Dostoyevsky in Quasi-Jewish Garb: Crime and Punishment as Translated by Y. H. Brenner

  • Rina Lapidus


The author analyses the Hebrew translation of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment by Jewish writer Y. H. Brenner published in the early 20th century, the time when Modern Hebrew was forming. The article considers the linguistic peculiarities of the Hebrew text compared to the original. The author reveals considerable differences in the linguistic and stylistic methods. In his translation, Brenner uses excerpts from Jewish prayers as parallels to the original Orthodox prayers, phrases from traditional Jewish books, and elements of the Jewish way of life. For example, to translate Raskolnikov’s adamant decision to carry out his plan and kill the pawnbroker, Brenner uses a Talmudic expression with easily recognisable Jewish religious associations. By doing so, Brenner makes his translation sound more elevated than the original. Despite the stylistic and semantic deviations from the original, Brenner’s translation is very accurate in rendering the spirit of Dostoyevsky’s book: this is not a coincidence, since Brenner’s worldview was close to that of the Russian writer. The introduction of idioms and associations characteristic of the Hebrew world and borrowings from the Jewish Bible and Talmud adds Jewish colour to the dialogues and musings of the characters, which changes the style of the novel considerably and introduces a noticeable shift in its spiritual tonality. Despite all the differences between the translation and the original, the Hebrew text does transmit the special ambience of Dostoyevsky’s novel.

Author Biography

Rina Lapidus

Full Professor, Bar-Ilan University.

5290002, Ramat-Gan, Israel.


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How to Cite
Lapidus, R. (2018). Dostoyevsky in Quasi-Jewish Garb: Crime and Punishment as Translated by Y. H. Brenner. Quaestio Rossica, 6(2), 516–534.