Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023749, Sun, 10 Mar 2013 17:24:10 -0300

Re: PF crystals & Stendhal
C. Kunin {on PF's and Stendhal's "crystallization"] "Somehow I can't see VN taking much if anything of importance from Stendhal. Stendhal wears his heart so openly on his sleeve, and it seems to be bleeding all the time, that he strikes me as almost masochistic.[ ].p.s. For those inclined to doubt me, I found this quote from Wilson's critique of VN's translation of Onegin: "Nabokov’s compulsion to give unnecessary information: he cannot mention a book, however obscure, which has influenced or been mentioned by Pushkin or which contains something similar to something in Onegin without inserting his opinion of it; and partly the result of his instinct to take digs at great reputations. In one paragraph, we are told, for example, that a novel by Mme. de Staël is 'insipid,' one by Nodier 'lurid but not quite negligible,' and that Balzac’s La Femme de Trente ans is a 'much overrated vulgar novelette' Dostoevsky is identified as 'a much overrated, sentimental, and Gothic novelist of the time' (what is Gothic about Dostoevsky?); Balzac and Sainte-Beuve as 'popular but essentially mediocre writers.' Le Rouge et le Noir, also, is 'much overrated,' and Stendhal has a 'paltry style' (Stendhal’s unadorned style is as much 'a part of his act' as Nabokov’s Fabergé fanciness)". "

Jansy Mello: Initially I planned to point out that Stendhal's "style" and his "matter" would have impressed Nabokov differently, or taken up VN's "cryptomnesic" references following M.Maar - but it was only a first impulse and for the sake of arguing back. Then I realized that your quote from Wilson's critique is very much to the point, although arguable, too.

Wilson writes about "Nabokov's compulsion..." or "his instinct to take digs" and he takes his "literary" diagnostic quite seriously, dispensing in one stroke with VN's judgement and critical independence (perhaps if he had limited the string of examples to only a few, and in their context, his position would be more tennable).

Humbert Humbert and Kinbote are both amourously infatuated, just like what Stendhal describes under "crystallization." Fran Assa* (indirectly) offered a contrast between this process ("crystallization") and Nabokov's particular vision of being enamoured by his rendering of Berlin's experience as an ironic plat "my heart went pit a pat". However we gather from VN's writings that he knew perfectly well about the difficulties of finding a good translation for Turgenev's sentence and this kind of emotional turmoil.

And... was Kinbote actually infatuated with John Shade or with his poetic dexterity to render a fabulistic Zembla?

* - Frances Assa: "I’ve been reading Michael Igniatieff’s biography of Isaiah Berlin. At this time (1949) Berlin was a pleasant but sexless Oxford don who suddenly, at age forty, fell violently in love. While teaching at Harvard that year, he was translating Turgenev’s First Love into English and unsure of how to translate the hero’s sudden rush of feeling when the beloved responds to his interest. Ignatieff tells us that Berlin was asking friends if it was correct to say “that your heart ‘turned over’ when your loving glance was first returned? Or should he say that the heart ‘slipped its moorings’?” and totally misses the comedy when he reports what happened when Berlin asked Nabokov for help:

While at Harvard, Isaiah actually consulted Vladimir Nabokov—then a research fellow in Lepidoptera at the Harvard zoology department—on how to translate this particular passage. Nabokov’s suggestion—‘my heart went pit a pat’—left Isaiah unimpressed. Finally, he settled on ‘my heart leaped within me’.

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com

Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/