Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026777, Fri, 8 Jan 2016 14:33:19 -0200

RES: [NABOKV-L] ophiological chill,
ghosts... differences in translation
A . Sklyarenko writes: “In Vesna v Fialte (1936), the Russian original of VN’s story “Spring in Fialta,” the narrator mentions ofiologicheskiy kholodok (an ophiological chill) that he experienced when Ferdinand’s new book touched his hand [ ] Ophiology is the branch of herpetology dealing with snakes. [ ] “Under the plane trees stood a motorcycle of German make, a mud-bespattered limousine, and a yellow long-bodied Icarus that looked like a giant scarab” [ ]; in the lacquer of its elytra a gouache of sky and branches was engulfed; in the metal of one of the bomb-shaped lamps we ourselves were momentarily reflected[ ]; but actually the automobile was still standing quite motionless, smooth and whole like an egg[ ]” The narrator compares Segur’s automobile to an egg. Like birds, snakes hatch out of the eggs [ ] In the Russian original of VN’s story the narrator mentions a picture postcard with egg that he once received from Nina at Easter [ ](English version: On a certain Christmas she sent me a picture postcard with snow and stars.)[ ] … and then I saw the composite table (small ones drawn together to form a long one) at which, with his back to the plush wall, Ferdinand was presiding; and for a moment his whole attitude, the position of his parted hands, and the faces of his table companions all turned toward him reminded me in a grotesque, nightmarish way of something I did not quite grasp[ ] Also, VN must have known in manuscripts Khodasevich’s poems Prizraki (“The Ghosts,” 1918) and Pamyatnik (“The Monument,” 1921), an amusing parody of Pushkin’s Exegi monumentum in which the mountain of eggs sent to the poet by his admirers makes invisible the Alexander Column in the Uritski Square” (a few excerpts).

Jansy Mello: The first V.Nabokov short-story, translated directly from the Russian and published in an anthology of Russian writers, in Brazil, was “Spring in Fialta” by Graziela Schneider. There is one article about her experience in “ (RE)READING, (RE)TRANSLATING, (RE)WRITING WITH NABOKOV” [ Belas Infiéis, v. 2, n. 1, p. 67-83, 2013.] http://periodicos.unb.br/index.php/belasinfieis/article/viewFile/9544/7035 ] Here is Schneider’s abstract in English: “ Illustrious unknown in Latin America as a whole and particularly in Brazil, readers are not familiar with the name Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977), unless Lolita (1955) is invoked, and are not aware that many of the texts they read have been written in Russian./ In spite of having written approximately seventy short stories, featured in several anthologies of the kind, and having many included in the course syllabus of universities around the world, there are relatively few studies devoted exclusively to Nabokovian short story and most of them are not available to Brazilian students./ “Spring in Fialta” (1938) portrays discontinuities, losses, and separations; the internal monologues and streams of consciousness reflect space-temporal relativity and non-linearity, the recurrence of mythological and cyclical time, spinning around references, allusions and elisions. According to Barbara Heldt Monter (1970), the mentioned short story is a masterpiece of Nabokov’s “Russian period”; paradigmatic, not only of this first moment of his literary life, which are generally unknown to Brazilian scholars and readers, but also reveals the poetics of Nabokov-Sirin work as a whole. “Spring in Fialta” is a snip of the quintessential Nabokovian short story and therefore may be understood as a Nabokovian metatext. “Spring in Fialta” has been included in Nova antologia do conto russo, Editora 34 (2011). Besides being the first translation of a Nabokov text from Russian published in Brazil, it is also the first time Nabokov features in a Brazilian anthology of Russian short stories. ”
In another abstract, equally elaborating on “Spring in Fialta” (excerpt), she compares the Russian and the English texts and stresses Nabokov’s practice of “self-translation”: “The frantic experience of translating for the first time from Russian into Portuguese Nabokov’s “Spring in Fialta” (1956), in parallel to the Russian text’s confrontation with the author’s self-translation into English and his translation processes, raises issues about the dislocations in his literary landscape and language, and observe the relation between (re)reading, (re)writing, (self)translating and plural cultural and artistic identities, revisiting the Nabokov writer as a translator and the Nabokov translator as a writer.” (G.Schneider Urso: “Artes da Tradução” <http://www.revistas.usp.br/tradterm/article/viewFile/36757/39479> http://www.revistas.usp.br/tradterm/article/viewFile/36757/39479] Check also her thesis: <http://www.teses.usp.br/teses/.../8/.../GRAZIELA_SCHNEIDER_URSO.pdf> www.teses.usp.br/teses/.../8/.../GRAZIELA_SCHNEIDER_URSO.pdf

The premonition of death is present from the beginning after the author mentions a cypress while he is describing a day in Spring. The tree will reappear: “a solitary cypress, resembling the moist-twirled black tip of a watercolor brush” offering a link to the “gouache” coloring of Segur’s fateful Icarus: “Under the plane trees stood a motorcycle of German make, a mud-bespattered limousine, and a yellow long-bodied Icarus that looked like a giant [ ] in the lacquer of its elytra a gouache of sky and branches was engulfed; in the metal of one of the bomb shaped lamps we ourselves were momentarily reflected [ ]. A bouquet of flowers may be festive and dark at the same time: “I saw Nina, her face buried in the bouquet she held” [ ] “gaping at her as idlers gape at a street row, a lost child, or the victim of an accident” According to Schneider Urso the slightest variant in a translation is enhanced in a new web of meanings. She chooses as emblematic the change of the narrator’s name from Vassíli to Victor, the cemetery cypress into a plain cypress, the night express train into Capparabella express, Milan as Mlech, echo of Ialta becomes “ “altolike name of a lovely Crimean town is echoed by its viola”. Nationalities change and a German becomes “a nice Austrian boy” or he points out difference in seasons of the year, changing from the insertion of “a postcard and an egg” into “On a certain Christmas she sent me a picture postcard with snow and stars” There are suppressed lines and recreated passages that are absent in the Russian story: “because of the dryness of those sponges, I thought”; “already on the move like those dogs that recognize you before their owners do”; “Each of the two side pillars is fluffily fringed with white, which rather spoils the lines of what might have been a perfect ex libris for the book of our two lives”; “I began (addressing the Fialta version of Nina)”; “a humble businessman who financed surrealist ventures (and paid for the aperitifs) if permitted to print in a corner eulogistic allusions to the actress he kept”. The translator must choose if he/she’ll remain faithful to the Russian original or incorporate the changes made for the English story. Modelling herself on Boris Schnaiderman’s teaching, Graziela Schneider pursues a kind of faithfulness in translation that attends to the semantic, phonologic and graphic indicators, instead of only focusing content or meaning (VN will affirm the same in “Selected Letters”, in 1989).

A.Sklyarenko’s highlights brought up the Russian reference to “ophiology” (the study of serpents) that is absent in the English translation and, indirectly, another word based on zoology (“elytra” found in beetles and scarabs) came up, too: while describing the yellow automobile, V.Nabokov borrows images that suggest flight (like the mythological Icarus and insects like beetles) intermingled with stationary eggs and writhing reptiles. Why did he blend such forms, bringing together the vertebrate and invertebrate worlds? I tried to reach a composite image to accompany the narrator’s mood and, voilà, I fantasized a flying dragon, a winged snake and a host of hybrids but settled on the wings of an Atlas moth with its scary serpent heads on the tip of its wings (a playful allusion in the midst of tragedy?).

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