Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Two Chunks of Nerdery

Today was a very nice day, all sunny and shiny. I was up early in the morning to help my little sister carry her amplifier and electric guitar to school for a rehearsal with her band and after that wandered off into the woods with my new copy of The Master and Margarita to read it in some nice shady spot under the trees.

The reason why I have a new copy of one of my favourite books isn't for the usual reason - I've not read it until it fell apart, no, it is instead because I was curious to read the other - more critically praised - translation of the original russian text. I've found this reading of the book to be much more enlightening about the political and social commentary of the book which is rather subtle and below my radar when I'm not in proper academic mode but I'm not sure whether this is because the language of the book makes these points clearer or because the footnotes flag up the examples of it and make you aware of the ways in which bulgakov presented politics.

Overall I have decided - shock horror - that I prefer the earlier, Michael Glenny translation. The language is more natural, more clear and well, english. You see, with the Peevar translation you are never able to forget that the book is a translation - there are too many strained attempts to accurately follow the phrasing of Bulgakov's language. There are numerous occasions where the language has obviously had to be oddly warped and battered to include some sort of thematic motif which the earlier translation - unable to fit it comfortably into english speech patterns - omitted.

I think that the high opinion of the later translation is based on a rather flawed understanding of what a translation should do - The standard reason given for preferring the Peevar translation is that people who can, and have, read the novel in both languages prefer the langauge of Peevar, finding it more representative of Bulgakov's original. I, however, think that this is precisely the reason why the Peevar translation is weaker - I'm sure that if you know the Russian phrases which Peevar is straining the phraseology to express in English then it seems fine, but if you are unfamiliar with the original language (and, let's face it, most of the readers of the book are - that's why they are reading the translation) then it just seems like clumsy dialogue. The Glenny translation seems to try and find phrases that are equivalent in usage and implication, rather than translating russian turns of phrase which don't really transfer well. This means that it often misses some subtle reference to something or other which makes it less suitable for critical study, but I think as a book to sit down and read, the Glenny is better.

Mind you, having not read it in the original language, any attempt at a scholarly argument along these lines would be rubbished by people who have, and who therefore win in the game of intellectual one-upmanship. There is also the fact that I've not read the glenny translation in a good few months - it might not be as good as I remember.


Having used my brain for the first time in a while I decided to finally get off my arse and do something constructive as well - so I sat down and wrote an intelligent and attractive CV....


only joking - I got my tools out and dismantled the electric guitar that Ed and Lucy gave me in exchange for my old bass.

This guitar was in the worst state I've ever attempted to resuscitate a guitar from. On first examination early indications weren't good - the neck was bowed back and there wasn't any visible sign of a truss rod adjuster, the action was very high and the tremolo was stuck in the foward position.

After finding the truss rod, and using this... interesting setup I managed to get the neck to bend foward until it was straight and level

All the containers are filled with water to push the ends of the neck down whilst the batteries hold the middle up. I left it like that for a few hours, until it learned its lesson and stopped sassing me.

and after some fairly drastic lowering of saddles and tightening of springs i got the thing to the point were it was actually really nice to play - and to my shock I found that it actually has a really nice sound - very erm. bitey and sharp, kinda dark red and crunchy...

So now I have a decent electric guitar and if ed and lucy sent me that guitar as some sort of bet I think I've won.


In other news the wireless network stopped talking to my computer within about 10 hours of it starting and I can't seem to persuade it to resume diplomatic negotiations.