NABOKV-L post 0018553, Wed, 2 Sep 2009 22:01:30 -0300

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Re: Review of "Verses and Versions"
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Don B. Johnson posted "Speak, Poetry (Verses and Versions: Three Centuries of Russian Poetry by Vladimir Nabokov)", by Marta Figlerowicz, a very rich commentary - although I couldn'd discover if she'd seen Nabokov in the role of Virgil or Beatrice moving along the evolving circles of a dantesque linguistic universe.
In brief strong strokes she sketches her vision of the Nabokovian voice [ "Nabokov's hallmark as a novelist is an insistent voice at once painfully intimate and painfully self-conscious about intimacy, endlessly trusting as well as endlessly suspicious...As a critic, Nabokov shares many of the qualities which make his characters endearing but also unsettling: a sharpness of insight combined with a self-conscious eccentricity of focus; a blind, passionate love of the objects of his attention mingled with a distrust of the reader's ability to appreciate them...If it is inherently difficult to draw the line between Nabokov the narrative voice and Nabokov the critical voice."]

According to her, Verses and Versions "is unlikely to storm into the canon of Russian poetry translations. It skirts a border many of Nabokov's novels used to skirt: one between careful study and delighted self-absorption...a fascinating study - if not of Russian poetry per se - of Vladimir Nabokov's mind at work in grappling with it". She misses in most of Nabokov's translations a "melodic facility" that'd be equivalent to the one"that clearly makes him love Russian poetry." She points out that, although VN is "begrudgingly dismissive" of the early Romantics ( she quotes VN: "Zhukovski owned a strong and delicate instrument that he had strung himself, but the trouble was he had very little to say."), it shall be his rendering of Zhukovski's ballad that becomes one of "Nabokov's most melodically successful ones."
For her, in"his successes, he achieves heights not only of translation, but also of self-revelation: allowing the essays, commentaries, and poems to flicker with what is both a reflection of their subjects' brilliance and the eccentric wit of their critic-translator. We make a step towards a better understanding of Russian poetry, and a leap towards admiring - and genuinely liking - the obsessively ironic, frequently indignant guide who condescended to accompany us there."(The Harvard Book Review, Fall 2008:Back to Table of Contents)

JM: In ADA, Van's observations concerning the Romantics are often contradictory, as if he (Nabokov) was trying to expel from his system all the delicately morbid chimes pertaining to a romantic atmosphere. M.Fligerowicz' critical review sheds a little more light on this matter and, tentatively at least, I suggest that VN never succesfully overcame his own youthful romanticism with its special "melody".


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