Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024524, Mon, 26 Aug 2013 23:17:39 -0300

Nabokov on Turgenev
While reading the rough draft of the forthcoming translation of Vladimir Nabokov's "Lectures on Russian Literature" to the Portuguese, I was intrigued by the abrupt way the lecture on Turgenev
ends.(Fredson Bowers, Harvest Book,p.95), with an extensive quote from the Russian writer's epilogue. Before presenting it (p.94) Nabokov notes, simply: "In the epilogue, chapter 28, everyone is marrying, in the pairing-off device. Notice here the didactic and slighty humorou attitude. Fate takes over but still under Turgenev's direction." The profusion of demonstrative quotes had alterady begun on p.71 ( on "Fathers and Sons"). .
I searched for info concerning this specific lecture, but comments were equally non-committal. Announcing the 2013 Brazilian translation of Turgenev's Rudin, other essays are mentioned (by E.Wilson, Isaiah Berlin, Joseph Frank, Harold Bloom and Henry James, all of them having been already translated with the exception of Nabokov's* Another site at the internet "is dormant" but it provides a point of view: " It is a detailed literary analysis, interesting but difficult to boil down to a couple of lines."** Indeed.
VN criticized Turgenev freely by noting that "his gallery of idealistic and touchingly human serfs stressed the obvious odiousness of serfdom..." Concerning Rudin he states that it "depícts the generation of the 1840s, the idealistic idealistic Russian intelligentsia bred in German universities" although he admits that "there is some very good writing in Rudin...") His praise is often double-edged: "Besides being good at painting nature, Turguenev was likewise excellent at painting little colored cartoons which remind one of those seen in British country clubs [ ] good examples of his perfectly modulated well-oiled prose ...But generally speaking his style produces a queer effect of patchiness, just because certain passages, the artist's favorites, have been pampered much more than the others....among the general flow of good, clear, but undistinguished prose." When describing the "Turguenev maiden" he concludes, with a tone of rebuke, that the writer "envelops his heroines in a kind of gentle poetical beauty which has a special appeal for the reader and has done much to create the general high concept of Russian womanhood" and he also notes, now in relation to T's male characters, that "there was a common debility about Turgeneve's nature and art; he was incapable of making his masculine characters triumph within the existence he invents for them. Moreover, in Bazarov's character there is behind the brashness and the will-power,and the violence of cold thought, a stream of natural youthful ardency which Bazarov finds difficult to blend with the harshness of a would be nihilist." ..
For one who detests "generalizations" the words "generally speaking," "the general flow of good...prose," or the "general high concept" he applied in his essay unavoidably stand out.
I wonder if V. Nabokov cultivated some sort of personal grudge against Turgenev and the social circles in Europe where he moved (without ceasing to remain a Russian author?)


* http://www.revistabula.com/136-rudin-de-ivan-turgueniev/
Num ensaio clássico, Vladimir Nabokov lista os principais prosadores russos - Gógol, Liev Tolstói, Turguêniev e Tchekhov. Cadê Dostoiévski? [ ]Quem quiser conhecer um pouco mais sobre a prosa do autor russo [Turguêniev] deve buscar os ensaios de Vladimir Nabokov, Edmund Wilson ("11 Ensaios - Literatura, Política, História"), Isaiah Berlin ("Pensadores Russos"), Joseph Frank ("Pelo Prisma Russo - Ensaios Sobre Literatura e Cultura"), Harold Bloom ("Como e Por Que Ler") e Henry James (o ensaio foi publicado no final de "Pais e Filhos", com tradução de Rubens Figueiredo). O único não traduzido para o português é o de Nabokov (citado acima). Há uma boa edição espanhola, com ensaios notáveis sobre Gógol, Turguêniev, Dostoiévski, Tolstói e Tchekhov, além do texto "El arte de traducir".

** Views of Turgenev

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1AntipodeanDec 30, 2006, 4:24am Can anybody remember what Nabokov said about Turgenev? It's well-known that he didn't like Dostoyevsky, and deeply admired the early Gogol, in addition to Anna Karenina. But Turgenev? he must've had some published thoughts. I just can't recall right now. Thanks.
2JargoneerDec 30, 2006, 9:12am There is an analysis of Fathers and Sons in Lectures on Russian Literature. It is a detailed literary analysis, interesting but difficult to boil down to a couple of lines. Elsewhere in the book, he lists the four greatest prose writers in Russian (in order) as - Tolstoy, Gogol, Chekhov & Turgenev. He then says "This is rather like grading students papers and no doubt Dostoevski and Saltykov are waiting at the door of my office to discuss their low marks."

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