April 10, 2008 by Tracey S. Rosenberg
Here I have a copy of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s masterpiece Crime and Punishment. The cover art is a photograph of a man who is presumably rushing from one place to anther, judging from the blurriness of his leg area. There is also a tasteful BBC logo up in the corner, and a ‘BBC The Big Read Top 100’ sticker. The title of the book is in a decent-sized font, and the author’s name is in a much smaller font way down at the bottom. (Clearly you’re expected to see the title and Mr. Blurry and cry, ‘oh, that’s the mini-series!’ and grab it from the shelf.)
Okay, I am not going to be a snob about tv tie-in copies of books. *thinks* Sorry, in fact I am, because I’m never going to READ one. What you read gives people information about you, and the information they should know about me is that I read Booker-nominated novels, not that I go to see movies starring Keira Knightley and then say ‘gosh, it was a book?’
But what I am not a snob about is using covers to attract readers who might not otherwise pick up that book. So Wuthering Heights is being marketed to teeny goths by use of brooding, shadowy cover art? Great! I’m slightly less enthused about Jane Austen relaunched as Dame Barbara Cartland but you know, we all find our own ways in to literature, and not everyone wants to spend their summers reading through the shelves of the public library. (And in these days of public library cutbacks, not everyone can.)
So here’s Fyodor being marketed as a miniseries tie-in. The back cover blurb is as reasonable as any – and it neither gives away the plot nor gets it wrong, which is a plus – and the list of credits for the tie-in and the new cover art are tiny and tasteful.
First page: long bio of F.D. Followed by: title page listing a) title, b) author, c) Penguin Books logo, d) ‘Penguin Books’ and ‘BBC Books’. Verso: List of Penguin’s worldwide offices, date of Penguin Popular Classics publication (1997) and tv tie-in edition (2001), notice not to rent it without permission etc.
So apparently this novel transmutes from Russian to English by the power of my mind.
Because there sure as hell isn’t a translator listed anywhere. No, no, you have to make sure that the guy playing Luzhin gets mentioned on the back cover, but heaven forbid you acknowledge the poor soul who turned 400+ pages of 19th-century Russian tragedy into comprehensible English. And I can’t even FIND this edition in a non-tv edition, because there are no less than 3 subsequent Penguin editions and they’re clearly different, because they don’t start “One sultry evening early in July”. Nor does a search on that provide any clues.
So I’d say the real crime here is the eradication of the translator. Well, whoever you are, some of us salute you.
Thundercat, meanwhile, is undergoing a different form of crime and punishment. You know what they have at the vet’s? Big needles. And you know what they do with those needles? Use them as instruments of torture on kitties. And then I had the effrontery to put raspberries in a bowl that would be much better used for kitty food. Pah, says Thundercat, sulking on the windowsill.
[12 days left to use the discount coupon that Better World Books set up exclusively for readers of this blog! Details in this entry. And yes, that’s ‘exclusive’ in the women’s magazine sense of ‘world exclusive interview with someone who is interviewed for every single issue.’]