I came upon this sentence in Dostoevsky's Записки из подполья:

И я тем более убежден в злом, так сказать, подозрении, что если, например, взять антитез нормального человека, то есть человека усиленно сознающего, вышедшего, конечно, не из лона природы, а из реторты

My English translation reads as follows:

And I am the more convinced of this, so to speak, suspicion, seeing that if, for example, one takes the antithesis of the normal man, that is, the man of heightened consciousness, who came, of course, not from the bosom of nature but from a retort

I've seen other translations that are very similar. It seems to me that the word "злом" was not translated. Is it some sort of play with words? The novel's protagonist says a few time how "злой" he is.

1 Answer 1


It's an adjective злой (evil, vicious, wicked, unkind) in prepositional case and actually you can read this omitting так сказать ("so to speak") as:

И я тем более убежден в злом [так сказать] подозрении.

So it's pretty much something like "..convinced of this, so to speak, unkind suspicion".

There's no play with words, it's just that - and this happens unfortunately very often, while translating Russian text even prominent and famous English translators are skipping any word or phrase they find difficult to come up with precise analogy.

You have no idea for instance how much "12 стульев" is ruined. In this particular case, however, I'm quite surprised this word was skipped. It's has exact counterparts in English I mean.

  • This "so to speak" explanation may be true in the context of "Записки из подполья". Generally, a phrase "злое подозрение" would jump out of the page and require special attention from a translator.
    – Alexander
    Commented Oct 3, 2018 at 23:01
  • To be fair, I'm not sure I quite understand what Dostoevsky meant by "злом подозрении". I would guess that the suspicion is both strong and negative, but that's purely guessing. My point is we cannot blame the translator for omitting that word - there are too many options and virtually no way to tell which one is correct/true to the original. Commented Oct 4, 2018 at 14:41

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