master and Margarita" to read after finishing it recently.

I haven't read it before. I read "Heart of a Dog" (also by Bulgakov) in Russian in college. We had 1-page reading assignments which would take me 1-2 hours, with the help of a dictionary. Then the professor would explain a lot of the culture points since we didn't have much of a clue.

Anyway, I feel a little silly for not reading "Master" in the original. I've always felt that literature should be read in the original language, if possible. I love reading Bible excerpts in the original. It makes me feel so much closer to the writer and original context. Around the time when my Russian became proficient enough to read novels, I decided to cut down on reading fiction. Prior to that, I had wanted to become better acquainted with Russian classics, and had read some of them in college.

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IfI ignore the question of fiction for now, there is still the matter of language. I will probably get more out of reading the book in English. Even though I will miss some of the nuances of Russian, I will understand more of the overarching themes. There are also some cultural/historical notes to help with that. Maybe I'll read it in Russian later.

So what do you think? When is it beneficial to read something in the original language, and when is it okay to stick to your native language?

6 comments:

  1. I am jealous of your language skills - In a Christian sort of way of course.

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  2. Unfortunately it leaves me with few excuses...

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  3. I read SO MUCH in the original...I can't believe it now. Where did it go? My Russian program was so rigorous....classes in Dostoevsky, Pushkin, Tolstoy, the Silver Age of Poetry, the Golden Age of Poetry.... I always had a dictionary by my side, of course, but still....

    And, occasionally I think how much easier it would all be now.

    No hope for reading in the original anymore. I just have to hope that "having been there" one time will "help" in some way.

    What really helps, actually, is having been to Russia. Now I see it all so much better.

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  4. I think my class was the Golden Age of Literature, which was in Russian, but we just read excerpts, not whole works. And we did a lot of discussing the historical context. Otherwise, it wouldn't have meant as much reading the texts.

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  5. А я вот подумываю не прочитать ли мне Питера Пэна в оригинале :))

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  6. Язык более старый...но хороший.

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