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New Member
Norwegian - Bokmål
I'm trying to write a novel that takes place in Siberia. Naturally, that's not all that easy when you know a maximum of 10 Russian words. Now, for a very important part of the book, I need one of my characters to say "sorry", in Russian. Unfortunately, sorry is a word that can mean a lot of different things. I did find a few suggestions, but I don't know for sure which kind of sorry they represent.
The context is that one of the characters tells another not to dare die on him, and the other says sorry, apologizing for not being able to hold on any longer. As you can imagine, the sorry you use when bumping into someone in a crowd won't really cut it. Could anyone please help me find the apropriate word(s) to use here?
  • tlgrande

    New Member
    Norwegian - Bokmål
    Do these people address e.o. formally (vous) or informally (tu)?
    It would be also nice if you posted a piece of their exchange (2-4 sentences).[/QUOTE)]

    They adress each other very informally, as neither comes from a particularily formal culture, and they are good friends).

    "«I’m practically dead already,» he rasped with a peculiar calm. He was probably right, but Martinius wasn’t quite ready to accept it yet.
    «Don’t even try it,» he said loudly, and now there were tears in his eyes. «Don’t you dare die on me.» Dimitri smiled palely.
    «((insert appropriate word here)),» he muttered."

    (and if anything other than prosti is apropriate, I would like to know, because it sounds a bit to close to the norwegian word for prostitute (which is basically prostitute...))


    Senior Member
    I agree with Canonica, the word you are looking for is "прости" (I think it has nothing to do with "prostitute" ;))
    You can also use "извини" [izvini], but "прости" sounds better in the given context.


    ОК, since this is a small excerpt of the story - let me theorize a little.

    1. When a person dies, he cares little about formalities, so I don't think it matters whether it is formal or informal addressing.
    2. What language is the novel written in? English has no such addressing anyway.
    3. This is one word in Russian in a non-Russian language novel - again, makes the "formality" immaterial.
    4. So I think "Прости" is fine here.

    Another thought:
    What if they are friends, and one of them, like it is sometimes is done in movies, decides to be a little sarcastic in his last words? Well, say, it just so happens, the death is not very painful, and the guy is not in a very solemn mood, even when dying?

    Then,l when someone practically orders him "don't you dare die on me!" and he is dying, failing to comply with such a strong request, he can possibly say "ну уж извини!", dying thereafter.
    Especially considering he has smiled first.

    Actually this goes together well, quite Hollywood-like:

    ..«Don’t even try it,» he said loudly, and now there were tears in his eyes. «Don’t you dare die on me.» Dimitri smiled palely.
    "Ну уж извини....", he muttered."


    Senior Member
    This is a literary rather than a linguistic comment, but I hope it's not totally irrelevant information... There is a very famous Russian literary precedent for a dying person trying to say "Sorry..."

    In Tolstoy's Death of Ivan Ilyich, the title character tries to ask his family for forgiveness by saying "прости" ("prosti") as he is dying. Instead, he stumbles over the word and says "пропусти" ("propusti") -- the imperative form of the verb пропустить, meaning "to let pass" in various senses -- a kind of Freudian slip inserted by Tolstoy, shifting his character's focus from his family to the world into which he is about to pass.

    People reading your book who know their Tolstoy will surely appreciate the reference if you have your dying character say "prosti." Or maybe it's just that I have just spent too much time with Lev Nikolaevich...:rolleyes:
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