NABOKV-L post 0019372, Wed, 10 Feb 2010 00:47:27 -0200

----- Original Message -----
From: jansymello
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Tuesday, February 09, 2010 10:54 PM

Stan Kelly-Bootle:[to JM: On second thoughts, what other words could Humbert Humbert have delicately employed in lieu of the "delta"? ]:.."it's a well-ploughed mine-field: English being both enriched and bothered by so many Anglo-Saxon and Latinate synonyms. For diverse historico-socio-linguistic reasons, the latter are associated with scientific and religious scholarship, while the former are rated as less learned or even downright crude... That the Anglo-Saxon plainspeak intimate body-part words are indeed shorter (and often wrongly considered less euphonious) than the alien, unEnglish imposed Latin "refinements" (ironically, the ink-horn terms are always the least horny!) is a mixed blessing for poets and novelists...the natural-native four-letter words for faeces, coitus, vagina and penis still leave a nasty taste ...En passant, I've never agreed with VN's belief that the word "sex" is inherently nasty. HH's choice of alternatives to "delta" (delicate or otherwise!) are NOT the same as VN's choices! The novelist is rightly constrained (within obvious delta-limits!) by HH's specific European multilingual-cultural background, close but not identical to Nabokov's. The narrative-linguistic context is also delicate: HH is talking and reacting to an American-English audience, with much humour and even open disdain (especially with Lo's hip-girly slang).

JM: Forty years ago, in Rio (I don't know if it was also practiced elsewhere) to speak good English meant avoiding most Latinate terms and stick to the Anglo-Saxon.We had to say "wealthy", not "rich", "worried", not "preoccupied", "tired," not "fatigued," "hand-made,"not "manufactured".... We also learned that in more sophisticated environments, only (perhaps when, under Roman influence, all those blond barbarians learned to eat cooked meat) swine, i,e "pigs,"would be called "pork." When I started to read Nabokov I was in for a big surprise, but it was mittigated by characters such as Humbert Humbert and Kinbote. Later I was ready and anxious for more ( but I still bear a grudge against N's use of "viatic").

Nevertheless, I'm still uninformed about what would be HH's spontaneous heartfelt choices, or VN's own, to gently remain within "delta-limits." Only four-letter words come to my mind, Latin "pubic region" or "Mount Venus," or silly euphemisms ( is it possible that those blond barbarians...?)

I thank Carolyn Kunin [I think you have experienced a perfectly wonderful Conmal moment. Shade & Kinbote would be delighted with it] for her inventiveness: a "Conmal moment," indeed! I wish I had set that trap on purpose.

Dave Haan: In LRB 32.3 (11Feb), James Wood considers a new translation of Lermontov's _A Hero of Our Time_ ... mentioning Nabokov only en parenthessant: "Natasha Randall's English...has exactly the right degree of loose velocity...(Nabokov's version, the best-known older translation, is a bit more demure than Randall's, less savage.)" However, there is much more of interest in the essay, not only in Lermontov's relation to Pushkin...but in issues that are suggestive of grounds for Nabokov's appreciation [...] "What is most striking nowadays, as Randall points out ..., is the way Lermontov cunningly forecloses the possibility of terminal readings [...] "Parody, as Dostoevsky acutely understood, is an act of admiration as much as of disdain, and perhaps the best way of understanding Pechorin's distorted histrionics is by way of Dostoevsky's dialectic of assertion and abasement."...and perhaps Nabokov's way of understanding parody is to be preferred, and may also illuminate his disdain for Dusty ...

JM: Very interesting screening of James Wood's essay on Natasha Randall's new translation of "A Hero of Our Time," and your "en parenthessant" readings in it about Nabokov, translator and author. For you Nabokov is exempt of having applied both "admiration and disdain"in his parodies, and you consider that VN opposed Dusty because the latter's "dialectic of assertion and abasement" was in direct contrast to Nabokov's explicitation that art rests on a state in which "curiosity, tenderness, kindness" are the norm.
In his interviews and strong opinions, though, Nabokov allowed us a glimpse into less elaborate feelings towards many other authors and people. Do you agree, then, such contrasting motivations make Nabokov's artistic achievements even more admirable?

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