Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024838, Thu, 28 Nov 2013 12:00:10 -0200

Re: [QUERY] Pushkin in LRL
Re: [NABOKV-L] [QUERY] Pushkin in LRLC.Kunin: ..."I recall the first time I was confronted with translating "bread" into "du pain" - clearly that is the translation, but what on earth do a baguette and wonder bread (the bread of that time) have in common?Translating water into wine is nothing in comparison (just add grapes and a little time). Now that recalls to mind the day I realized that the French don't have a word comparable to the English word "food." Il y a bien sur "de la nouriture" but it's not the same thing. You do not eat de la nouriture..."

Jansy Mello: I had a similar experience with French, equally related to nourishment, to baguettes and even to Marie Antoinette's doubly misquoted "brioches" rising as "cakes". In Brazil tall buildings with regular openings for the windows are called "espigões" (big corn-cobs) and a tall girl may be seen as "espigada" (straight like a corn plant). I tried my best to find the term for the infrastructure that holds the French "mais," perhaps also wheat but, so it seems, they lack the word "cob."

Nabokov, in his letters, puzzled about the rendering of "mead" in Russian and explored the anedocte with humor. Wouldn't he have subtly inserted in ADA, at least, any comment about such discrepancies?

In PF it's Kinbote's turn to point out this sort of translational metonymies related to plants, to narrational ploys and to abstractions (moving from "potato/peut-être/if/ yew/God/Death") and an additional indication of the Zemblan for the weeping willow and the yew.
It follows the thread of Shade's verses [Line 493: She took her poor young life] but these notes are a curious addition to his antecedent one in which Kinbote writes about Hazel, then drops her out entirely to discuss his suicidal plans.

Kinbote indirectly confesses to his fondness for Grimm's grim fondlings, together with his blind faith in a Divine Embrace, then links this "simple trust" to what, from the outside, we may consider as his paranoid delusions ( Cf. "Signs and Symbols"?) plus a particular logic fallacy related to eternal life. He uses John Shade's work as an instrument to write a new kind of autobiography, right?*
"Translation" for Nabokov must to belong to a wider series of verbal ideas than those we habitually associate to this common term.

Line 501: L’if

The yew in French. It is curious that the Zemblan word for the weeping willow is also "if" (the yew is tas).

Line 502: The grand potato

An execrable pun, deliberately placed in this epigraphic position to stress lack of respect for Death. I remember from my schoolroom days Rabelais’ soi-disant "last words" among other bright bits in some French manual: Je m’en vais chercher le grand peut-être.


* - "... little Christopher’s family is about to migrate to a distant colony where his father has been assigned to a lifetime post. Little Christopher...relies completely... on his elders’ arranging all the details of departure, passage and arrival. He cannot imagine, nor does he try to imagine, the particular aspects of the new place awaiting him but he is dimly and comfortably convinced that it will be even better than his homestead, with the big oak, and the mountain, and his pony, and the park, and the stable, and Grimm, the old groom, who has a way of fondling him whenever nobody is around.// Something of this simple trust we too should have.." [ ] "If I were a poet I would certainly make an ode to the sweet urge to close one’s eyes and surrender utterly unto the perfect safety of wooed death. Ecstatically one forefeels the vastness of the Divine Embrace enfolding one’s liberated spirit, the warm bath of physical dissolution, the universal unknown engulfing the minuscule unknown that had been the only real part of one’s temporary personality.// When the soul adores Him Who guides it through mortal life, when it distinguishes His sign at every turn of the trail, painted on the boulder and notched in the fir trunk, when every page in the book of one’s personal fate bears His watermark, how can one doubt that He will also preserve us through all eternity?"

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