In the case of Roadside Picnic, the improvements wrought by Olena Bormashenko over Antonina W. Bouis’s earlier version lie more in the realm of artistic integrity than verbal felicity. Upon submitting their manuscript for publication, the Strugatsky brothers inevitably endured censorship from their Soviet editors, who confronted the authors with not only “Comments Concerning the Immoral Behavior of the Heroes” but also “Comments about Vulgarisms and Slang Expressions.” In both these domains—immorality and vulgarisms—I can best communicate Bormashenko’s accomplishment by adducing Michael Andre-Driussi’s “Notes on the New Translation of Roadside Picnic,” his splendid article that appeared in the June 2012 issue of The New York Review of Science Fiction.
In the matter of “immorality,” Andre-Driussi cites this moment from the older Bouis translation, in which the protagonist, Redrick “Red” Schuhart, ruminates on a pleasure-seeking young woman named Dina.
He was repelled by the thought and maybe that’s why he started thinking about Arthur’s sister. He just could not fathom it: how such a fantastic-looking woman could actually be a plastic fake, a dummy. It was like the buttons on his mother’s blouse—they were amber, he remembered, semitransparent and golden. He just wanted to shove them in his mouth and suck on them, and every time he was disappointed terribly, and every time he forgot about the disappointment.Andre-Driussi then gives us Bormashenko’s rendering of the unbowdlerized text.
Thinking about it was repellent, and maybe that was why he starting thinking about Arthur’s sister, about how he’d slept with this Dina—slept with her sober and slept with her drunk, and how every single time it’d been a disappointment. It was beyond belief; such a luscious broad, you’d think she was made for loving, but in actual fact she was nothing but an empty shell, a fraud, an inanimate doll instead of a woman. It reminded him of the buttons on his mother’s jacket.
The whole thing here. (He also discusses a new translation of Stanislaw Lem's Solaris, but we don't want to appropriate the whole essay.)