NABOKV-L post 0017743, Wed, 25 Feb 2009 18:31:29 -0300

Subject
Re: The New Republic review of Verses and Versions]
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Date
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A few samples:
Victor Fet: I vehemently protest the title of this (otherwise interesting) Alexander Nemser* review. Whatever one's literary persuasion is, Nemser has no right to compare Nabokov to (historical) Count Dracula even in jest.
Steve Diedrich: ...The title may not have been Nemser's. The titles of articles in magazines and newspapers are often by an editor, not by the auther of the article.
Hafid Bouazza:Nemser would have been more daring and, indeed, more interesting, if he would have given us his own translations of the poems he cites. Nabokov wrote: "My method may be wrong but it is a method, and a genuine critic's job should have been to examine the method itself instead of crossly fishing out of my pond some of the oddities with which I had deliberately stocked it." Furthermore: I can't help thinking that Nemser has been heavily influenced by Brian Boyd's criticism of Nabokov's Onegin translation.
Gavriel Shapiro: ...When discussing Nabokov's method of literal translation, Mr. Nemser should have been examining the method itself, instead of, in Nabokov's own prophetic words, "crossly fishing out of my pond some of the oddities with which I had deliberately stocked it" (SO 252). In addition, Mr. Nemser's claim that Nabokov's style lacks melodiousness, in his words, "produces the effect of a strange harmony," betrays his tin ear...
B.Boyd: And this particular title has become a cliche for magazine editors looking for a header for any negative piece on Nabokov. Reading the fist sentence of the review, with its sour tone and its errors, would have been enough to give the editor the cue.
David Powelstock:The lack of any apparent relevance of this garish and frivolous title to an otherwise serious and intelligent review would seem to support Steve's supposition. It's hard to imagine that Mr. Nemser would write such a careful piece then excrete such a stinker of a title onto it. If this is an editor's title, it is Mr. Nemser who has the most cause to protest.
S. Shvabrin: "Careful"? Mr. Nemser is very careful indeed in his avoidance of any substantiation of his claim [...] Mr. Nemser is careful not to give away too much."Intelligent"? Perhaps, if we take it to mean "clever" or "sly."[..] It will not be surprising that this critique, which in time Mr. Nemser may deeply regret writing, will become his own nemesis.
Carolyn Kunin: After all the brouhaha lately regarding the Nemser article I read it and find it flawless [...]Nabokov was not without fault and his inability to translate Evgeny Onegin is his greatest failure[...] I'd like to remind all the horror-stricken that Nabokov invented Van the Impaler and the obscene images he created in Ada are far worse than Nemser's or the editors' of The New Republic[...] I do wish that the idolatry of Nabokov would take a rest so that a reasoned appraisal could begin - - at least on this List.

JM: A passionate debate is not enemical to a "reasoned appraisal"... should there be more than two participants in it. Otherwise I agree with C.Kunin's conclammation towards more objective praise and criticism. To appreciate and love Nabokov's writings, "idolatry" is not really needed...
It is important to realize, as she reminds us, that Nabokov invented 'Van the Impaler', although this designation, plus the obscene imagery, serves to a structural purpose that is absent in Nemser's ( or the editor's) title. Therefore Victor Fet has a point when he protests about this garish bad jest.

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