Polish your English with “The Master and Margarita”! Issue 34

“Трудно сказать, что именно подвело Ивана Николаевича — изобразительная ли сила его таланта или полное незнакомство с вопросом, по которому он писал, — но Иисус у него получился, ну совершенно живой, некогда существовавший Иисус, только, правда, снабженный всеми отрицательными чертами Иисус.”

[AmB]
It is hard to say what had ultimately led Ivan Nikolayevich astray — the descriptive power of his pen, or his complete ignorance of his subject matter, but the Jesus whom he portrayed emerged as a, well, totally lifelike figure, a Jesus who had once existed, although, admittedly, a Jesus provided with all sorts of negative traits.

[AmG]
It is difficult to say precisely what had tripped up Ivan Nikolayevich — his imaginative powers or complete un-familiarity with the subject. But his Jesus turned out, well… altogether alive — the Jesus who had existed once upon a time, although invested, it is true, with a full range of negative characteristics.

[AmK]
It is difficult to say what exactly undermined Ivan Nikolayevich’s piece – the descriptive power of his talent, or his complete ignorance of the subject – but his Jesus turned out to be a very lifelike, if unattractive, character.

[AmP]
It is hard to say what precisely had let Ivan Nikolaevich down — the descriptive powers of his talent or a total unfamiliarity with the question he was writing about — but his Jesus came out, well, completely alive, the once-existing Jesus, though, true, a Jesus furnished with all negative features.

[BrA]
It is hard to say what precisely had let Ivan Nikolayevich down — whether it had been the graphic power of his talent, or his utter unfamiliarity with the question on which he was writing — but his Jesus had come out as just a living Jesus who had once existed: only, true, a Jesus furnished with all the negative features possible.

[BrG]
It was hard to say exactly what had made Bezdomny write as he had — whether it was his great talent for graphic description or complete ignorance of the subject he was writing on, but his Jesus had come out, well, completely alive, a Jesus who had really existed, although admittedly a Jesus who had every possible fault.

[GT 2017-09-13]
It’s hard to say what exactly Ivan Nikolayevich summed up — whether the graphic power of his talent or complete ignorance of the question on which he wrote — but Jesus did it, well, quite alive, once existed Jesus, only, however, equipped with all the negative features of Jesus.

Big Boris’ Commentary:

1. Observe that only [AmK] used Past Simple for “подвело”. The others preferred Past Perfect. Try to explain this.
2. Observe the use of Past Progressive for “писал” by [BrA] and [BrG].
3. [BrA] used Past Perfect in “whether it had been the graphic power of his talent”, while [BrG] used Past Simple for “whether it was his great talent”. Try to explain this.
4. Observe that [BrA] and [BrG] used Past Perfect for “получился”, while the others used Past Simple. Try to explain the difference.
5. Observe the use of Definite and Indefinite Articles with the 2-nd and 3-rd “Jesus”. Try to explain the difference.

Don’t hesitate to comment and propose your variants of translation!

Legend (“Am” = American English, “Br” = British English):

[AmB] — Burgin, O’Connor 1995
[AmG] — Ginsburg 1967
[AmI] — Itallie 1993 (Theatrical Adaptation)
[AmK] — Karpelson 2006
[AmP] — Pevear, Volokhonsky 1997
[BrA] — Aplin 2008
[BrG] — Glenny 1967
[GT] — Google Translate

© Big Boris 2005 – 2017

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