Are their books generally frowned upon by /lit/? Why? I went to the local bookstore and there were many of classics available for relatively cheap, the only thing that prevented me from buying some was because I thought I read on /lit/ that Penguin's translations are shit.
Mostly because of things like their overpriced (relative to what you're getting) deluxe paperbacks and "your task in these dreams is often to pens".
I don't really know much about their translations.
Just make sure they have the good translation. They usually do so for Tolstoy. I generally go for other publishers because I don't like Penguins covers, but those that I do own are good enough.
I have a penguin classic for every major book of the western canon from Aeschylus to Goethe, as well as most of their Classical histories.
They never disappointed me, but I guess I'd never know if they could be better.
Penguin aren't bad at all, I'd just say that usually there is a better alternative. For works in English where you don't need a lot of notes, nothing wrong with Penguin. But for works in translation, or where a lot of notes are helpful, usually other editions have better. Oxford World Classics is another big publisher with similar range and often better translations and notes.
It IS wrong. Obviously I'm not going to refuse to pick up translations, because I don't want to have to learn the entirety of Attic Greek just to see the plays that inspired so many English authors, but it is a basic truth that translation erodes the prose or verse of the original work. Take something like Finnegan's Wake, which was recently translated into Chinese-- how could you possibly translate that? The novel has it's own language built precisely on wordplay and references which only work in Indo-European languages.
When you are reading a translation you are essentially reading an original work of the translator. This can be a beautiful piece of literature in itself, but it will not be the true original of the author, especially not in poetry.
List every classic worth reading. Now learn all of their languages. Not only their modern versions but also the archaic ones. And dialects, of course (Homer's greek =/= Sophocles' greek).
Now tell me that this isn't insane for anyone who isn't a linguist.
I'm reading The Brothers Karamazov and it's a very nice translation. Between Oxford and Penguin, I find Oxford more accurate and therefore more reliable for academia (The Republic, Thus Spoke Zarathustra etc) but only marginally, and Penguin is a more enjoyable easier to read.
>he actually fell for the he actually fell for the greeks meme