Crime and Punishment

Hmmmm…. So my Year 11s sat their GCSE English Language examination today: Paper One, Imaginative Writing.

I wouldn’t normally comment on something like this but I am irked. The text given was a translation of Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment. A translation. Of a Russian text. In an English Language exam.

I am concerned.

The students have been asked to evaluate and analyse the translator’s work, not the original writer’s – for obvious reasons. How has the translator recreated the colloquialisms, the idioms, the narrative voice of the original text? Has the sentence structure been retained? Has the translator ‘updated’ the language into a more modern rather than Nineteenth Century style? When was the translation done? Are the students in this explicitly Nineteenth Century Imaginative Writing task actually reading twentieth or twenty-first century words?

I’m all for our students being exposed to a wider range of literature than the current GCSE Literature course – which is predominantly white, male and middle-class – yes, I know there are exceptions but predominantly white, male and middle-class – and I do love Crime and Punishment – so much so that my email password at one point was Raskolnikov!

But I worry about it being dumped on them in this way.

And I wonder whether a translated text passes the criteria for being included in the examination.

The big caveat to these concerns is that – obviously – I’ve not had a chance to see the actual examination paper yet because of – well – reasons. But it has raised some concerns.


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