NABOKV-L post 0002278, Sat, 9 Aug 1997 14:50:16 -0700

Nabokov in Hofstadter's _Le Ton beau..._ (fwd)
EDITOR'S NOTE. NABOKV-L once again thanks Mary Krimmel for another in her
series of summaries of "Nabokoviana" in Douglas Hofstadter's new book.
Mentions of Nabokov in Le Ton beau de Marot/ by Douglas Hofstadter.

Note 5a. p. 291.

Hofstadter discusses the arguments for and against the thesis that a word,
sentence, or passage in one language cannot be exactly translated into another.

I quote:

"...Despite the grain of truth that...substitutability of words is shaky,
translation is still possible. ...George Steiner puts it this way:

'...The argument from perfection, which, essentially, is that of
Du Bellay, Dr. Johnson, Nabokov, and so many others, is facile....'"

Note 5b. p. 344.

Hofstadter considers an experiment proposed by Walter Arndt in which a poem in
one language is translated to a second, then by another translator to a third,
etc., and finally back to the first.

I quote:

" I am sure that if this 'poetry-degeneration game' were played on many
different poems by highly skilled poet-translators (such as Arndt himself,
James Falen, Babette Deutsch, and maybe even Vladimir Nabokov, if caught in the
proper mood), certain principles would emerge..."

Note 7. p. 395-6.

"Just as you can't jump on Dante if...and just as you can't put down Pushkin if
someone living a century later is so fatuous as to traduce his Russian verse
into the alphabet of the Romans:

*Ne vse li, russkim yazikom
Vladeya slabo i s trudom,
Ego tak milo iskazhali,
I v ikh ustakh yazik chuzhoy
Ne obratilsya li v rodnoy?*

so you can't scoff at Shostakovich if..."

The transliterated Russian has accent and other diacritical marks. Hofstadter
annotates his quotation:

"Page 396 *Ne vse li, russkim yazikom...* This is the ending of stanza III.27
from *Eugene Onegin*, transcribed, using Nabokov's conventions, into aliem
Roman symbols. Prosaically put (with thanks to Nabokov's pony --giddy-up!), it
means the following: 'Didn't all those linguistic klutzes cheerfully garble our
Mother-Russian tongue? And wasn't it instead an alien idiom that, tripping off
their silly tongues, came out as if it were native?' "

The note is indexed under Nabokov.

Mary Krimmel