NABOKV-L post 0017742, Wed, 25 Feb 2009 12:45:08 -0800

Re: THOUGHTS The New Republic review of Verses and Versions]]
I don't at all consider myself an idolatrous person, but I'm not sure "dud" is exactly the right word for the Ongegin translation--nor "crazed" or "grotesque" as Nemser has it. Surely, on its own, Nabokov's version of the poem would make for pretty poor reading, but as a work intended for a practical pegagogical purpose, it has many uses--the translation and notes work together as a team, can't be pried apart; I felt at least while I was reading it, an American with no Russian, that I had some sense of how the poem was supposed to work, technically and theoretically that is, in its natural enviroment--I assumed that's why N bothered keeping the poem in verse instead of simply doing a prose translation, which would have been a million times less awkward. Frankly all the Englished versions I've read of this poem (3) seem bland and well nigh unreadable. Now Nabokov's concept of translation, on the other hand, is an issue for debate, one that
questions the ultimate value of any kind of translation whatsoever, though I suppose that this is just mere rhetoric since nobody's going to give up on it. Also, in terms of Nemser, he compared and contrasted a couple e.g.'s of other author's translated verses against N.'s, preferring the other author's attempts. Neither were exactly great shakes to this English reader's ear, but Nabokov's at least had the virtue of being sharper, more economical, and more rhythmic. Well not the ones from Onegin. To Nemser's credit, he brought up The Real Life of Sebastian Knight and maybe a few readers will rush out and read it. Not to mention that he actually demonstrated a little style and wit without falling into that typical kind of debilitating cuteness that mars so much reviewing. Though I think I would never use the word "tragic" to describe a book like Pale Fire.

--- On Wed, 2/25/09, Nabokv-L <nabokv-l@UTK.EDU> wrote:

From: Nabokv-L <nabokv-l@UTK.EDU>
Subject: [NABOKV-L] THOUGHTS The New Republic review of Verses and Versions]]
Date: Wednesday, February 25, 2009, 12:43 PM

-------- Original Message --------

Re: [NABOKV-L] The New Republic review of Verses and Versions]

Wed, 25 Feb 2009 07:20:30 -0800

Carolyn Kunin <>

Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>


To the List,

After all the brouhaha lately regarding the Nemser article I read it
and find it flawless. Although Alexey and I disagree on this point,
Nabokov was not without fault and his inability to translate Evgeny
Onegin is his greatest failure. The notes and index are among his
triumphs, but the translation itself is a dud.

As to the appropriateness of the title, I'd like to remind all the
horror-stricken that Nabokov invented Van the Impaler and the obscene
images he created in Ada are far worse than Nemser's or the editors'
of The New Republic. Personally I'm not sure Nabokov wouldn't be a bit
pleased - - but who knows.

I do wish that the idolatry of Nabokov would take a rest so that a
reasoned appraisal could begin - - at least on this List.

Carolyn Kunin

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