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I recently shot through Manstein's Lost Victories in its English translation and later accidentally learned that the Russian translation of that book is titled Утерянные победы. As a learner of the Russian language, I'm appaled by such an apparently awful translation of the title and feel that my Russian teacher would definitely deduct points for such a choice. It seems to me that упущенные победы sounds much more natural in Russian. Как можно победы потерять или утерять? Их можно упустить. I made a cursory search in Google to compare the usage frequencies of утерянные победы and упущенные победы, excluding results containing Manstein's surname, and my impression is that упущенные победы is used much more often.

My question: Is Утерянные победы a good translation of the title? Can the title be translated into Russian better than that?

The original German title is Verlorene Siege. The word Siege means victories, and verlorene is the plural participle of verlieren, a German verb whose main meaning is to lose or, as a dictionary puts it, (etwas, was einem gehört, was man hat und auch behalten will) aus Unachtsamkeit oder aufgrund widriger Umstände unwillentlich aufgeben. That is, you have something and want to retain it, but lose it a result of unattentiveness or adverse circumstances - that's verlieren. The idea of the book is that the Germans could have won many victories, but you know what happened - and Manstein's view is that it was due to errors by made the German themselves.


UPDATE: I asked on German SE what the precise meaning of the title is, and received 3 answers so far. In short, the title is ambiguous. Without the context, it sounds rather like "Victories that were won in vain, with their spoils being later lost as a result of subsequent defeats," but, as @PaulFrost writes, if you read the book, you'll see that the correct interpretation is "Victories that could have been won, but were let to slip away as a result of mistakes." Importantly, Verlorene Siege sounds like an oxymoron and thereby makes a catchy title.

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First of all, the main purpose of the title of a book, at least according to the publishers, is to sell it. That's why brilliantly translated books can have titles having nothing in common with the original.

That said, you're not alone. Here's a quote from the preface to one of Russian publications, by the way titled Напрасные победы:

Однако несколько слов о названии: дело в том, что на русский язык оно сначала было переведено как «Утраченные победы» (издание 1999 в Ростове-на-Дону), затем следующие издания в других издательствах выходили под названием «Утерянные победы», а в различных статьях также проскакивал вариант перевода «Потерянные победы». Однако, если перевод слова Siege (победы) сомнений не вызывает, термин Verlorene, по моему мнению, должен переводиться по-другому. В немецком языке он имеет три основных значения «потерянный; напрасный; проигранный». Так вот: победу в общем-то нельзя потерять (утратить, утерять), можно лишь не реализовать ее результаты, в связи с чем распространенное русское название (в соответствии с первым значением слова Verlorene) представляется неудачным. Можно предположить, что Манштейн использовал в заглавии последнее значение слова, создавая тем самым парадоксальное, и тем самым привлекательное для читателя, публицистичное словосочетание «Проигранные победы», как и назвали книгу, выпущенную издательством «Центрполиграф» в 2008 г. Но это звучит слишком не по-русски, тем более что победа – не сражение, и ее опять-таки нельзя проиграть. В связи со всем вышеизложенным в данном издании предлагается использовать новый вариант название «Напрасные победы», что полностью отражает и содержание, и главную идею мемуаров Манштейна: им были достигнуты выдающиеся победы, результатами которых Гитлер не воспользовался.

I don't speak German, but my understanding is that the original title used a word meaning not just "lost", but "lost in vain", and, like English "to lose", sharing the meanings of потерять "lose (a wallet)" and проиграть "lose (a game)".

I think I have a good translation for this word, but you can't really sell a book named Проёбанные победы

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    Oh, my understanding of the original title is: Victories that could have been achieved. And in his book about Manstein, Marcel Stein has a chapter entitled The break-off of 'Citadel' - another 'lost victory'? We all know that Citadel wasnt a victory for the Germans. But your interpretation makes sense, too. – Mitsuko Jul 18 at 12:20
  • >> but you can't really sell a book named Проёбанные победы << I guess that with such a title, you might make the book a bestseller in Russia, especially if you translated the entire book in such a style :) – Mitsuko Jul 18 at 12:25
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    @Mitsuko "Проёбанные победы" would attract a completely different readership, likely not the target one. – Ruslan Jul 18 at 20:19
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The idea of the book is that if Hitler hadn't interfered with his maniacal idiosyncratic plans and the Russians hadn't been that chaotic with their lack of strategic planning and organization, those victories wouldn't have been lost.

Утерянные победы sounds rather weird in Russian reminding of утерянные вещи or утерянные документы which is a way to say that some material things are lost, while a victory ins't that material. Упущенные победы sounds like упущенные возможности, упущенный шанс which is 'wasted opportunity', 'a chance one let slip', and puts the responsibility on the person who wasted it, let it slip, that is on the author himself, while the book is far from being a repentance or contrition confession.

I would translate it as Утраченные победы since утраченный is verloren in German and lost in English. Утраченные победы doesn't sound that clumsy as Утерянные победы, it has an air of objectiveness about it putting at least some of the responsibility for the lost battles off the author, and that follows the idea of the book.

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  • Isn't yтраченные rather like expended? – Mitsuko Jul 18 at 12:26
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    @Mitsuko - No, 'expended' is израсходованный, использованный. 'Spent' is потраченный, истраченный, растраченный, but yтраченный is exactly 'lost', have a look here. The title of Honoré de Balzac's famous novel Illusions perdues is traditionally translated into English as 'Lost Illusions' and into Russian as Утраченные иллюзии. – Yellow Sky Jul 18 at 12:36
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For me "Утерянные победы" sound better (more beautiful, more mysterious) then "упущенные победы". Anyway, these words have a different meaning and it's impossible to say which of them is right without reading the book.

Упущенные has less interpretations. Actually, I can think only about one. When you almost won, but that was not enough and you lost. Maybe you made a stupid mistake and lost everything or should put a bit more effort. Anyway, you was very close to victory, but lost.

Утерянные. There are plenty of ways to утерять something.

  1. You may forget about it. So you win and it was great, but some time after nobody remembers it. The memory about the victory is lost, not the victory itself.
  2. You may lose it afterwards. Like "мы выиграли битву, но не войну". Maybe they were not leading to any result - so you win now, but it'll be a dead end and won't help you in future. Just one of multiple steps in different directions, and these wins are in the directions without continuation.
  3. You may simply loose the results. So you win for now, but your next step was wrong, so you lost everything including this win.

According to the other answer, book is about interpretation 3 - is it?

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Это, скорее, "Проигранные Победы" - ближе к немецкому оригиналу.

В историческом контексте, "Пирровы Победы" звучит ещё лучше, но требует знания, о чём идёт речь.

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