Ekaterina Shatalova holds a Master’s degree in Victorian Literature from the University of Oxford. She is a member of the Union of Translators of Russia who enjoys translating children’s TV shows and books. When not translating, she reviews books for British and Russian publishers. She is currently researching children’s literature at the University of Glasgow as an Erasmus Mundus scholar.
Russian (Re)Translations of Wilde’s Salomé: A Comparative Study
‘Born-translated’ (to use the term devised by Rebecca Walkowitz), Wilde’s Salomé has survived several attempts of translation, and not just into English, but also into the world’s other major languages, including German, Czech, Hebrew, Dutch, Greek, Italian, Polish, Russian, Spanish, Catalan, Swedish, and Yiddish. Without doubt, this reflects the play’s plasticity of language and its timeless appeal.
Russian translations alone include at least eleven known versions with the first being published in 1904 and the most recent in 2001, which makes Salomé one of Wilde’s most translated works into Russian. Walter Ledger’s 1909 bibliography included six Russian translations, all published within a span of just five years during what was known as ‘a flourishing cult of Wilde among the Russian Symbolists and Decadents.’ Some of these translations are discussed in Rachel Polonsky’s book English Literature and the Russian Aesthetic Renaissance (1998) from a historical perspective, however, there are still some gaps in the actual analysis of translation challenges faced by Russian translators.
In this paper, I will look at both the early translations of Salomé (including previously undiscovered anonymous translation published by Saint Petersburg’s publisher V. I. Rotenshtern in 1909 and a curios 1910 poetical adaptation by a female poet A. D. Runovskaya) and the contemporary translations made by Maya Koreneva (1993), Pyotr Petrov (1999), and Valery Chukhno (2001). By analysing and comparing the texts themselves, I will explore what remains of Wilde’s creation after it passes through the language veils. What are the major differences between the early re-translations and the more recent ones? How do different translators approach the formal difficulties, such as the ‘alien’ quality of the play, the repetitions patterns, the rendering
of biblical images, the colour symbolism, etc? Which translation is the most popular one and why? Which version is used in modern stage productions? These are just some of the questions that this paper will investigate.