Drugie berega / Other Shores: A Bilingual Annotated Translation

Submitted by Jim Buckingham on Sun, 06/16/2019 - 11:13

Attached is but a two-paragraph sampler of Drugie berega / Other Shores.

Wishing all as much enjoyment in reading as I have in translating.


Jim Buckingham


The goal is to translate the entirety of Drugie berega. Truth be told - To tell the Truth - I don't read Russian either. But I do translate Russian, slowly. Each line, each sentence. Checking tenses, cases and usages. A well-thumbed Russian dictionary. Online phrase checking for usages, meanings and context. So call me, "Crazy." Yes, I am academically. But I do love a challenge! This task does rate as one. 

Besides the new content, I am learning so much. Especially in the realm of Russia and its ways and customs - all from translating. Have 20 footnotes already and am just on the third paragraph. If you want, by contacting Dana Dragunoiu, the website moderator, we can can exchange emails and I can give you periodic updates.

Btw, did you know that in Russian there isn't just one word for the color blue? It's either dark blue, siniy (like the sea) or light blue, goluboy (like the sky). Vladimir is merciless as to his description of Mademoiselle. Compared to the Russian text, the English autobiographies are comparatively tame. Example: Mlle. who was "stout" (CE, SM) becomes "huge" and "very fat" in DB.

Best, Jim

Jim, I see you copyright your translation, so you clearly understand the value of copyright. But you cannot undertake and then publish a translation of another's work without copyright permission of the author or his or her representatives. You will need to contact the Wylie Agency, who administer the Nabokov copyrights on behalf of the Vladimir Nabokov Literary Foundation. Those rights have to be protected.

Brian Boyd

Jim, I thought I'd take the time to look over a few lines and offer some (hopefully) helpful notes, though I should mention I'm fairly new to Russian, so I'll qualify everything with varying levels of confidence.

First, your Note 1 (на руках): I think this is a good instinct to check, and it fits the theme well, but I'd be curious to hear from native readers whether this double meaning actually reads. I haven't been able to find any precedents for the causal "by the hands of." Russians?

Second sentence: there's some subtle verb stuff that I'm not great at, but I think замечал should be "would notice", and начинает, sequenced the way it is, should take on the same tense, becoming "would begin." More importantly, you've translated the singular мелочь as "trifles" (as is the case with some words, like лук: onions), and она as "she," so that the subject of "she already begins to dim and fade" could only be Memory (Мнемозина). Instead, this sentence should probably be: "Time and again I would notice what it costs me to give to a fictional character a lively trifle from my childhood, and already it would begin to dim and fade in my memory." One might be tempted to find meaningful ambiguity in the subject она, but "Mnemosyne/Memory fades in my memory" seems muddy and redundant.

Third sentence: I imagine there are some cases where в душе could mean "inwardly" (as in the soul-searching "I looked inwardly"), but the literal translation "in the soul" is important here for a few reasons, one of which is that "inwardly" clashes with the subsequent comparison to an "explosion" (rather than implosion). Also, немом кинематографе isn't a "mute cinematograph" (which word, cinematograph, means literally the camera/projector), but rather "silent film." My translation here would be: "Safely transferred into a story, whole houses crumble in the soul completely silently, as by an explosion in a silent film."

That's all I have time for at the moment.

I wouldn't insist that my own translation is perfect, but I hope these notes help to clear up a few problematic areas.

All the best



Will get back to you tomorrow. Have been up late working on curriculum, as I am heading back into the teaching mix in a couple of weeks.



P.S. Did you see your mention in my poem, 'An Arrant Thief,' on Lines 1 and 61?

Assuming I have the sound right, your name also set up the first couplet a la Pale Fire's as well.