NABOKV-L post 0014090, Fri, 17 Nov 2006 15:03:36 -0200

Subject
Re: serious & unserious poets// monadism & translation possible &
impossible
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Brian Boyd wrote:... I had lunch yesterday with Helen Vendler at Harvard, probably the greatest writer on poetry in English alive magisterial books on Shakspeareøs sonnets...She thinks PF a great poem, unqualifiedly.
...
Jerry Friedman wrote "about what poets of the period I'd compare to Shade in his relentless wit and wordplay. The best I came up with were Anthony Hecht and James Merrill. Helen Vendler, as I understand it,fervently admires Merrill's work."
....
Charles H.Wallace wrote: "Re the quality of Pale Fire, the poem...In an effort to get a better fix on VN as a poet writing in English, I have just read through the contents of his "Poems", 1959... If I were reviewing it for some literary rag, I would call it as interesting and by no means no worse than any other slim volume of occasional verse."
...................
Matthew Roth wrote: MR: VN was indeed keenly aware of the problems of translating PF. A quick check of the descriptions of his correspondence with his translators(from the Cornell library) reveals...
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Jansy wrote:You read the article on the "Botfly" I recently mentioned in our List and its author also brings up the matter of VN's worries about translating PF.
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CHW, on translation: "I noticed that in my question about what VN really believed about literal translation I misdated his second strong opinion to 1990. It must have been written, published, in 1964, ie about ten or so years after his first opinion."
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Jansy & miscelania:
1.Quoting from "the article on the Botfly", i.e: from James Ramey on Parasitism and Pale Fire's Camouflage :
"It may be significant,therefore, that Nabokov was singularly anxious about correcting any real misprints in this novel, even tiny ones, going so far as to open 'an Errata Department' for Pale Fire in a 1966 interview with Appel."

2. Quoting from Georg Steiner After Babel: "the extreme 'monadist' position - we find great poets holding it - leads logically to the belief that real translation is impossible".

3.VN (SO) about Poems and Problems : "...several examples of the verse of my early youth...This 'new" volume consists of three sections: a selection of thirty-six Russian poems;fourteen poems which I wrote directly in English, after 1940 and my arrival in America..;and eighteen chess problems..."

4. VN (SO) " I seldom experience nowadays the spinal twinge which is the only valid reaction to a new piece of great poetry - such as, for example, Richard Wilbur's 'Complaint,' a poem..."(1969, to A. Whitman).

5. VN (SO): " In Cambridge I played football and wrote Russian verse"..."My Solus Rex might have disappointed Kinbote less than Shade's poem..." [ JM: In the Index of Pale Fire - entry on Charles II - we find, in the last line: " Solus REx, 1000; See also Kinbote." ] ; "The form of Pale Fire is specifically, if not generically, new. I would like to thake this pleasant opportunity to correct the following misprints in the Putnam edition, 1962, second impression..." and in a footnote the interviewer mentions that Mr. Nabokov has opened an Errata Department..." ( A.Appell, 1966, page 75, S.O Vintage edition )

6. VN (SO) in relation to the translations of his books: "...the system is a strict checking of every sentence. In the case of Japanese or Turkish versions, I tru not to imagine the disasters that probably bespatter every page",,, Answering about "conspicuous or secret flaw as a writer": " The absence of a natural vocabulary...My English, this second instrument I have always had, is however a stiffish, artificial thing, which may be all right for describing a sunset or an insect, but which cannot conceal poverty of syntax and paucity of domestic diction..."(1966, to H.Gold)

7. Quoting from Nabokov's SO, "Articles": on Alfred Appel,Jr.: "a rare case where art and erudiction meet in a shining ridge of specific information ( the highest and to me most acceptable funcion of literary criticism)".[ JM: The expression "shining ridge" is also applied in Pale Fire, to describe Mt.Glittertin and, if I recollect this correctly, in two other instances as well].

8. JM's personal remarks: The cumulative effect of comments in the List, arch criticism and reference-search reinforced my feeling concerning the difference between Pale Fire (John Shade's 'autobiographical' poem), Kinbote's Foreword and Commentary, and the novel as a whole.
We have, in TT, the American writer of German extraction who "writes English more correctly than he speaks it" ( VN in a 1972 interview,Vintage, page 195).
Now I haven't been able to figure out who, either Dr. Botkin or John Shade, was the American scholar of Russian extraction, but it seems to be a very good alibi for John Shade's provicincial American poetry, with sudden cosmopolitan dashes typical of the vocabulary used by another generation European.
Unfortunately I'm not equipped to distinguish (in particular) if Kinbote's latinate expressions (reminiscent of the style of "one of the authors" writing Pnin) are still in use among poliglot academics recently arrived in America, or if they antecede Kinbote's 1959 writings in Cedarn, but his vocabulary is completely dissimilar in spirit from Shade's "iridules" and other similar creations.
After having a TQ (translation quotient) mentioned here, along with SKB's humoristic quotient, I suggest we search for another quotient pertaining to "dated words", a kind of Carbon testing device to place Kinbote, or Shade...
Jansy


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