NABOKV-L post 0010670, Mon, 29 Nov 2004 18:56:51 -0800

HAzards of Translation. Epicenic Ada/ Lucette as Blanche...
EDNOTE: The translation process always raises interesting questions about the meanings of a text. Things that you may not even recognize as problematic until you have to try to force them into a second language. Jansy points to some examples fron her reading of a Portuguese translation of ADA.
----- Original Message -----
From: Jansy Berndt de Souza Mello
To: don barton johnson
Sent: Sunday, November 28, 2004 6:40 AM
Subject: Epicenic Ada/ Lucette as Blanche...

Dear Don

The translator of ADA into Portuguese has been making curious mistakes and there was a coincidence about it yesterday. You sent me a message about a painting where you thought there was a girl, and yet, the depiction represented a boy ( "but epicene", you then added ).
Soon after my daughter came for a visit and I was telling her how the Brazilian translator altered some attributions of gender in the sentences and she exclaimed: " Is he having epicene problems?" ( the word "epicene" is not part of our regular vocabulary and here it refers chiefly to grammatical problems! )
In Portuguese we don´t have the neutral " it " or "the" or " a/an " articles ( the French have the "ça" but they also need to write "le boeuf et la vache" thus pointing their gender).
In Portuguese it is always necessary to write, for example: "o menino" ( the boy ) and " a menina" , or "o trigre & a tigresa" ( the tiger & the tigress ) but several animals are "epicene" ( the designation covers both sexes which can be either feminine: for example, "the snake" turns it into a "she" ( a cobra ) - or masculine: "the crocodile" or "the jaguar" becomes "o crocodilo" or "o jaguar" ( one word only for both for male and female crocodiles or jaguars or snakes ).
There is some internal pressure in VN´s text in ADA that requires the translator to put turn the masculine into a feminine in what would normally be simply an "epicene designation" so, Ada in Portuguese is teeming with "epicene problems"!

In one of my letters to Akiko I discussed with her an analogy between Van and Hamlet but I haven´t yet understood how it functions. The word "Voltemand Hall" anagramatically contains the name Van, as well as Hamlet´s, and Van´s pseudonym is Voltimand, Voltemand, Mandalov .Nabokov point out this Hamlet/Voltemand proximity quite clearly in the chapter in which Van encounters Lucette and she then delivers Ada´s letter to him. There is even an inversion of directions about which the writer notes something like: " the problem is solved if the sign is transparent..."

Quite often in Ada there is an association between Lucette and the maid Blanche. This is also very clear but nobody has apparently pointed it out. If I had the time I would write a small text to The Nabokovian about it... The note about Ada´s infidelity with Percy and Rack, that was put inside Van´s pockets in Ardis, was placed there by Blanche ( who is always losing a "slip/per" or getting into a pumpkin transportation ). Lucette also wears fashionable "Glass" shoes in Ada II and the words for her "slipping a note" in Van´s pocket echo the former event. This closeness between Lucette and Blanche is very obvious to me, as if the latter were Lucette in another dimension.