April 24, 2013 | 2 books mentioned 3

After sixteen years of work, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky, “the world’s only celebrity translation team,” have finally finished translating all of Tolstoy, ending with last fall’s Hadji Murat. Humanities interviews them, and back in 2009, so did we.

is an intern for The Millions. She is a writer and recent graduate of Smith College living in Cambridge, MA. She blogs at rhiansasseen.com.


  1. The article is confusing. Did Pevear and Volokhonsky tell the author, Kevin Mahnken, they were done translating Tolstoy? It’s not at all clear that they did. And they certainly haven’t finished translating “all of Tolstoy.” They haven’t even translated most of Tolstoy. I believe all they’ve translated is War and Peace, Anna Karenina, a short story collection (including Hadji Murat, which is mentioned in the piece, but is not actually Tolstoy’s final work), and a book-length essay (What is Art?).

    But I’m curious what Pevear and Volokhonsky actually told Mahnken. The following paragraph sounds, to my ear anyway, like he believed they had literally translated “all of Tolstoy”—which would add up to 100 volumes:

    Now they have passed another important milestone. In putting their stamp on Lev Tolstoy’s final novel, Hadji Murat, they have at last reached the end of the great writer’s immense corpus. But if translating the life’s work of Russian fiction’s foremost master were cause for a certain amount of triumphalism, you wouldn’t know it from talking to P and V.

  2. In response to Zac F’s very reasonable question, let me clarify that we simply told Kevin Mahnken we were not planning to translate any more Tolstoy, not that we had translated “all of Tolstoy”!

  3. The online version of this Humanities article has been updated to clarify this point.

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