On translating Russian

In my Sportsman’s Library, usually called “The Book of books” around here, I wrote about Mikhail Prishvin’s Nature’s Diary, and the problem of translation:

“There is also an interesting book by Prishvin, published by Pantheon 1952, called The Lake and the Woods, a handsome volume illustrated by woodcuts. A close read reveals it is the same book, but by a different translator and, more remarkably, with hardly any two words the same! I have helped translate another hunting book from the Russian, and know that the languages are different enough that some paraphrase is inevitable, but this edges into funny. Having no Russian edition, I can’t tell which seems the better. The new one reads more smoothly and the old is prettier. I am happy to have both.”

The first Prishvin I read was published by Penguin in 1987 and translated by L. Navrozov. Here is a passage:

“I always felt ashamed when I came to my senses after the madness of a chase as I slung a wretched limp hare over my shoulder, but this queen of the woods was no anti-climax to a hunt even when dead, and Solovei would have gone worrying the carcass if I had let him.

“The shadows had already deepened into twilight.”

And then The Lake and the Woods (published by Pantheon in 1951, and translated by W. L. Goodman):

“I am always ashamed to come to myself after a mad chase, when there is nothing to hang over my shoulder except a miserable, puny hare. But this beauty we had caught and killed was worth the hunting, and if Solovya had had his way, he would have gone on for more.

“Thus it was we met the twilight in the forest.”

Recently I was examining a small book, a collection of Prishvin called The Black Arab (publisher Hutchinson International Authors, 1947; the translator was David Magarshack, who did many translations of Russian literature), which I had picked up long enough ago that I no longer remembered  what was in it. I saw a chapter, a long one, called “Nature’s  Calendar” and had a sudden suspicion, but as its sections (of course) showed no familiar names, it took a while to coordinate it. Sure enough:

“After recovering from the mad passions of the chase, I usually feel ashamed, even while I am swinging the limp body of a hare over my back. But even in death that beautiful fox did not rob me of the taste for hunting and, had I permitted it, Solovey wold have gone on for a long time pulling the dead fox about.

“So we were benighted in the woods.”

Please notice that even the dog’s NAME is different!

Presents!!

I would hesitate to write about our Christmas presents but for the fact that virtually everything we got has intimate connections to the Blog’s interests– biology, guns, art, dogs- and I think a selection might amuse most readers…

The background of the first is a present itself,  from Jackson, and one I promise excerpts from soon: a biography of John Moses Browning, arguably the greatest firearm designer who ever lived. It is a comic book, in French (with a few odd colloquialisms that I suspect are Belgian), published there by Fabrique National, who produced his designs after Winchester stiffed the old man one too many times. It is just a bit disconcerting to see a Utah Mormon mouthing dialog out of Tintin, but I am getting used to it!

On it are trilobite earrings and an ammonite necklace from this company,  a silver ring with a bat skull by local Navajo silversmith Happy Piasso, and a recording of new translation of Beowulf, courtesy of Kirk Hogan. And below that, an antique pair of sighthound bookends for my rarest books. As always right or double click to enlarge.

A Quote or Three; Writing Life

“Poverty taught me not to worry about money.”–Michael Caine.

Tom McIntyre to Jameson Parker on the normal novel in the US:

“They’re all written by middleclass kids from nice middleclass suburbs who went to good schools and good colleges, and then on to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop, and then moved to Brooklyn where they all write about the terrible trials and tribulations and pressures and neuroses of growing up in nice middleclass suburbs and going to good schools and good colleges and on to the Iowa Writer’s Workshop and then moving to Brooklyn where they write…”

Writing advice from Tim Powers:
“And you need to remember that first draft work is supposed to be pedestrian and lifeless and stupid, and so if you write thirty or forty pages of first draft and you read it and find that it is in fact pedestrian and lifeless and stupid, you’ve got to tell yourself, good, we’re right on track, this is how it’s supposed to be. This leads to a finished book, which will ideally be good. This is one of the necessary steps. Rewriting and revision will make it, we hope, lively and interesting and suspenseful.”

It is Christmas eve

..  and I haven’t gotten  to the computer until now. Nor is the time right for anything serious or heavy.

Tonight the music on the box ranges from Baroque to Loreena McKinnet to Britten’s Ceremony of Carols, the last performed by the choir at Albany’s Cathedral of all Saints back when Libby’s sister and her family were in it (everybody is in New Mexico now). We’ll give the Mongolian Death Metal, the songs of the Silk Road, the ambiguities of Prokofiev, and the snarls of Steve Earle a pass tonight, though we may play a little traditional country music– Merle’s “If we make it through December”, appropriate in these tough times, and his haunted “Kern River” would be fine.

