A decent translation, though annoyingly lacking . . .
Avaliado nos Estados Unidos em 13 de julho de 2008
I've read the superb little City Lights book of Mayakovsky's work (
Listen! Early Poems (City Lights Pocket Poets Series)
, translated by Maria Enzensberger), and Kneller's translations holds up to that standard. The book has a decent selection of Mayakovsky's poetry, from various periods in his life. It's easy to get the sense that Kneller put a lot of time into making Mayakovsky's work both rigidly artistic while at the same time practical and vernacular, and this is ultimately why so many translations fail.
It is unfortunate that this book fails on a more superficial level: the content is fine but the book as a book is just embarrassing. There are numerous typos, including the lack of periods. It's quite obvious because it occurs so frequently. Also, the formating (most noticeably the m-dashes) is not consistent. I found myself going back and forth between the Russian and the English (both on facing pages), and finding quite easily inconsistencies.
The notes that are in the back of the book are also inconsistent. The note titles in the back will sometimes (but not always!) be the same as the words they are referencing in the text. For example, "Good!" is in the text, and "Good" is what the reference page lists. Now obviously this isn't a crucial problem, but it is annoying to see that a published book is being printed with such juvenile errors.
Also, let me take a brief moment to call out some "interesting" decisions that were made in the book layout. The book begins with a title page (that has a page number on it!); the book continues with its copyright page, which has a mere two lines (okay, it's an self-published book, but it's noticeably amateur). The following page is the critical statement on Mayakovsky that is by Marina Tsvetaeva, and it is the same statement on the back cover of the book. Now the book is isn't huge, so I do not really know why the quote was repeated. Anyway, after a dedication page (one line), and then an epigraph from Mayakovsky himself (one stanza), and the second title page, the book's main content begins. The body of the book is pretty much how it's supposed to be. But what was missing from everything just listed?
A table of contents.
That's right, the table of contents is located after the body of poetry that makes up the book, before the notes section. I am trying to figure out a logical reason for this, but it's escaping me.
The notes are all pretty much okay. I learned a lot of interesting biographical information in them, though some of the notes show more bias than others. Also, there are quite a few words and references in Mayakovsky's poems that, for some reason, don't make the cut. One of these is "Goethe's Gretchen," which is obviously an allusion to Faust; however, Mephistopheles gets an end note, which produces quite an enigma. Also, Zarathustra makes an appearance and has an end note but no mention of Nietzsche, who was an obvious influence, is made.
After the notes section, Kneller has kindly provided the reader with a 1 and 1/4th page biography of Mayakovsky. Well, if only it were a good thing. There is no birth date, no death date, and hey, the formatting is also completely haphazard (spaces in between paragraphs at varying amounts!). Also, the source of the biography is listed as being from the commercially shoddy (inferior) website, [...]. The included biography is only bits and pieces from what is on that site, too, which is apparently some rationale I have yet to understand.
The last page of the book has a barcode and says "Made in the USA." So there is no printing press information or contact information AT ALL throughout the entire book.
One last note: the entire book appears to have been created in Microsoft Word, and it appears that Kneller or whomever designed the book did not take the time to learn how to appropriately use headers and footers, as every page in the book (quite literally) has the same header and footer; and in addition, the headers and footers are in a ridiculously contrasting font that is more distracting than helpful.
I understand self-publishing is good, I just wish that this book had been edited by anyone with a brain, as Kneller is quite a good translator. If you're looking for the best book of Mayakovsky out there, steer to another direction.
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