“Were I the Author of This Tale”: Tolstoy’s Translations
When, in 1897, Lev Tolstoy discovered that he was being lauded as the author of a short story he had translated, he wrote to the rightful author and apologized: “… I deeply regret, not only that such a falsehood was allowed to pass unchallenged, but also the fact that it was a falsehood, for I should be very happy were I the author of this tale.” This historical drama is one of many that arose during Tolstoy’s years of translating, corresponding with his own translators, and exploring cross-cultural encounters in his fiction. “Were I the Author of This Tale”: Tolstoy’s Translations explores Tolstoy’s works as meditations on the ethics and aesthetics of speaking for others. Though Tolstoy was ostensibly committed to disseminating a canon of world literature, his work reveals a perplexing tendency to appropriate and re-authorize foreign texts.
Elizabeth F. Geballe is Assistant Professor of Slavic & East European Languages and Cultures at IU Bloomington. Her research interests include Russian realism, literature and medicine, translation theory, the Russian and English modernist short story, influence and adaptation, and metafiction. Since the completion of her dissertation, “Remains to be Seen: The Afterlife of Russian Realism,” Geballe has been exploring the ways that translators, disciples, and plagiarists make creative appropriation synonymous with medical diagnosis.