NABOKV-L post 0002280, Mon, 11 Aug 1997 09:09:52 -0700

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nabokov in le ton beau ton de hofstadter (fwd)
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Date: Sun, 10 Aug 97 17:52:00 -0700
To: nabokv-l@UCSBVM.ucsb.edu
Subject: nabokov in le ton bea

From: mary.krimmel@sdcs.org

Mentions of Nabokov in Le Ton beau de Marot/ by Douglas Hofstadter

Notes 8 - 12 all refer to mentions in Chapter 17, titled In Praise of the Music
of Language. Hofstadter uses Dante's *Divine Comedy* and a Japanese haiku as
sources for examples of translation. He praises some translations and blasts
others.


Note 8. p. 541.


I quote Hofstadter:

"As I playfully map Dante onto Pushkin, *Inferno* onto *Onegin*, Wilbur onto
Falen [translators of *Inferno* and *Onegin*, respectively], ... I ...go on...
Who then plays the demonic role of Vladimir Nabokov? I'm tempted to say it's
old Beelzebub, but that's just a joke. Soon, however, we shall see who the
Nabokov of *The Inferno* truly is."

p. 545.

"...(By the way, is it getting any clearer who the Vladimir Nabokov of *The
Inferno* is?)"

pp. 547-548.

"...I shall now reveal the identity of the Vladimir Nabokov of Dante's
*Inferno.*

"I--...--am he.... Shades of Nabokov's merciless mud-slinging!

"Of course, there is (thank God!) one notable difference. Whereas Nabokov
spared no one and seemingly respected no translation but his own,...

"...although Vladimir Nabokov and I have diametrically opposite views about
poetry translation, I can appreciate...now...how he could get so exercised when
people violated his 'religion' -- in his case, the nutty, irrational belief
that poetry cannot be translated as poetry."


Note 9. p. 548.

"...Even the rabid Nabokov, who in *Strong Opinions* makes no bones about being
totally unmusical, could not go so far as to render the English verses of
*Alice in Wonderland* by content alone."

Note 10. p 549.

"...in voicing, *a la* Nabokov, a raft of 'strong opinions' on this topic
[strictly literal translations of poetry], I may ...do no more than blatantly
reveal my own blind spots or, put otherwise, my own philistinism...

"...But I would not be being true to myself if I just held my tongue...

"I guess that's how it was for Nabokov, too...And that's why I, though not a
translator of Dante at all, have somehow would up playing the most unlikely and
unflattering role --'the Nabokov of *The Inferno'."


The notes above are indexed not under the entry Nabokov, Vladimir, but under
the entry "Nabokov of *The Inferno*"

[Possibly they do not belong among mentions of Nabokov, since they are really
mentions of Hofstadter, as the index shows.]


Note 11. p. 555.

Hofstadter quotes the conclusion of Hiroaki Sato's criticism of Earl Miner,
both translators of classical Japanese poetry into English. [As I read it] Sato
adheres closely to literal translation, while Miner adheres to form.

I quote Hofstadter, beginning with his quotation of Sato:


" '...Even so, I think his effort to approximate the syllabic
formation of the original is legitimate.'

It's legitimate, eh? What amazing generosity! At least it's a far cry more
generous than Nabokov would have been."


Note 12. p. 556-557.

"Let's listen to how Hiroaki Sato concludes his acceptance speech [of
the 1982 PEN Translation Award, shared with Burton Watson]:

'...I can find salvation only in Nabokov's dictum, if I may take
refuge in such an outstanding user of languages. It is this: "The
clumsiest literal translation is a thousand times more useful than the
prettiest paraphrase."'

"...let's think about literal translations for a moment -- not just clumsy
ones, but good, Nabokovian ones. [Hofstadter translates literally a four-line
metrical and rhyming French mnemonic for 33 digits of pi.]...

"...What is the point of such a Nabokovian literal translation, in this case?"



Mary Krimmel

mary.krimmel@sdcs.org