 And some Border Music is in the stack, in honor of Tom Russell in Switzerland, feasting with Nadine’s family– hi Poppi!– before he begins a tour with his most ambitious work yet. Yes, I AM hinting, or rather as they say in the writing teaching biz,  foreshadowing…

So: on to Random Doggage! Jutta’s girls…

Carlos’s team, having a good year, not just in Wyoming:

Daniel’s Boone knows how to beg while keeping his hands off the table, as he was taught. He’s a GOOD boy.

 I am trying to knock off early, so I will have plenty of energy tomorrow, at least to eat. We are running a sort of open house for orphans of the storm, because the Lassez, who we usually share Christmas with, have family difficulties in France. I will  miss them– we have done Christmas with them, if not forever, for more than a decade. They’ll be back, and we have January plans, but tomorrow, with no Lassez and no kids, we are a bit adrift. Here are we are last year; photo of Lib with Catherine, and Jean- Louis and me being geeks at Muleshoe Ranch–I think the second was at Christmas.

Comic note. When asked about Jean Louis’ appearance by someone who had yet to meet him, Libby thought for a moment and said that he resembled a cross between the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and Yosemite Sam. I muttered that he was a lot more Sam than saddhu considering his guns, a rather Hollywood- themed bunch back in the days when I first met him;  God, that would be almost 30 years ago. Here is one of him I have run before, with his paint by numbers Mondrian parody; regular readers know he will happily do worse, as in “More, and worse!”

He at least used to have a blue Smith 44 mag with a longish– 5 1/2 “?– barrel that I, with my boundlless appetite for blue S & W’s, lusted over.  “Zees eez Cleent Eastwood’s gun– ze one he used  een Dirty Harry!” No, he didn’t mean the original,   and he can talk a bit western these days if he wants to.

Then, last year, he was traveling in Nepal, and encountered (and bought for me) the only working man’s Kukri I have ever seen- plain, crude, sharp as a razor, buffalo horn handle  countered- may blog sometime. And he sat for and sent me this photo of him with two new friends’ more of the Maharishi persuasion:

Another and I will quit. A few years ago I was showing Catherine this fine old engraving of a Goshawk in John  Lockwood Kipling’s ( Rudyard’s father)  Man and Beast in India.

A few days later, she came up with this image that she had taken in the Khyber pass in the early seventies (?), when her uncle was in the French diplomatic service,  of  a local falconer and a nice male Gos. She has an eye..

Merry Christmas everyone, and see you tomorrow.

He’s Baaack!

I was goingt to wait until after New Year’s Day, but I more or less have things in order, as much as is possible with the built- in chaos generators in my life. I have decided that the blog, while it doesn’t exactly bring in cash (and there must be some way to do a little of that, to be discussed later), it is an integral part of my life and work as a writer today. Sometimes I think that because it pulls me in, I resist, doubting anything easy is worth my time. I’m too old for that, or maybe a la Dylan I’m younger than that now…

Also, I got so much mail about missing me. I am selfish enough, or maybe proud enough of my writing, to  hope that translates into sales too, as my new editions– again, more on this comingcome out. And I now have TWO books in the works.

Finally, a lot has been happening, and not just macro TV level news. The Paradigm Shift in Dinos may be shaking the ground under our feet (not quite a “Block that metaphor” for the New Yorker). Enormous amounts of shared computer time between many universities and research groups has revealed bird relationships and likely cladistics  more detailed than those for any other group. Town stuff– the semi- new cafe, the Matanza planned for January. Friends winning prizes and getting big advances, interesting gun work, new battles, wins, losses, weird cultural artifacts (Clausewitz for Babies??), and good ones, great books by friends and strangers, old music rediscovered and new emerging, necessary quotes and weird science, more and worse…

It’s all coming through the next 48 hours…so, Merry Christmas!

Settling In For Winter

Our fenceline marks the border of the Mesa big game winter range. It’s located south of Pinedale, Wyoming and is closed to motorized traffic from Jan. 1 through April 30 every year so that the mule deer and pronghorn antelope can spend winter days free from disturbance. This 76,000-acre range covers the broad expanse between the Green River to the west, and the New Fork River to the east.

The mule deer migrate from surrounding mountain ranges to concentrate on this lower elevation sagebrush country. Our place is at 7,200 feet in elevation, and we enjoy watching our winter neighbors.

