While reading War and Peace translators use variants of the phrase "rolling their eyes" in odd places. For example, one character is described as "rolling their eyes in terror". Another example is when a soldier rolls his eyes when speaking with respect. The use of the phrase in these examples makes me think that the translators are using it in a different way than the modern understanding. In some other translations, a soldier rolls his eyes face-to-face with Napoleon during a reward ceremony. Wikipedia says it used to be associated with passion/lust but that seems slightly off as well in these scenarios. What action are the translators describing when they say "rolling their eyes" and how should that action be interpreted?
Here are the sources for the scenarios mentioned above, all from the Rosemary Edmonds translation.
- Book 2 - Part 4 - Chapter 11:
"Oh! Oh!" screamed Natasha, rolling her eyes in horror.
- Book 2 - Part 2 - Chapter 21:
Then he approached Lazarev, who stood rolling his eyes and still gazing obstinately at his own Monarch.
- Book 2 - Part 2 - Chapter 17:
"Certainly, your Honour", the soldier replied complacently, rolling his eyes more strenuously then ever and drawing himself up still straighter, but not stirring from the spot.