James Falen’s Translation of “Eugene Onegin”

Having only ever read EO in the original, I admit that I approached this translation with trepidation.  I chose it for my Masterworks in Russian Literature class because I’d heard it was the best of the available translations; having only read excerpts of others I can’t judge completely, but this translation is certainly masterful on every level.  Falen preserves the meter and rhyme scheme, and produces verse that retains much of the light, playful, conversational tone of the original.  My native speakers of English in the class said it felt like reading something written originally in English, and my native speakers of Russian said it felt almost like reading it in Russian.  It is not of course a word-for-word translation–I guess for that you need Nabokov–but most of the time it is close enough.  I admit I was a little taken aback to see that Eugene’s “Моё!” in Chapter 5 was translated as “She’s mine!”, and I wish they had marked the missing stanzas with lines of dots as is done in the Russian editions I own, but that is such a minor quibble I feel embarrassed even bringing it up, and other than that the fidelity of the translation is almost as impressive as its poetic sense.  If you have to read EO in English, then this is the translation I would recommend.

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