We see a lot of gorgeous bucks, but the does are the ones I view as the most magnificent.

What Happens When A Breeding Wolf Is Killed

“Lethal Control of Wolves Provides No Benefit to Livestock”

“Why A Ravening Wolf is a Sheep’s Best Friend”

Those were the headlines yesterday, as media outlets continue to hype a flawed Washington State University research paper that I panned over on Wolf Watch. The WSU researchers noted that through a certain time period:

1) the wolf population increased;

2) livestock depredations by wolves increased; and

3) control (killing) actions wolves to limit livestock depredations increased.

The WSU paper concluded that it was the increase in wolf control that caused the increase in livestock depredations (rather than the very large increase in the number of wolves).

Reminds me of the Ice Cream Murders which found that large cities have increased murder and violent crimes during hot months. During the same time period, sales of ice cream skyrocket. Does this mean ice cream turns people to murder?

Looking for a diversion, I checked my social media feed and found numerous posts about how killing wolves only increases the population when one of a pack’s lead wolves is killed, disrupting the pack’s social structure and making way for more members of the pack to breed. So, you silly ranchers, if you want to save your sheep, don’t kill wolves. Argh!

That someone would believe this stuff makes me crazed. If you’ve got wolves killing your sheep, often the only way you are going to stop it is to kill the wolf/wolves doing the damage – or remove your livestock. The wolves won’t have some Kumbaya moment by the light of the moon that turns them into vegetarians instead of meat eaters.

It’s time to review what is actually known about the effects of the loss of a breeding wolf from a wolf pack – not theory, not modeling, but what has been documented. This issue was addressed in a paper in the Journal of Wildlife Management in 2008: “The Effects of Breeder Loss on Wolves,” written by Scott Brainerd and 18 contributors. The Brainerd paper summarized nearly 150 records of breeder loss in wolf populations around the globe from 1970-2003 and found:

• Wolves reproduced within territories the season after breeder loss in about 47% of cases. (Less than half.)

• Breeders were more likely to be replaced within 12 months where breeders of one sex remained (60%) than where breeding pairs were absent.

• After a breeder loss, if the pack doesn’t reproduce the next season, the pack size is smaller than if the pack does reproduce. (Yes, this is a duh).

• The ability of wolves to reproduce the season after breeder loss was greater in cases where one breeder had to be replaced, than in cases where both breeders had to be replaced.

• The average time it takes for breeder replacement differs with the size of the wolf population. Recolonizing populations with less than 75 animals take an average of 19 months for breeder replacement, while populations with more than 75 wolves take just over 9 months. Average times to next reproduction were 22 months in small wolf populations, and 12 months for larger recolonizing populations.

• In 38% of cases, wolf packs dissolved and abandoned their territories after breeder loss, leaving territories vacant or occupied by solitary wolves. Of these dissolved groups, 53% became reestablished when occupied by new wolves, or when the remaining solitary wolves found new mates. In 21% of cases, neighboring wolves usurped vacant territories. When the cases in which neighboring packs usurped territories were excluded after breeder loss, wolves became reestablished in territories after an average time of 2.72 years.

Montana State University researchers Scott Creel and Jay Rotella co-authored a 2005 paper on human-caused mortality and wolf population dynamics (entitled “Meta-Analysis of Relationships between Human Offtake, Total Mortality and Population Dynamics of Gray Wolves”) that examined 21 North American wolf populations and the relation between total annual mortality and population growth to annual human offtake. The paper noted that the Northern Rocky Mountain wolf population increased 15-fold over the preceding 15-year period. The paper’s findings “reinforce the expectation that harvesting is not likely to increase reproduction or decrease natural mortality by reducing competition for resources.”

The complexity of breeder loss on social structure was also revealed in “Impacts of Breeder Loss on Social Structure, Reproduction and Population Growth in a Social Canid,” by Bridget Borge and three co-authors (including Brainerd), published in July 2014 in the Journal of Animal Ecology. These researchers examined a 26-year dataset of 387 radiocollared wolves in Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska. Borge, et. al, concluded: “The importance of individuals to the dynamics of populations may depend on reproductive status, especially for species with complex social structure. Loss of reproductive individuals in socially complex species could disproportionately affect population dynamics by destabilizing social structure and reducing population growth. Alternatively, compensatory mechanisms such as rapid replacement of breeders may result in little disruption. The impact of breeder loss on the population dynamics of social species remains poorly understood.”