NABOKV-L post 0014373, Thu, 14 Dec 2006 00:48:25 -0200

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Re: VN as an American writer
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SKB wrote: "we don't know too much about Zemblan phonetics? We do know that the Iberian X has a broad range of 'legitimately attested' sounds ranging from Z to KS to my favourite soft CH (BASQUE!)."

Jansy: GB Shaw inspired the lyrics according to which "there even are places where English completely disappears! In America they haven't spoken it for years". Iberic Portuguese may sport the sounds SKB hears in it, but in Brazilian Portuguese the X-sound is always a soft CH that, in Rio de Janeiro, becomes twice riverrun.
VN informed us that he was bilingual at three ( or thereabouts) thanks to his English-speaking nanny. He also went to England to study at the university before he finally became an American ( while still remaining more of a Russian aristocrat than a foreigner, the latter as an experience he might have had while in England, Germany or France).His opening words in the 1963 Montreux Introduction to Bend Sinister are: Bend Sinister was the first novel I wrote in America, and that was half a dozen years after she and I had adopted each other. America is a friendly "she"...
Various digital transportations created an interesting lapsus: VN is quoted as having said " I am an American writer, born in Russian and educated in England" and, indeed, VN was "born in Russian" more than in Russia. Anyway, he probably consulted the Webster's more regularly than the OED ( I'm thinking about the herbal matter discussed by Matthew Roth ). Besides, VN's "facts" bear an American stamp acquired from American novels,television-shows, newspapers, close friends and environment.

Did Nabokov speak and write American English, England's English or "colonial" English (widely represented in the OED, as I was led to understand)?
Was T.S.Eliot originally an American poet, or Henry James?
Did Nabokov realize that "colonials and foreigners" might read him directly, unaided by special translations? I suppose he did because he plays with various languages and, as Appel's annotations clearly demonstrate, Americans are not as fluent in French, German or Italian as, perhaps, his "other" English-speaking readers are...

CHW wrote: "Presumably Albert Einstein and Wernher von Braun also carried American passports, but I find it extremely difficult to think of either of them as Americans, or as in any way products of American cultural values and educational systems...There are numerous American writers who express the essence of America and its literature: Updike, Salinger, Mailer, Hemingway, Cheever, Carver; the list could be extended indefinitely, but VN doesn’t belong on it. VN doesn’t, to my mind, write in any kind of a recognizably American idiom."... "one man’s poison is another man’s poisson; what’s goose for the gander is gravy for the gourmet; disgustibus non disputanderum"

( Who is "disgusted"? Are we antecipating discussions on fishy or poisonous tastes?

SES responded to CHW's remarks: "VN certainly identified himself as an American writer... He was familiar with, if not necessarily fond of, many canonical and contemporary American writers (including Poe, Emerson, Hawthorne, Melville, James, Eliot, Pound, Frost, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, and Faulkner), and influenced many others...remarking that “It is in America that I found my best readers” (SO 10)...At any rate, American literature includes many immigrants as well as many expatriates...VN, who disliked pigeonholing authors according to national identity, once remarked that "the writer's art is his real passport" (SO 63). Indeed, he seems to have become an "American writer," in part, by deliberately redefining that term."

Jerry Friedman informed me that the word I had been trying to remember is "transmogrify", also that "indeed I can't always tell when you're joking.".
Sometimes being a foreigner can serve as an alibi for unclear thinking or imprecise wording. I joked because I thought you'd been joking, too.
Now my words race ahead of me: is there a relation between "joke" and "jocular"? Are any of these connected to "playing games" in Latin?
Jansy

PS: I found the other thing I was looking for, namely, VN's reference to words and shadows.
"We think not in words but in shadows of words. James Joyce(…) gives too much verbal body to his thoughts” (SO,30 )
If we consider one of his descriptions of a translator's job, as made in his fiction "Bend Sinister" ( to translate as implying a re-creation of "shadows") a translator should not only be one who tortures himself into submission to another person's "reality" but also someone who can inhabit the realm of uncorporeal words, i.e, of regressive "condensation" and "displacement"?
JM

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