David Magarshack and Penguin Books

Our Postdoctoral Fellow, Dr Cathy McAteer, carried out this case study on the life and cultural influences of the ethnically Russian, Latvian-born translator David Magarshack, whose translations of Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and others for Penguin Books remained canonical in the Anglophone world for decades. In this project, which consolidates her PhD research at the University of Bristol, Dr McAteer extended her scope to include other translators, Magarshack’s contemporaries, who worked for Penguin during the decades immediately following the Second World War. The main research question is how the domesticating strategies employed by Magarshack’s generation of translators helped to ‘tame’, or at least normalize, the alien terrain of Russian literature for UK audiences. Did this softening in public perceptions of Russian culture pave the way for the subsequent sympathetic reception of dissident literature (by Pasternak, Solzhenitsyn, Bulgakov, and Grossman) in translation? To what extent did Penguin’s translators and their networks ‘train’ the political attitudes of their British readership?

Read Dr McAteer’s research monograph, Translating Great Russian Literature: The Penguin Russian Classics (Routledge BASEES Series), 2020) here. The e-version is Open Access.