Müller-Lyaskovets, Tetyana. "Footnotes reaching up like Skyscrapers": Open Textual Spaces in Nabokov’s Translation of Eugene Onegin. 2018

Bibliographic title
"Footnotes reaching up like Skyscrapers": Open Textual Spaces in Nabokov’s Translation of Eugene Onegin
Periodical or collection
Nabokov Online Journal
Periodical issue
v. 12
Publication year

Tetyana Müller-Lyaskovets’ (Dortmund Technical University) essay explores Nabokov’s ways of rendering the fullness of perception that Eugene Onegin calls for and presents Nabokov’s project as creating a new open-ended literary space. By analyzing the translation of the scenes that recreate the settings such as, for example, a theater, a ballroom or a dinner table or describe the Russian winter landscape, the author argues that Nabokov goes beyond his proposed literalism. Guided by the ethical concern to preserve the exact associative auras of the words, including those evoking color, sound, taste, or texture, Nabokov extends their translation into the commentary. The comments offer the vignettes of the influential people of the time, describe the dishes, visualize the costume, or refer the good reader to paintings and artistic techniques. In doing so, these comments become the metonymical extension of the main text and inform its reading with open-endedness.  Not only this exegetical technique illustrates Nabokov’s gift of scholarly and scientific observation, but it also becomes a compositional mechanism that binds together Pushkin’s text and its translation and makes them cohere in one literary space. In addition to the preservation of the vibrant detail of Eugene Onegin, Nabokov’s technique of translation opens up Pushkin’s novel in verse to the delight of scientific exploration and artistic discovery.