Russian play translated into English at BYU

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    By PHILIP M. VAN DIJK

    The BYU Honors Program and Department of Germanic and Slavic Languages will present “The Idiot” tonight and Thursday in room 205 JRCB. The play is a staged adaptation of the novel by F.M. Dostoevsky, and has been translated from Russian into English by BYU faculty member Thomas F. Rogers.

    The play opens in Petersburg in the 1860s with two gentlemen, Prince Lev Myshkin and Rogozhin, returning to Russia from Switzerland. The two are strangers and begin to converse on the Warsaw express. Myshkin is returning to Petersburg after several years of being treated at a sanatarium for a nervous disease similar to epilepsy. Rogozhin has recently inherited over a million rubles. The two become friends and depart ways only to meet again later as they both vie for the love of the voluptuous Nastasya Filippovna. The story that ensues is spiritual, philosophical, deceitful, passionate and tragic.

    There will be three shows, one Wednesday at 8 p.m. and two Thursday at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. The Russian Choir will sing between the two Thursday shows.

    Rogers, a BYU faculty member of Germanic and Slavic Languages, directed and adapted the play from Russian to English so that it could be appreciated by all students at BYU. The play is free of charge.

    “I consider ‘The Idiot’ his (Dostoevsky) most profound and challenging novel — both psychologically and aesthetically,” Rogers said.

    Rogers, who has translated many Russian plays into English, said, “In the same way that ‘Les Miserables’ was translated from French to English and is now enjoyed by the American public, I am trying to foster an awareness of ‘The Idiot’ in people that do not speak Russian.”

    “The Idiot” went through seven successive drafts before Dostoevsky finally “got it right.”

    Dostoevsky (1818-1881) is best known for his classic novels “Crime and Punishment” and “Brothers Karamozov.” Dostoevsky is also credited as one of the foremost influences on twentieth-century philosophy. Freud and the post-World War II existentialists credit him as their intellectual forefather.

    “I am requiring all of my Russian students to perform in the play. I think it will help them understand his characters and books better,” Rogers said.

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