In the 1st Chapter, Part I of Dostoevsky's The Idiot (Eva Martin's translation) you can find the following passage, in which Rogojin is describing the first time he saw Nastasia Philipovna:

I was walking about the Nefsky one fine day, prince, in my father’s old coat, when she suddenly came out of a shop and stepped into her carriage. I swear I was all of a blaze at once. Then I met Zaleshoff—looking like a hair-dresser’s assistant, got up as fine as I don’t know who, while I looked like a tinker. ‘Don’t flatter yourself, my boy,’ said he; ‘she’s not for such as you; (...)

(emphasis mine)

What's the significance of "looking like a hair-dresser’s assistant"?

  • 4
    It's a wrong translation. Compare with studyenglishwords.com/book/%D0%98%D0%B4%D0%B8%D0%BE%D1%82/…. Refer to this source each time you can't understand Eva Martin's translation instead of posting a question here.
    – Andra
    Aug 22, 2021 at 19:09
  • @Andra could you turn that into an answer, referencing the corresponding passages?
    – bobble
    Aug 27, 2021 at 21:24
  • @bobble ok, did it
    – Andra
    Aug 28, 2021 at 19:11

2 Answers 2


Whether the translation given,

a hair-dresser’s assistant,


a shopkeeper fresh from the barber's

which Andra gives, the meaning is that he is dressed like someone in a job inside a shop (protecting him from weather), that pays well (allowing him to dress well), and whose customers are probably (at least in part) well-off and expect service from people who look sharp.

A tinker, on the other hand, would show the signs of tramping along the road, does not make much money, and sells to peasantry and similar poor people.

Given the comparison between them, the other man is clearly a better candidate for marriage.

  • I would say the translation given is incorrect, he looks like he has just been by hair-dresser but in no way works there.
    – Andra
    Aug 29, 2021 at 17:14
  • I'll take your word for it, but -- it wouldn't matter for the meaning. Both jobs would have the same effect.
    – Mary
    Aug 29, 2021 at 19:52

It's an incorrect translation. Originally it is

как приказчик от парикмахера

and, for example, a site for learning English using parallel texts offers the following translation:

like a shopkeeper fresh from the barber's (*)

For me it seems OK, but I'm not a native speaker of either of these two languages.

(*) As far as I can find, the site provides no info on the translation and copyrights.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.