Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024786, Sat, 9 Nov 2013 02:03:37 -0200

Re: [QUERY] Pushkin in LRL
Carolyn Kunin [to JM] Brian Boyd is quite right, the poem is completely untranslatable. Where exactly the magic lies is hard to say, but surely it is partly in the simplicity and beauty of the structure, and the structure is based on Russian idioms which are by definition not translatable. The same is true of the marvelous examples of onomatopoeia. The subject is not Anna Kern, nor even love, but the effect of age and loss of memory, which is in the end overcome by the return of the vision which accompanies the poet's re-awakening [to youthful feeling? to life?]. Actually it is more than a bit ambiguous*.[*By the way the article on the poem in Wikipedia has something particularly wicked to say about it!]

Jansy Mello: I'm certain that B.Boyd must be right about the untranslatability of Pushkin's magic in his poem "to K***, just as I trust your opinion about the poem's structure and its reliance on Russian idioms in a relation to that effect.
What puzzles me are VN's explanations about this magic in "The Art of Translation," when he treats what his sensibility to the verbal domain reveals ( i.e his subjective reactions) as if they were objectively verifiable by everyone else. He even questiones the expression "literal translation," describing it as something that's "more or less nonsense" (when magic and perfection come together through words, of course).* while he introduces the conception of the non-corresponding series of words in Russian and in English. I'm also interested in hearing about other "perfect" poems, by Nabokov or another poet besides Pushkin.

You didn't explain what lies in wikipedia's "wicked" information about the poem. Its subject might have been Anna Kern, love and the poet's need to recover the sensations related to her presence to find life worth living...Why are you are so categorical about its being merely related to "the effect of age and loss of memory,etc.," when we know that he died in his late thirties?

What a curious coincidence. You mentioned John Bailey in your reply to the posting where I quoted John Keats' letter to someone who's also named Bailey (Benjamin Bailey, Nov. 22, 1817) Perhaps one of them is a Bayley.

* - In his article in French about "truth and the semblance of truth" he is equally suggestive about the ineffables that, in LRL, he associates to "magic". Nevertheless, as in its title, instead of "magic" he chose the word "truth" and he dared to offer a non-literal translation of one of Pushkin's poems.
Cf. the bibliographical reference for " Le Vrai et le Vraisemblable" in La Nouvelle revue française, 1937, was obtained at http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/vncrit8.htm

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