The Translation of Fyodor Dostoevski in Portugal: 1886 – 2021, William P. Rougle

Introduction: The bibliography defined in this study is based on a full examination of the Base Nacional de Dados Bibliográficos (PORBASE) of the Biblioteca Nacional de Portugal in order to identify all book translations of Dostoevski from his first translation in 1890 (Nietotchka.  Lisboa: Ed. do Século. 1890)  to 2021.  An equally thorough survey of over one hundred Portuguese newspapers, magazines, and journals for the period 1846 to 1984 was conducted to identify additional translations. Every attempt was made to be as comprehensive as possible, and I believe that the list of the translations, the first of its kind in Portugal, is complete.   It should be noted, however, that it was not always possible to identify all the titles in a few of the anthologies as well as all the translators, page numbers and dates of a number of the works included in the two editions of his Obras Completas due to an inability to directly examine the works in question.  This in no way diminishes the primary objective of this study, i.e., to establish a bibliographical basis through which others interested in investigating the reception of Dostoevski in Portugal would have access to one of the most essential tools in defining the historical framework of that reception.

The history of the translation of Dostoevski in Portugal can be divided into three major periods: 1) 1886 to 1919 , when his first translation was published in Portugal and Eugene-Melchior de Vogüé’s pioneering book Le Roman russe  was published in France,[1] resulting in a reassessment and enthusiasm for Russian literature throughout Europe that was curtailed only by the First World War; 2) 1920 to  1979, the most prolific and diverse period of the Portuguese reception of Russian literature both in terms of translations and criticism. Additionally, it was during this period that Russian literature had its most significant impact on Portuguese literature due primarily to the reassessment by the presentistas of Dostoevski’s works as inspired by Andre Guide; 3) 1980 to 2021, when, for the first time, all Dostoevski’s novels, his best novellas and short stories were translated directly from Russian. 

Translation of Dostoevski 1886 to 1919

Any history of the translation of Dostoevski in Portugal must begin with an introduction into the role Eugene-Melchior de Vogüé’s celebrated book Le Roman russe[2] played in awakening of Europe and America to the genius of Russian literature.  Prior to Vogüé’s insightful reading of such major Russian writers as Tolstoi, Dostoevsky, Gogol, and Turgenev, Russian literature was viewed by Europeans as a national one that could only be understood and appreciated by Russians.  Shortly after its publication, Russian literature was acclaimed for its universal values and artistic innovation, resulting in an unprecedented boom in foreign translations and critical appraisal of Russian literature. Prior to the appearance of Vogüé’s book, the only work of Dostoevski that had been translated into Portuguese was his short story “A arvore de Natal” published in 1886.[3] After Vogüé, Crime and Punishment was published in serial form as early as 1889,[4] 12 years before it appeared in book form in 1901 followed by a second edition in 1910. [5]  A year later, his first novel, Netochka Nezvanova[6] was translated, followed by his novella Katia (The Landlady), in 1900[7], an abbreviated serialized version of The Idiot in 1902[8], a short story, “O moujik Marey. Lembranças da Sibéria.”[9] and in 1908,two editions of his novel Um clube da má-língua (Uncles Dream) (1908).[10]

It is important to note that all the translations of Dostoevski during this period were based on French translations which had been seriously abridged to suit French taste because the<<French readership of the 1880s was not yet ripe for an unpolished Dostoevsky, that in order to give him a fair chance in the French book market it was necessary to soften the culture clash>>.[11] As result, the Portuguese translations suffered from the same defects and presented a simplified Dostoevski as a psychologist and moody realist whose philanthropy extended to the humiliated and disenfranchised. 

1920 to 1979

The enthusiasm for Russian literature in Portugal peaked during the first decade of the twentieth century but quickly faded in the wake of World War I. The tremendous carnage and the suffering brought about by the War shook man’s belief in God and caused him to question the meaning and reason of his existence. To aid him in his search to redefine himself and discover new meaning in life, man turned to past and contemporary writers and philosophers who offered him both hope and a deeper understanding of his spiritual and existential dilemma. Just as Russian literature had provided man with a more human, realistic, and spiritual understanding of his world in the nineteenth century, in the twentieth century, it offered him, primarily through a reassessment of Dostoevski, a multifaceted vision of man in crisis, both metaphysically and existentially, and a means to resolve this crisis.

