This is one chapter that I’ve always been able to remember really clearly from the first time I read the book. I think if, for nothing else, it’s the first example of swearing in the whole book (or at least in the translation I have).

What’s more, it comes from someone as important as Kutuzov! But his line “Who asked them to come here?” followed by his swearing and his crying later, really sums up that this was had been a lot more emotional for him than any of us realised.

I thought it was a great moment – but I understand also, it has given translators a headache from there on in, because I think they’re trying to translate a word that is blanked out in Russian into something that is blanked out in English . . .

I must admit, if I’m checking out a translation of War and Peace, I tend to flick to this chapter to see how they handle it. I’m not saying I’m looking for swear words, but some of the earlier translators had a tendency to tone down the feeling of this chapter to be a bit more polite to their readers. The problem with that is, you miss the strength of emotion that Kutuzov is feeling, especially in light of viewing the pale, emaciated captives that they have captured.

2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 15.6 – Deeply Moved

  1. Yes, I guess I felt a little bit like a high school boy flicking through my various translations of W&P, trying to see how they each handled the swear word here. It seems, from the ones I have checked, that only Briggs fills in the blanks, with Maud, Garnett and Pevear/Volokhonsky all following the original Russian and just a few letters and some dots. The interesting thing, is which letters they use – Garnett and Maud both using “b… b….” and Pevear/Volokhonsky using is as “f… th… in the f…”. The original Russian, transliterated, is “m… i… v g…”. I have no idea what the blank words are meant to be, but “v” is the Russian word for “in”. I’m surprised there’s not a footnote, at least in P/V, explaining it. I’ll seek some advice from some of my Russian friends, and see what they say.

    Anyway, it certainly was another strong chapter – quite amazing the way Tolstoy managed to bring together such a range of contrasts in such a short space – the pathetic, animal-like condition to which the French have been reduced, the mixture of compassion, disdain and pride felt by the Kutuzov and by the Russians and, most especially, the transformation of Kutuzov from Commander in Chief to simple old man.

  2. Well, who amongst us knows how to tell somebody to uckfay in Russian, anyway? It’s not something they’re going to teach young people in grade 13 (matric). The interpreters/translators must know . . . maybe there isn’t any translation – in French, I think it’s ‘va fu’ . . . and a lot of the Russians seemed to be parlaying zee francais in that book.

    I once worked with a buncha’ Hungarian people – I learned what the term ‘boz mack’ meant – that’s pronunciation; haven’t a clue how it’s spelled. Then there’s the Italian – fungula . . . the plural being funguli (a joke, of course).

    Hang around people of any nationality, you’re going to pick up on all the stuff you’re not supposed to say.

    One thing’s for certain . . . the whole war didn’t go by without anybody swearing – couldn’t imagine any of the troops not saying something they wouldn’t say in front of their mothers.

    Notice how some of them talk about women – in those scenes on bridges and all that. Innocent women traveling with their fathers and husbands – the men acted like they’d never seen females before.

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