theory and practice : a historical reader By Daniel Weissbort, Ástráđur
Eysteinsson-Oxford University Press | 2006 This volume is a compendium
that contains a good bit of material by and about translation. In the
chapter "From Pound to Nabokov', the authors gather together both VN's numerous
discussions and samples of his own translations and his comentaries on
translations...There is also discussion about VN's
Walter Miale: I can't read
Russian.I'm not sure how to apply your method of assessing translations, which
has its limitations, as you note. Some translations read like translations, if
not ponies for students. Others take liberties with literal meaning but provide
distinguished prose and spine tingling literary experience...Ten years ago (Fri,
4 Jun 1999) I tried to make a case on this forum that the ideal translation
should provide the original language (with a transliteration if necessary), a
sublinear word-for-word translation, and on facing pages a literary
JM: In some cases bilingual
editions, as published in non-anglophone countries, spontaneously
present the answer to Walter Miale's plea, but only in a certain
sense. For example, most foreign poems I recently read
were brought out in their original English, French,German, Russian verses,
with a translation into Portuguese by their side. Quite often our
familiarity with the foreign language is limited and a
translation reveals thorny points or a meaning which has escaped
us, while we can still follow the poem's rhymes, scansion...whatever.
I've been enjoying enormously James
Joyce's Finnegans Wake after I bought an edition with its
companion-translation. The interpretation and rendering is
often enlightening or puzzling, but it always promotes a
tingling fresh perspective into a complicated book. The translation
became an additional treat.
And now, take TOoL: in
the present Brazilian edition we find at our left the facsimile of the card
(in VN's English longhand) and on the opposite leaf, the text in
Portuguese - and I suppose the same will be possible to obtain in the
translations into Russian, French, German. Besides, this also results
in a book that is much easier hold while reading in
C.Kunin and A. Stadlen apparently came to the
same conclusion concerning the comparison I suggested*.
Carolyn wrote: "To me it looks like they are both (sic) saying
exactly the same thing." A.Stadlen noted: "But
Shade writes of life as a commentary to a poem, not as the poem itself.
Kinbote inanely explains to readers what they can read for themselves Shade
realized too late that I'd expressed myself badly - and I thank A.Stadlen for
his correction ("Shade writes of life...not as the poem itself") - because
my intention had been to stress the contrast bt. their lines. They might be
"saying exactly the same thing," but style and manner makes all the
difference. Shade writes as a poet and
Kinbote, as an annotator.
Shade registers his considerations ("a
note"!) - in the poem. Kinbote exchanges Shade's more ample word, "commentary,"
for "footnote" - in a footnote.
After noticing that each man writes after his own fashion
(inevitably), I realized other little things. Shade's note for future use has no
future (he will die in a few days) and his poem shall remain unfinished.
(btw: a point to Cassandra...) For Kinbote, life is unrelated to poems
and it is vaguely described as an addition to a
Other deductions can be put forward... I couldn't really grasp
their logic. Whereas Shade believes in a
"plexed artistry.. a richly rhymed life" that
comes as an expression
of fate, Kinbote finds "Man" as the subject of
another greater force, but it derives from the will of God.
Their positions are also distinct: Shade ignores his fate and
Kinbote feels he controls it,and his own (he shall commit
In this sense, too, Kinbote is often closer to expressing
Nabokov's own vision concerning the world engendered by
the omnipotent writer, including his authorial interventions.
*1- "Man’s life as commentary to
abstruse/Unfinished poem. Note for further use.(John Shade, PF,lines
2- “our poet suggests here that human life is but a
series of footnotes to a vast obscure unfinished
masterpiece.”(Charles Kinbote, footnote to lines