NABOKV-L post 0017453, Sat, 13 Dec 2008 12:47:46 -0200

Re: [NABOKOV-L] Query on Alps, Bera range, Algonquin...Birches
J.Aisenberg: [...] I don't think N's notion of "literal translation" had anything to do with the idea that one NL, to use SKB's intialing, has its exact equivalence in another. I'm pretty sure he said just exactly the opposite [...] He called his translation a "pony", a means of getting an idea of Pushkin's art by way of an elaborate, clumsy demonstration in English, with a bloated gloss [...]All of which reminds me of some of the epistolary sparring N and Edmund Wilson [...] I suppose, as Jansy suggested, a kind of paradox has cropped up: according to N. you're duty-bound to translate literally when one, any translation at some level, as we saw in N.'s detailed response to Wilson (reprinted in Strong Opinions) is always a matter of at least some guesswork and inclination. That "sapajous" which N. had such a gleeful explanation for is certainly brilliant, but is it necessarily the one and best word choice? And two, there are, as we all know, things in different languages that don't translate--they are either adopted from one NL to another wholesale (like schadenfreude) or they remain foggy and require awkward explanations, like say, endless volumes of footnotes to explain a relatively short poem [...]

JM: I'm still wheeling under VN's arguments about art in nature (deceit, mirage) as a part of a "struggle towards perfection". I'm sure this will demand of me weeks of emotional working-through.
Let's try to exercise a few arguments, though: there is a point in SKB's argument in favor of the "essential NL" in that he mentions that "anything imagined in one language may be rendered in another" ( the keys for his contention lie in "essential" and "imagined"). Still, I continue to feel in disagreement with this axiom (as having been accepted or developed by VN), because it departs from the separation bt. the world - as humans can perceive it through the sensorial input or grasp by reasoning - and language, now turned into a mere instrument to describe it.
Nabokov's ambition was to create something entirely novel through words and he didn't mean "idiolects" ( if it is the word for the private language invented by some psychotics )... As VN argues in SO our ability to perceive the world recquires specialization: it is a learned thing in various levels, not a natural given. The artist, by his style and vocabulary, may offer a short-cut into this "learning process" but only if his words can be fully understood.

Here a little about VN on "prostor" and "privolie" (S&S,p.266/7), two words or two "notions": "prostor is the open endless spaces of the Russian steppes or of the American prairies. Endless open spaces are said to dwarf man [...] The feeleing in "prostor" is the exact opposite of this notion [etc]. "Privolie" is a cosier notion...a quiet glade in the forst with an oblique ray of the sun [... ]"
On page 69 of VN's Lectures on Quixote we read: "The wretched sense of poverty mingles with his general dejection and he finally goes to bed, moody and heavy-hearted. Is it only Sancho´s absence and the burst threads of his stockings that induce this sadness, this Spanish soledad, this Portuguese saudades, this French angoisse, this German sensucht, this Russian toska? We wonder - we wonder if it does not go deeper".
The Encyclopaedia Britannica (1968) describes this special Portuguese word, "saudade", used by Camoens in "The Lusiads", describing navigator Vasco da Gama's exploits "so profound was the anguish he experienced because of his exile from home and the trials he underwent, that it became an integral part of his being, enabling him to give to saudade-soledade ("yearning fraught with loneliness") a new and convincing undertone unique in Portuguese literature".

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