Led by Dr. Ewington, this unit focused on Russia, specifically the period known as Stalin’s Terror. This post is a summary of AT discussion as well as a personal response to two translations of Akhmatova’s Requiem.
Requiem: Akhmatova’s Experience of Stalin’s Terror
In my AT discussion with Alec, Nick, Luna, and Prescott, there were a lot of thought-provoking ideas comparing Anderson’s and Thomas’ translations of Requiem. When I first read the two versions, I felt that because Anderson had a rhyme scheme and a clearer plot, this text sacrificed the more intentional word choice that was seen in Thomas’. I am curious if the original work had a rhyme scheme and if Anderson chose to preserve this or to take artistic liberties and create a rhyme. Thomas’ translation had looser rhyming and thus, more impactful diction. It felt less like a summary and more metaphorical in retelling the narrative. As a group, we differed in personal preference of translations, however we agreed that Anderson seems to translate for a native English speaker, while Thomas seems to translate directly from the Russian. It’s an interesting debate which is more effective or closer to the original. Is it better to interpret a text and translate it according to what fits the confines of the English language? Or is it better to directly match the Russian vocabulary to English words, neglecting the overall meaning and instead focusing on diction? I ultimately think that each translation emphasizes certain elements of Akhmatova’s Requiem, so depending on what a reader is looking for, they can choose between the two. In the end, the truest translation of Akhmatova’s Requiem is her experience itself. Each translation is a further step away from the truth.