NABOKV-L post 0023745, Sun, 10 Mar 2013 01:11:37 -0400

Subject
How Nabokov Keeps Us Smiling
Date
Body




I’ve been reading Michael Igniatieff’s biography of Isaiah
Berlin. At this time (1949) Berlin was a pleasant
but sexless Oxford don who suddenly, at age forty, fell violently in
love. While
teaching at Harvard that year, he was translating Turgenev’s First Love into English and unsure of how to translate the hero’s
sudden rush of feeling when the beloved responds to his interest. Ignatieff tells
us that Berlin was asking friends if it was correct to say “that your heart ‘turned
over’ when your loving glance was first returned? Or should he say that the
heart ‘slipped its moorings’?” and totally
misses the comedy when he reports what happened when Berlin asked Nabokov for
help:

While at Harvard, Isaiah actually
consulted Vladimir Nabokov—then a research fellow in Lepidoptera at the Harvard
zoology department—on how to translate this particular passage. Nabokov’s
suggestion—‘my heart went pit a pat’—left Isaiah unimpressed. Finally, he settled on ‘my heart leaped
within me’.


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