NABOKV-L post 0018433, Mon, 6 Jul 2009 16:14:11 -0300

[NABOKOV-L] Lost in Translation: a plum on Albinus Kretschmar
Dear List,

After listening to Diskau's intepretation of Schubert/Goethe's Erlkönig, presenting the growing apprehension in the little dying boy's voice, set in constrast to his father's blindness to invisible evil influences, I decided to check in "Speak,Memory." for a reminiscence that carried the same kind of complaint and parental blindness.

In Chapter 3,3 Nabokov describes how his uncle had sat him on his lap and caressed him, with the accompaniment of musical sounds and extravagant words of affection, to his great discomfort. Only a while later we he released, when his father called his uncle away: "Basile, on vous attend."

Young Nabokov's experience with uncle and absent father must have been transformed more than twice in his novels ( in the lap scene, with apple, barmen and carmen in Lolita; in Ada's "Nymphobottom" character; and in Kinbote's flight across the Zemblan mountains and Hazel's suicide followed by the the noise of the wind against the shutters.

Anyway, at first I looked for the reference in a translation I had close by. Only later did I find it in VN's English text. While leafing through the book I found something else (as usual).

In Speak, Memory VN writes about a moth he thought he'd been the first to identify, only to learn that it "had been described long ago as Plusia excelsa by Kretschmar." He added: "Many years later, by a pretty fluke ( I know I should not point out these plums to people), I got even with the first discoverer of my moth by giving his own name to a blind man in a novel."

The curious thing is that the translator ( Sergio Flaksman,1994) unwittingly offered his own appraisal of Nabokov's attitude by mis-translating the word "plum" ( which, in other VN texts I thought indicated a filling in a cake, a reward...)

He wrote: "muitos anos depois, porém, num impulso ( e sei que não deveria apontar essas fraquezas aos outros), vinguei-me do primeiro descobridor..."
In the parenthetical remark Flaksman stated, literally: "and I know that I should not point out these weaknesses to others."

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