In his study on the Russian novel in France, Hemmings points out that the force behind the reevaluation of Dostoevski was the noted French critic and writer Andre Gide (1869 – 1951).  Even before the War, Gide had argued that Dostoevski had been underappreciated, even misunderstood by Vogüé and other French critics and because of this, <<much of what had been written about Dostoevski was untrue or true to so limited a degree that it falsified the ordinary man’s conception of the writer and his works>>.[12] The primary objective of Gide’s early criticism was to establish that a vast deal remained to be said about Dostoevski’s works for those who still refused to admit his genius.  It was only after the War, however, that Gide established himself as the keenest and most illuminating intermediary Dostoevski had in France owing to his famous 1923 lectures on Dostoevski,[13]  which shed light on the complexity of Dostoevski’s novelistic craftmanship, his multifaceted understanding of man’s subconscious and search to give meaning to his existence. (Hemmings, Op cit. 227) In much the same way that Vogue’s Roman russe stimulated a reassessment of Russian literature, Gide’s lectures led to a reevaluation and recognition of Dostoevski’s genius throughout Europe. This was especially true in Portugal where the presentistas, inspired by Andre Gide’s criticism, and led by João Gaspar Simões, championed Dostoevski as a writer whose work embodied Presença’s position that literature should value <<o individual sobre o colectivo, do psicológico sobre o social, da intuição sobre a razão>>.    

Presença’s championing of Dostoevski’s literary genius generated an unprecedented interest in his work as evidenced by the fact that translations of his work account almost half of the 37 book titles of Russian literature published in the 1930’s. In all, three different editions of Crime e castigo, (1936 (2), 1937), a second edition of A voz subterrânea, (1937),  an edition of Um clube da má-língua, (Uncle’s Dream) (1936), and for the first time, translations of A mulher do outro: aventura extraordinária, (The Jealous Husband) ( 1936), A patroa, (The Land Lady)(1936), Pobre gente, (1936),  Os irmãos Karamazoff (1937),  O eterno marido, (1938), Os possessos  (1939), and O jogador, (1939) were published. Additionally, the editing house Civilização published inexpensive, pocket-size, large, editions of five of his works: Crime e castigo, A voz subterrânea, A mulher do outro, Pobre gente and Um clube da má-língua, which greatly expanded his readership and fame.

In the 40s, translations of Russian literature increased almost three-fold (95 total) and once again, Dostoevski, with 26 separate translations, was the most widely published Russian writer with fifteen book titles, including first-time publications of three of his most important works:  Humilhados e ofendidos (1940, 46, 47, 48), O idiota (194-, 1943, 44), and Recordações da casa dos mortos (1942) and seven other notable firsts: Está morta! (1940), Noites brancas(1940),  A confissão de Stavroguine (1941), “O grande inquisidor” (1941), O pequeno herói (1941), Um adolescente (1945).

Dostoevski maintained his popularity in the 50’s as evidenced by repeat translations of almost all of his major novels and novellas published in the 30s and 40s. Beginning in the 60’s and continuing into the 70s the publication of  individual titles by Dostoevski diminished, but two extensive editions of his complete works were published by  Arcádia (10 volumes, 1964-68),  which included, for the first time, a complete translation of his Writer’s Diary (Diário de um Escritor)[14] and  Estudios Cor, (16 volumes1963-1970) (see bibliography for complete contents of both works). The publications of Dostoevski’s complete works represented a milestone in the translation of his work in Portugal.  Not only did it make his complete works available to the reading public for the first time, but a conscious effort was also made to professionalize the translations of all the texts by consulting the best Spanish, English and contemporary French translations of Dostoevski’s work. 

After five decades of continuous growth, translations of Russian literature fell dramatically from over 200 book titles in the 70s to just over 50 in the 80s and 40 in the 90s. This sharp decline in the number of translations is reflected significantly in the number of translations of Dostoevski. In the 70s, 22 translations of Dostoevski were published versus only 13 for the 80s and 90s combined.

