Eugene Onegin is the master work of the poet whom Russians regard as the fountainhead of their literature. Set in 1820s Russia, Pushkin's novel in verse follows the fates of three men and three women. It was Pushkin's own favourite work, and this new translation conveys the literal sense and the poetic music of the original.
Eugene Onegin is the master work of the poet whom Russians regard as the fountainhead of their literature. Set in 1820s imperial Russia, Pushkin's novel in verse follows the emotions and destiny of three men - Onegin the bored fop, Lensky the minor elegiast, and a stylized Pushkin himself - and the fates and affections of three women - Tatyana the provincial beauty, her sister Olga, and Pushkin's mercurial Muse. Engaging, full of suspense, and varied in tone, it also portrays a large cast of other characters and offers the listener many literary, philosophical, and autobiographical digressions, often in a highly satirical vein. Eugene Onegin was Pushkin's own favourite work, and it shows him attempting to transform himself from a romantic poet into a realistic novelist. This new translation seeks to retain both the literal sense and the poetic music of the original, and capture the poem's spontaneity and wit.
©1990, 1995 James E. Falen (P)2014 Audible Inc.
Most in a position to judge find Falen's translation a miracle of verbal and metrical fidelity, but it deserves a much better performance than this one. If Stephen Fry's amazing reading of Falen's translation ever turns up on Audible, snatch it up without delay. In the meantime, stick with Neville Jason's reading of Mary Robson's version (Evgenii Onegin). Jason may not be quite as good as Fry, and Robson is certainly not as good as Falen, but Jason is so much better than Corkhill that there's no contest.
Eugene Onegin is a "novel in verse - the whole of it written in a series of 14-line verses with an unusually complex rhyme scheme. Falen's translation tries to reproduce the scheme in English. This isn't an easy task - English being notoriously short on rhymes - but he succeeds to an extent I wouldn't have thought possible. The syntax isn't distorted, and the rhymes click into place reliably and gracefully.
The rhymes are a big part of the pleasure of listening to this (although Raphael Corkhill's narration sometimes emphasizes line endings more than I would have preferred). Even if you don't try to explicitly follow the scheme, you will begin to intuit it and eagerly anticipate the next rhyme. That this doesn't distract from comprehension of the story testifies to the clarity and lucid simplicity of both story and verse.
It's a straightforward, sad story about friendship, love, loss, and regret. I'd read it years ago for a literature class, but I think the translation was a dud; it didn't make much of an impression. This time around, the novel was a pure delight.
If you give it a try, watch for the almost psychedelic description of a young woman's nightmare.
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