Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023740, Wed, 6 Mar 2013 15:10:08 -0300

Fw: perfection
The first sentence of Vladimir Nabokov's "Perfection" is "Now then, here we have two lines" and, on the third paragraph he goes back to the same track: "Let us now turn to the second line..." Ivanov "had taken his degree in geography but his special knowledge could not be put to any use: dead riches, a highborn pauper's magnificent manor. How beautiful, for instance, are ancient charts! Viatic maps of the Romans..."
Ivanov's maps and Vladimir Nabokov's linguistic explorations at that time might have seemed to be "dead riches." I wonder if Nabokov's was preparing the terrain for what lay hidden behind his use of "deliring." : delirium (n.) 1590s, from Latin delirium "madness," from deliriare "be crazy, rave," literally "go off the furrow," a plowing metaphor, from phrase de lire, from de "off, away" (seede-) + lira "furrow, earth thrown up between two furrows," from PIE *leis- "track, furrow."[Etymology on line at © 2001-2012 Douglas Harper]
Anyway, Ivanov's shirts had "an outdated tongue in front" [ he "had many other joys and eccentricities...Throughout a dozen years of emigre life, mostly in Berlin, he had remained faithful to starched collars and cuffs; his deteriorating shirts had an outdated tongue in front to be buttoned to the top of his long underpants....Some sort of flannel entrails were trying to escape from his necktie, and he was forced to trim off parts of them, but could not bring himself to excise them altogether."
Although David, his pupil "...had been raised abroad and spoke Russian with difficulty and boredom...when faced with the necessity of expressing something important, or when talking to his mother...would immediately switch to German."
It seems that Ivanov, in his raving thoughts, resorted to expressions in French or Latin. He "saw himself from the outside—a blotchy complexion, a feu du rasoir rash, a shiny black jacket..."Muzhiks came running out of the water, frog-legged, hands crossed over their private parts: pudopassr agrestis." "The moon groped its way to the wash-stand, selected there one facet of a tumbler......" She suffered a miscarriage and died the next night, deliring and praying."..."Look about you: you'll presently see the rarest of birds fly past... whose head is adorned with a pair of long plumes consisting of blue oriflammes." ... "Ivanov was not feeling well; he long d to stay in bed and think of remote and vague semievents illumined by memory on only one side..." Illumined or facet are not archaic words, only unusual. Their interest lies in that, although they come from the Latin, they arrive through Medieval French (unlike “illuminate”)
Nabokov’s objective remains a mystery to me. It would be curious to compare his translation (and DN’s) with the original words in Russian.

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