1980 to 2021

 Unexpectedly, Russian literature experienced its third renaissance in the first decade of the 21st century.  Over 205 separate book translations of Russian writers were published from 2000 to 2010 followed by 90 in the next eleven years. Unlike before, this resurgence was not driven by any literary movement but rather by four publishing houses, most notably Relógio D’Água, Presença,  Assírio & Alvim, and Europa-América, which, working together with three talented translators, Antonio Pescada, Filipe and Nina Guerra, whose  translations of  all the major Classic Russian writers as well as a wide variety of Soviet and contemporary Russian writers were direct from  the Russian. The works of Dostoevski dominated their selection. The statistics speak for themselves. Of the 295 translations published from 2000 to 2021, the Guerras and Pescada were responsible for over half of the titles (170) of all Russian works published.  Moreover, together, their 68 Dostoevski book translations (61 titles for the Guerras and 6 for Pescada) accounted for 80% of all translations of Dostoevski (79 total) including 13 editions of O idiota, 12 of his novella O jogador, 10 of Crime e castigo, and 4 of Os irmãos Karamazoff!

[i]      Eugene-Melchior de Vogüé, Le Roman russe (Paris: Libriarie Plon, 1886)

[ii]     (For more detail see: W. J. Hemmings. The Russian Novel in France (London: Oxford University Press, 1950), 27 – 30, 48 -52.  William Edgerton’s: “The Penetration of Nineteenth-Century Russian Literature into the other Slavic Countries” In American Contributions to the Fifth International Congress of Slavists. Sofia, September 1963. Volume II: Literary Contributions. The Hague: Mouton & Co. 41-78.

[iii]      Fyodor Dostoevski. “A árvore do Natal,” Correio da Manhã: Supplemento Litterário, 4 jan. 1886: 1-2.

[iv]      Fyodor Dostoevski. “O Crime e o Castigo”. ? O Reporter, 1 Jan. 1889 a 9 Out., 1889. (217 folhetins)

[v]        Fyodor Dostoevski Crime e castigo. Camara Lima. 2 vols.( Lisboa: Tavares Cardoso e Irmão, 1901); Fyodor Dostoevski. Crime e castigo. 2ª ed.  Trad. Camara Lima; pref. Maria Amália Vaz de Carvalho (Lisboa: Empreza Litteraria Fluminense, 1910).

[vi]       Fyodor Dostoevski, Nietotchka, Trad(?), (Lisboa: Ed. do Século. 1890).

[vii]      Fyodor Dostoevski,  Katia.,  O Ocidente. 20 de fevereiro 1900, 39,40; 28 de fevereiro 1900, 47,48; 10 de março 1900, 54 – 56; 20 de março, 1900, 63,64; 30 de março 1900, 71,72; 10 de abril 1900, 79,80; 20 de abril 1900, 86 – 88; 10 de maio, 105 – 107; 20 de maio 1900, 111 – 114; 30 de maio 1900, 123; 10 de junho 1900, 131,132.

[viii]      Fyodor Dostoevski “O idiota”, A Epoca. Trad.?  3 de maio 1902 a 25 de novembro 1902. (147 folhetins). 

[ix]        Fyodor Dostoevski, O Seculo Revista Literária, 14 out 1906, 10.

[x]         Fyodor Dostoevski,  Um clube da má-língua, Trad. Manuel de Maced,  (Lisboa: Typ. A Editora, 1908).  Fyodor Dostoevski,  Um clube da má-língua, Trad. Manuel Macedo. 2a edição, (Lisboa: Typ. A Editora, 1908).

[xi]        Pieter Boulogne “Europe’s Conquest of the Russian Novel: The Pivotal Role of France and Germany”, 

[xii]       W. J. Hemmings. The Russian Novel in France (London: Oxford University Press, 1950),226.

[xiii]      Andre Gide, Dostoevsky, Trans. Arnold Bennett, (London & Toronto: J.M. Dent and Sons,1925).

[xiv]      João Gaspar Simões notes In an interview given to this writer on May 17, 1979, that his translation is the only complete Portuguese translation that exists which he was only able to complete with the help of English and Spanish translations due to the fact that the French translations were incomplete. See William Rougle, A literatura portuguesa  vista por autores portugueses, ( Lisboa: MIL, 1916), 82.