Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026086, Mon, 23 Mar 2015 12:43:34 -0300

Collection of old views on VN's views about translation

Nine years prior to the appearance of Nabokov's Onegin, The Partisan Review1
published an essay by Nabokov, titled "The Art of Translation: Onegin in
English," which amounted to a manifesto concerning the possibilities of
Onegin in translation and the translator's self-imposed standards for his
own version of the novel:To translate an Onegin stanza does not mean to rig
up fourteen lines with alternate beats and affix to them seven jingle rhymes
starting with pleasure-love-leisure-dove. Granted that rhymes can be found,
they should be raised to the level of Onegin's harmonies but if the
masculine ones may be made to take care of themselves, what shall we do
about the feminine rhymes? When Pushkin rhymes devy (maidens) with gde vy
(where are you?), the effect is evocative and euphonious, but when Byron
rhymes "maidens" with "gay dens," the result is burlesque . .So here are
three conclusions I have arrived at: 1. It is impossible to translate Onegin
in . Vladimir Nabokov, "Problems of Translation: Onegin in English,"
Partisan Review, no. 22 (1955): 512. 123. Cited in Brower, On Translation,
p. 97. 124, in http://litimag.oxfordjournals.org/content/14/3/277.extract
(Onegin in English: Against Nabokov by
te&submit=Submit> Anna Razumnaya )

Nabokov as Translator: Passion and Precision

Brian Boyd


[ ] Why could Nabokov be such an exceptional translator? With his usual
modesty, he said he had "a perfectly normal trilingual childhood": he read
and wrote Russian, English and French by the time he was seven. By the time
he was fourteen he had also read all of Tolstoy, all of Shakespeare, and all
of Flaubert in the original languages. By the end of his career he had been
called the greatest stylist ever in English prose, and the foremost stylist
in Russian prose; and he also wrote for the best French literary magazines.[
] In his own role as translator, Nabokov aimed not for the foothills but
the peaks. He translated especially the greatest poem of modern Russia,
Pushkin's novel in verse Evgeniy Onegin, which occupies a place in Russian
literature something like the combined place of Chaucer and Shakespeare in
English literature, and he translated the greatest poem of medieval Russia,
Slovo o polku Igoreve, The Song of Igor's Campaign. His translation of
Eugene Onegin, about 250 pages long, was surrounded with another 1500 pages
of notes. The commentary has been called the best commentary ever made to a
poem; and the translation, perhaps the best translation ever made of poem.
Nabokov's English notes on this Russian poem have been translated into
Russian for the sake of Russian scholars. His English translation of
Pushkin's poem is so accurate that the best Dutch translation of Eugene
Onegin so far derives not from Pushkin's Russian but only from Nabokov's
English version, by someone with no Russian. Nabokov also wrote to James
Joyce asking if he could translate Ulysses into Russian-arguably the
greatest novel of the twentieth century. He signed a contract to translate
into English Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, arguably the greatest nineteenth
century novel, if not ever. Circumstances meant that he finished neither of
these projects, but he started translating young and he continued to
translate all his life[ ] ..

Two Opposing Views of Literary Translation: Nabokov vs. Borges

Martin Boyd - Dialogos - Intercultural Services.


. "Nabokov begins an article on his experience of translating Pushkin's
Onegin with a vituperative attack on any translation judged as "readable[ ]
His call for "footnotes reaching up like skyscrapers" . is hardly a recipe
for great literature. It is thus perhaps hardly surprising and that
translation scholar Willis Barnstone describes his translation of Onegin as
"unread and hard to read" [clip].As an antidote to Nabokov's extremism I
would like to propose the perspective of Argentine author and translator
Jorge Luis Borges [ ] In his article on the translation of Arabian Nights,
Borges offers an entertaining account of various European translators of
this classic work of literature, who took such extreme liberties with their
source that they would surely have sent poor Nabokov into a fit of rage. But
for Borges, the French translator Dr. Mardrus, whose translation of a
ten-word sentence in the original Nights into a seven-line paragraph is
guilty of at least three of Berman's "deformations" (clarification,
expansion and ennoblement), should be praised, not for his fidelity
(obviously), but for "his happy and creative infidelity". [ ] Borges'
assessments of these translations suggest a very different perspective on
the role of translation, not as an instrument to be used to hurl the source
text violently at the target language, but as a medium of exchange, through
which source text and target culture may be mutually enriched [ ]." Borges,
Jorge Luis. "The Translators of the Thousand and One Nights". Translation
Studies Reader. L. Venuti (ed.). London: Routledge, 1999. 34-48.
Nabokov, Vladimir. "Problems of Translation: Onegin in English". Translation
Studies Reader. L. Venuti (ed.). London: Routledge, 1999. 71-83.

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