Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026867, Tue, 16 Feb 2016 22:26:36 -0200

Another issue related to translation: The Eye and O Olho; a few
more interesting excerpts

In the sentence of VN's version in English of "The Eye" we read: "Experience
warned me, of course, that the particular image of Smurov, which was perhaps
destined to live forever (to the delight of scholars), might be a shock to
me; but the urge to gain possession of this secret, to see Smurov through
the eyes of future centuries, was so bedazzling that no thought of
disappointment could frighten me. I feared only one thing - that ... Roman
Bogdanovich would start right off ( like the voice, in full swing, that
burst upon your ears when you turn on the radio for a moment) with an
eloquent report on Smurov" (77/78 Vintage)

In Portuguese the translator opted to convert the radio's "voice, in full
swing" into "como a voz, a pleno vapor,..." ("full steam ahead") that is,
actually, the first choice offered for the English expression., in an
internet dic. The best, perhaps, would be to make a bigger change, one that
shies away from the original wording to eliminate "in full swing" and then
stress the volume of the voice directly: "the full voice that bursts"...*

I had marked these lines because they reveal a preoccupation that is always
present in VN's writings: literary survival and a chance to take a peek
through "the eyes of future centuries,"** something that is brought up in
"Pale Fire," in "Lolita" ... It sstarted after I promised to find quotes
from "The Eye" to illustrate the extensive ramifications of certain ideas
presented there. My first frustrated attempt this time resulted in the quote
selected at the beginning of this posting but I discovered that the chain of
associations, inspired by my reading of "The Eye" in translation is
completely diferent from those found in the English text and it was useless
to continue my search.

I'll bring up only one more quote because it's worth reading it anyway: " I
could already count three versions of Smurov, while the original remained
unknown. This occurs in scientific classification. Longa go, Linnaeus
described a common species of butterfly, adding the laconic note "in pratis
Westmanniae." Time passes, and in the laudable pursuit of accuracy, new
investigators name the various souther and Alpine races of this common
species, so that soon there is not a spot left in Europe where one finds the
nominal race and not a local subspecies. Where is the type, the model, the
original? Then, at last, a grave entomologista discusses in a detailed paper
the whole complex of named races and accepts as the representative of the
typical one the almost 200-year old, faded Scandinavian specimen collecte by
Linnaeus; and this identification sets everything right." (Vintage
ed.,53/54). The delightful information about finding an "original"
butterfly species isn't written in the style used by the narrator (nor by
Smurov) but it sounds like a trip into "The Gift," and it gives a preview of
something related to V.'s search in "RLSK" for Sebastian's always
inaccessible "real life." The initial inspiration I'd found during my first
reading of "The Eye" in Portuguese has vanished completely, though. No more
quotes I fear.


* -Btw: a few lines before the one I quoted, VN uses a strange word (or
there's a mispelling in my pocket edition) for which I'd like to get more
information from those who own VN's Webster's or more sophisticated
dictionaries than mine: "as a first-rate writer, who knew how to imortalize,
with a striggle of his old-fashioned pen, an airy landscape, the smell of a
stagecoach, or the oddities of an acquaintance" (78 V.) Striggle?

** There's an old posting at the VN-L archives mentioning a movie and
Beerbohm's prank.(there's not enough information in my Google VN-List entry,
but I wrote it a long time ago), related to Fulmerford and a writer's pact
with the devil:

A discussion about the movie, "Unknown" (directed by Jaume Collet-Serra with
Liam Neeson, Bruno Ganz, Diane Kruger, Quilty and others), brought other
films to my mind, such as Frankenheimer's "Second," or Dmytryk's "Mirage,"
but I couldn't recollect, initially, who was it that wrote a story about a
pact with the devil in which there was a guy named Nupton, another called
Fulmerford and a writer or a poet - Soames, was he? Searching about, I
finally reached Max Beerbohm's 1919 short-story, here summarized by Alberto
Manguel: "In Beerbohm's story, set in 1897, Soames, who has sold only three
copies of his book of poems, ''Fungoids,'' makes a pact with the Devil. In
exchange for his ambitious soul, he asks to visit the (British Museum's)
Reading Room a hundred years hence, to see how posterity had judged him.
Unfortunately for Soames, posterity has not judged him at all; posterity has
merely ignored him. In the story, he finds no record of his work in the
library's voluminous catalog, and in a literary history the only mention of
his name was a note describing him as an imaginary character in a Beerbohm
story." No Fulmerford, though! And what about Nupton? According to Beerbohm,
T.K Nupton is the scholar who failed to identify Soames, thereby turning
him into a "nobody." Carolyn Kunin once wrote to Nab-L about Botkin's name,
as a mirror image of nikto b, which might be translated -he would be
nobody-. And there's also a remark by Nabokov (SO?) about searching for his
own name and stumbling upon "Nobody." However, in SO, there's Nabokov's
1964 Playboy interview in which he was asked about what he wanted to
accomplish or leave behind in the future,. Nabokov answered:
"Well, in this matter of accomplishment, of course, I don't have a 35-year
plan or program, but I have a fair inkling of my literary afterlife. I
have sensed certain hints...With the Devil's connivance, I open a newspaper
of 2063 and in some article on the books page I find: "Nobody reads
Nabokov or Fulmerford today." Awful question: Who is this unfortunate

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