Some Comments on
http://www.stanford.edu/~gfreidin/Publications/Babel.htm An introductory site.
One cannot evaluate any compilation of Babel’s work without
paying tribute to the ghosts of words lost: those erased by the police as well
as those that never made it onto paper, because the Soviet Union, according to
Babel’s famous subversive quip, deprived writers of only one thing: “the right
to write badly.” The right to write badly – to write free of external and
internal censorship – is the prerequisite for good art.
On translating this story:
It must be said that
both stylistically and semantically – that none of his predecessors did,
and seems to have been rather better advised about certain idioms
and ‘Odessanisms’ (but by no
means all) in
Sin of Jesus’, for instance,
for khakhal’, the snide pejorative for suitor (boyfriend, lover): ‘He’ll
be your prayer, your salvation, and your pretty-boy, too’ (p. 105). Mirra
Ginsburg had certainly missed, with ‘your solace’ (in Morison,
p. 247); MacAndrew came up with only a generic ‘sweetheart’ (p. 82).
Odessan narrative voice, must be recognized as a stylistic improvement,
if not necessarily over MacAndrew, whose colloquialism can be effective
and convincing, then certainly over Ginsburg, whose Arina had told
Jesus in language worthy of a translation from Freud, ‘To hear you talk,
all people should deny their animal nature’ (in Morison, p. 246).
life?’ (p. 105).
Timothy D. Sergay