Introducing @RodionTweets: Translating Raskolnikov into 140 Characters or Less

by Katherine Bowers

Katherine Bowers is an Assistant Professor of Slavic Studies at the University of British Columbia. She is working on a book about the influence of gothic fiction on Russian realism. She tweets about Russian writers and other interesting things on the account @kab3d.

One hot July 7 evening, a young man left his rented room to practice walking aC&P-Ras murder route. This took place in the pages of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment (1866). But this July 7, Twitter will witness another young man–or the same young man–leaving his room to trace a murder route. You can follow his adventures on the Twitter account @RodionTweets, which will begin tweeting the events of Crime and Punishment from Raskolnikov’s perspective on Thursday.

Tweeting Raskolnikov is no easy task. The account was the brainchild of Brian Armstrong and me, and has come together through the efforts of a crack team of intrepid and creative tweet miners: Brian, me, and also Sarah Hudspith, Sarah J. Young, Kate Holland, and Jennifer L. Wilson. Our ace Project Assistant, Kristina McGuirk, has done valiant editorial work, creating a single, cohesive, and (we hope) Dostoevskian voice in Twitter from disparate tweet mining styles. This project builds on the skills Brian, Kristina, and I learned while creating @YakovGolyadkin‘s voice during #TheDoubleEvent last November.

@RodionTweets in action!

The task of “translating” Raskolnikov’s voice into 140-character-or-less text snippets has sparked a number of fascinating conversations. They include whether it makes sense to “live tweet” the murder (#murdererproblems), what form of social media would Raskolnikov prefer (Snapchat, as the evidence disappears?), which animated gif best expresses the trauma of witnessing a horse beating in a dream, and, among others, the quintessential #dostoevskyproblem: how do you live tweet 3 days of delirious wandering? These questions and their answers have diverted us throughout the process of creating @RodionTweets, and so, throughout the month of July, as the various parts of the book are twitterified and published, each participant will write a blog post on one intriguing facet of his/her @RodionTweets experience. Stay tuned!

#delirium strikes even the most intrepid!
Oliver Ready’s new translation!

The @RodionTweets Team would like to thank Penguin Books US for giving us permission to use Oliver Ready’s wonderful new translation of Crime and Punishment as a source text for our project. We are also grateful to those who allowed us to use their images to illustrate the project, including Naftali Rakuzin, Scott Lindberg, and Sarah J. Young. For a full list of acknowledgments, click here.

@RodionTweets is part of a larger celebration of the 150th anniversary of Crime and Punishment taking place this summer and fall. Events include a summer reading group hosted by the North American Dostoevsky Society on Facebook (you can join them! they are starting Part 2 of the novel today!); an August Twitter novel adaptation film festival; library exhibits taking place in Toronto, Cambridge, and online; a series of blog posts forthcoming on The Bloggers Karamazov from Dostoevsky experts reflecting on different aspects of the novel; a panel on translation and language in Crime and Punishment at the University of Bristol in October; and a conference and film screening at the University of British Columbia in October.

The project “Crime and Punishment at 150″ is organized by Kate Holland and myself, and supported with funding from the North American Dostoevsky Society, the CENES Department at the University of British Columbia, Green College, UBC, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. The project also collaborates with a number of other partners, including the Petro Jacyk Central & East European Resource Centre at the University of Toronto, the Cambridge University Library, the Department of Russian at the University of Bristol, the Dostoevsky Now initiative at the University of Leeds, the British Association for Slavonic and East European Studies 19th-century Study Group, and Apocalypse Films.

This is the first in a series of blog posts about the creative twitter project @RodionTweets. The next blog post, on Part One, can be found here

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