NABOKV-L post 0015377, Mon, 30 Jul 2007 13:50:19 -0400

QUERY: Russian text of VN's letter to his mother
[EDNOTE. Rusina Volkova, who had previously inquired about the
translation of a letter from VN to his mother in VNRY, is seeking more
information about the exact wording of the original, given an apparent
discrepancy in the way the letter is quoted by two respected scholars.
-- SES]

But actually, it doesn’t matter to me who will answer my query, I only
want to know the right words in Nabokov’s letter. I recently cited these
words in Russian in my new novel and quoted as a source the Russian
edition of B. Boyd’s book, but then changed the phrase to the one in
Prof. Anastasiev’s book “ Vladimir Nabokov: The Lonely King”, because
his version seemed to be more authentic. So I want to solve this puzzle
for myself and for, perhaps, the other scholars who need to use this
quotation in Russian, and want to quote it properly. Mr. Boyd answered
me on the Forum (April 2006) that his Russian publishers used the
original sources, but now I doubt it. I would like Mr. Boyd to notice
that his English translation of Nabokov’s letter sounds different from
the words in his Russian edition and looks more like the translation of
what Prof.Anastasiev quotes in Russian. Now I want to show you two
different Russian versions of the same letter:

«Мы же, переводчики божьих творений, маленькие плагиаторы и подражатели
его, иногда, быть может, украшаем Богом написанное; как бывает,
что очаровательный комментатор придает еще больше прелести иной строке гения»
(Nabokov’s letter to his mother. From B.Boyd. Vladimir Nabokov: Russian
Years. Russian Edition)

(This would sound in English as: “We, the translators of God's creation,
his little plagiarists and imitators, sometimes maybe dress up what God
wrote, as a charming commentator sometimes gives an extra grace to a
line of genius.", somewhat differently from Boyd’s translation of the
same in the English version of his book)

At the same time Anastasiev quotes Nabokov as calling the narrator
“excited” or, also, “charmed” in this overall slightly differently
worded letter:

«Мы - переводчики Божьего творения, его маленькие плагиаторы и
имитаторы, мы прихорашиваем то, что написано
им, подобно тому, как восхищенный комментатор порою лишний раз отдает
должное строке гения»
(Nabokov’s letter to his mother. From N.Anastasiev. “Vladimir Nabokov:
The Lonely King” In Russian)

(It would sound more like: “We – the translators of God’s creation, his
little plagiarists and imitators, we dress up what is written by Him,
like a charmed commentator sometimes gives an extra grace to a line of

You can help me and forward this letter to Mr. Boyd, but in case he does
not answer, will you post this query on the forum for the other scholars
to answer? Probably not only B. Boyd or N. Anastasiev know the answer
and have copies of this very important letter.

Very truly yours,
Rusina Volkova

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