VN's The Eye in translation (correction)
In the 1965 foreword to the English edition of "The Eye" V. Nabokov explains
about the difficulties he found in translating his novel from the Russian
into the English. Translators from other languages will find it even harder
to get the novel's title right - should they try to follow VN's plans: " I
gave up trying to blend sound and sense and contented myself with matching
the "eye" at the end of the long stalk." This long "stalk" with its hanging
appendix seems to refer to the novel's title in Russian, "Soglyadatay",
"pronounced phonetically "Sugly-dart-eye." No such luck for the French,
German, Brazilian,. translators, for the corresponding sound of "eye" (and
its association with 'I') is lost in these languages and the additional
reference to a "long stalk" therefore shall become senseless.
For the French, the inter-lingual pun (is it?) with the name Kashmarin and
"cauchemaresque" can be preserved and forewarn them about Matilda's
dangerous husband and her lover's ensuing "nightmare".
His closing lines reinforce the theme of a putative fantastic equivalence
between the joys of retributed (reciprocated) love and the torture of its
refusal (his choice of the word "requital" to indicate "retribution" may
sound a warning bell about his intended meaning): "and the very bitterness
of tortured love proves to be as intoxicating and bracing as would be its
most ecstatic requital."*
Btw: The Brazilian translator J.R.Siqueira chose to interpret "requital" as
"satisfaction". He also avoided mentioning "at the end of a long stalk"
(with its double meaning) and wrote "at the end of a long search" (" 'olho',
ao fim da prolongada busca").
*The pervading idea related to the play with "phantasmata," imagination,
perception and "reality" can be adumbrated in it. Its "rosegray"
developments shall reappear in "Lolita" in a kind of unstable suspension (
mainly because of his choice of the present tense in: "the very attraction
immaturity has for me lies not ."): "I used to recollect, with anguished
amusement, the times in my trustful, pre-dolorian past when I would be
misled by a jewel-bright window opposite wherein my lurking eye, the ever
alert periscope of my shameful vice, would make out from afar a half-naked
nymphet stilled in the act of combing her Alice-in-Wonderland hair. There
was in the fiery phantasm a perfection which made my wild delight also
perfect, just because the vision was out of reach, with no possibility of
attainment to spoil it by the awareness of an appended taboo; indeed, it may
well be that the very attraction immaturity has for me lies not so much in
the limpidity of pure young forbidden fairy child beauty as in the security
of a situation where infinite perfections fill the gap between the little
given and the great promised - the great rosegray never-to-be-had."
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