Apropos of the “Kamasutra” translation

Alexander Syrkin

Vostok/Oriens '2018, №2

DOI: 10.7868/S0869190818020085

The present paper deals with Anton O. Zakharov’s critical analysis of some fragments from my Russian translation of Vātsyāyana’s Kāmasūtra (K) (implemented about fifty years ago and first published in 1993), as well as of respective variants contained in several English translations (mostly recent) (“Few notes on the Russian translation of “Kāmasūtra”, in: Vostok (Oriens), 2016, № 5, pp. 172–185). My paper suggests a number of arguments in defence of certain interpretations where, in the translator’s opinion, neither any premeditated “softening” nor the censorship took place (cf. K 6.1; 6.44 sq.; 7.3 etc.). At the same time the translation is not felicitous enough in some places and it should be improved (cf. 1.38; 19.1 sq., etc.). The use of Latin equivalents in the commentary Russian translation can be partly explained by the classical education of the translator, who was influenced by old medical and juridical traditions. At the same time—irrespective of results—I did not intend to produce a popular book. As a whole, the analysis made by A.O. Zakharov seems well-founded and useful for further K studies. In the course of exposition the paper briefly touches upon some more general issues pertinent to the translation of classic texts: the inadequacy of respective semantics in different languages, the type of the text (“scientific” or “artistic”), the perception of the original by its immediate addressees (where possible reconstructions are more or less hypothetic). In this connection several examples of translations which play a prominent role in Russian culture, are adduced.

Keywords: problems of translation, philology, Sanskrit, Russian culture, science of erotica, censorship

Pages: С. 93–102

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