Vanessa Thorpe of The Observer reports on another potentially troubling trend: the modification and modernization of long and otherwise difficult books. Reworked titles include a serialized but otherwise unmodified version of Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell to be released in three volumes; a much-modified version of Steven Hawking’s A Brief History of Time, which has discarded the original’s more abstract discussions and expanded on the crowd-pleasing topics of relativity and quantum theory; and, last but not least, a new translation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.
Anthony Briggs, the professor of Russian at Birmingham University responsible for the daunting task of translating Tolstoy, delivers the first major English-language rendition of the book in nearly 50 years. He felt it was long overdue. “I felt it needed refreshing and renewing,” he says. “When you read one of the older translations you feel as if you are being read to by the Queen or by Lady Antonia Fraser. I am very different to previous translators … and I hope I have made it more readable for today.” In light of the reported major discrepancies in dialogue between translated versions, one only hopes that Briggs has not gone too far.
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