NABOKV-L post 0026695, Thu, 10 Dec 2015 08:53:25 +0100

Re: retranslating Pnin
Dear Colleagues,

I am currently doing a new translation of "Pnin" for the Pléiade and
often feel that Nabokov is torturing me from wherever he is. I had never
had this impression in my previous translations ("Lolita" and the
screenplay, "Glory", two volumes of short stories and "The original of
Laura", not counting seven books by David Lodge). The language itself,
more convoluted and less pure perhaps than in Nabokov's other novels
written in English, compels the translator to juggle with both syntax
and vocabulary in an unprecedented way. Remember what Nabokov himself
said about the difficulty of translating from English into French; but,
here, there is something else. I don't know if Gene, Dieter and the
other colleagues who translated this novel experienced the same thing;
I'd appreciate their comments.

I am also beginning to change my appreciation of this novel. I have
written about Nabokov's brand of sadism elsewhere; I almost feel it in
my bones as I am translating "Pnin" and it makes me uncomfortable at
times. I thought I admired this novel a lot, but I am beginning to
wonder if I hadn't misread it. Am I an exception?

Maurice Couturier

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