NABOKV-L post 0017514, Tue, 23 Dec 2008 03:06:46 -0200

THOUGHTS: Nabokov and Machado
Jerry Friedman [ replies to Jansy Mello's "Poets don't offer an animal's name keeping in mind its scientific label[...] how can we know that Machado's englished weasel is not a ferret or a marten"]: Some do. I feel sure Nabokov and his created poets didn't use words that meant a species other than the one they meant[...]By the way, Frost seems to be careful about such things; on the other hand, Robert Bly refers to a Wilson's warbler as a "wren". [...] Machado: De entre las peñas salen dos lindas comadrejas; My literal translation:From between the rocks emerge two beautiful weasels; Nims: Suddenly two lissome mink glitter from the rock.

JM: Thanks. My dictionary offered me a choice for weasel: "comadreja" or "hurón". Now I see Machado's choice was "comadreja".
Your observations concerning fidelity for an animal's habitat in translation [ the poem is set high on a dry mountain, so the habitat is wrong for a mink or a polecat. It seems it could be a stone marten[...].Another translation open to criticism, incidentally, as "mourning cuckoo" might bring up an irrelevant slang meaning, but "mourning dove" is the name of a North American bird--are we in "Russian" Estoty?] helped me to understand more clearly why VN dismissed Ezra Pound ( although I remember only his references to Pound as a poet, not in connection to his translation of "The Seafarer" - in which he followed his theory on the importance of a poem's sound over meaning - at least this is what I read in Borges).

JF: [ Jansy quotes Machado: "Caminante no hay camino/sino estelas en la mar" translates us back to the Timon lines [...] "Walker there is no "ready path"/ only stars in the sea"]: You've been led astray by a /falso amigo/.Estela/ is "wake" [...]; "star" is estrella...
JM: Estela is a complicated word in Portuguese since the distinction bt. Latin stela (pillar) and stella (star) is often lost. "False friends", indeed. Thanks for your straightforward correction!

Stan K-B: What matters in allusionology, Jansy, is deciding which of the many pointers lurking behind every word can be linked to plausibly intended targets[...] In the SLSK context of finding hidden objects, one immediately thinks of the “Brazil Nut Effect” [...] The name comes from the fact that in a mixed bag of peanuts and Brazil nuts, the larger nuts end up on top. VN may have had some literary analogues in mind? Supporting your playful link via selenium to the moon, VN might well have read any number of 1950/60s faddish books on “Supplementary Minerals.” [...] I feel that Nabokov “plays fair.” Cryptic crosswords vary in their fiendishness, but regular solvers develop an instinct for the tricks of word-mangling employed by each puzzle setter.
JM: What spurred me on were references to biology (the enchained complications for the fertilization of the Brazil-nut plant and long-tongued bees) and the closeness of selenium to tellurium , as an inspiring element to its discoverer for choosing the word selenium. These seemed to be "plausibly intended targets." Your "Brazil Nut Effect" seems to be closer to a scouse-tease.
Nabokov plays fair, indeed, giving compass-directions, season of the year, birds or insects close to the plants they need to feed on, aso.

In one of my postings (related to weasels) I quoted Christian Morgenstern. In another poem he dwells on the spots of a guinea-fowl. The bird is called "Perlhuhn" in German, so the poet had him "count his pearls". A translator appropriated the more ample meaning of "riches" to have the English avian count his "guineas": I wonder if VN would have opposed this choice for a literal rendering of would get lost in translation* and foot-notes would be a spoiler.

* Das Perlhuhn zählt: eins, zwei, drei, vier .../ Was zählt es wohl, das gute Tier,/ dort unter den dunklen Erlen? // Es zählt, von Wissensdrang gejückt,/
(die es sowohl wie uns entzückt):/ die Anzahl seiner Perlen.
Cp. with Johannes Beilharz: The guinea fowl counts: one, two, three, four.../Pray what is all that counting for,/ Out there among the deep dark pine trees?// The bird, driven by knowledge's itch,/ And doing so without a glitch,/ Is counting what it's worth in guineas.
NB: The translator disregarded "Erlen" and "Anzahl", too, or so it seems to me.

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