NABOKV-L post 0005939, Mon, 30 Apr 2001 10:13:52 -0700

[Fwd: Re:French translation of Lolita]

My translation of Lolita has just come out with Gallimard, in the "Monde
entier" series; it will be available also in paperback next month. It
was not easy to convince Gallimard that a new translation was needed,
but Dmitri Nabokov kindly gave me his support. The first translation,
which had been made by Maurice Girodias's own brother teemed with
inaccuracies and gross mistakes; Nabokov had noticed that, as we learn
from his correspondance, but he evidently didn't have time to review the
whole translation, being extremely busy at that time (1958-59). The
first translation had been received with mixed feelings, and many
reviewers mentioned that quite a few pages didn't make sense.

For this new translation, which took me a year and half of hard work, I
frequently looked up Nabokov's own Russian translation to "disambiguate"
the most obscure or polysemous passages. I was surprised to find out
that, after all, Nabokov's syntax in this novel could translate fairly
into French, not always of course. I had never felt that with the other
of his I had translated (Glory, Details of a Sunset, Nabokov's Dozen,
plus the screenplay). His rich vocabulary could not be matched
unfortunately. For this edition, I also wrote a brief introduction and
scanty annotations, all of which will be considerably expanded for the
Pleiade edition which ought to come out in about three years.

This new translation is being actively promoted by Gallimard and seems
to be attracting a great deal of attention already.

I am going to St Petersburg next month for the opening of the "Nabokov
and France" event at the Nabokov Museum; I will give a lecture there on
May 24 on "Lolita in France" in which I will talk about the
circumstances of the publication and censoring of the novel, as well as
about the press response to the original text and the French
translation. I will also deal with the main French literary intertexts.

Maurice Couturier