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An Epic Journey: Translating 'Ulysses'

Published: June 30, 2014 (Issue # 1817)



  • A 1993 printing of Khoruzhy's translation.
    Photo: Amazon.com

Exactly a quarter-century ago, in the twilight of the Soviet Union, a literary development took place that only a few years earlier would have been utterly unthinkable: James Joyce's modernist masterpiece "Ulysses" was published in Russian.

The man who dared to take on Joyce, whose writing had been condemned in the Soviet Union back in 1934, was not a professional translator, but a physicist and philosopher. Furthermore, Sergei Khoruzhy, now 73, said he never expected to even read the weighty experimental tome, never mind become the first person to translate it into Russian.

The achievement started out as a favor, albeit a rather big one. Khoruzhy's friend Viktor Khinkis was a well-known Russian translator who had been working on translating the book in secret for over a decade when he died in 1981. The novel, first published in entirety in 1922 and broadly acknowledged to be one of the most important novels of the 20th century, was banned in the Soviet Union for not conforming to the policy of socialist realism. When his health began to fail, Khinkis, who suffered from manic depression, asked Khoruzhy to help him finish the work.

"He realized he would not complete it in his lifetime, and he trusted me to help him," Khoruzhy said.

Khoruzhy was an unlikely choice, because he had no translation experience. "Actually, I disliked translations," he said. "I felt they were artificial in their language and style, and to be quite honest, I did not consider the profession of translator as something very creative. Viktor and I did not really involve each other in our work."

Working with his friend's manuscript and notes, Khoruzhy at first struggled to edit and revise.

"I tried to continue his work and I saw that it was impossible," he said. "And I started to just begin from scratch and produced my own translation. But I put his name on my work — both of our names — because without him this would not have happened."

A Hazardous Occupation

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Monday, Oct. 20


Amateur pictures from World War I are on display for only one more day at Rosphoto’s exhibition “On Both Sides,” chronicling the conflict through the eyes of observers on both sides of the trenches. The price of entrance to the exhibition is 100 rubles ($2.50).



Tuesday, Oct. 21


The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organization’s office.


Take the chance to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.


Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Center’s series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this month’s lessons being “visual arts.”



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