Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024887, Fri, 13 Dec 2013 03:49:10 +0300

cicadas & grasshoppers
In her unrhymed translation of Shade's poem Vera Nabokov makes a footnote to "je nourris / Les pauvres cigales" (241-42):

"I feed the poor cicadas" (Krylov translated "strekoza"* instead of "tsikada"**).

From VN's story Lik (1939) set in the French Riviera:

In the dark garden, everything was in bloom and smelled of candy, and there was a continuous trilling of crickets, which he mistook (as all Russians do) for cicadas.

In the Russian original crickets are kuznechiki (grasshoppers). Russian for "cricket" is sverchok.

Kuznechiki ("little smiths") kuyut ("forge") with their feet, while cicadas "sing" with their wings (Victor Fet will correct me, if I am wrong).

Feminine of poprygun (fidget), poprygun'ya does not mean "grasshopper" (what a perfect nonsense!). As a title of Chekhov's story, Poprygun'ya means "changeable woman."

*dragon-fly; btw., Krylov's fable "Strekoza i muravey" begins:

Poprygun'ya strekoza
leto krasnoe propela...
(The restless dragon-fly
sang through the fair summer...)

Where did Krylov see singing (or jumping,*** for that matter) dragon-flies? In the fable's punch line muravey (the ant) tells strekoza (the dragon-fly) that she should now dance (tak podi-ka poplyashi).


***poprygun and poprygun'ya come from prygat' (to jump)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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