NABOKV-L post 0022126, Fri, 28 Oct 2011 15:32:55 -0200

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Nabokov's Monism
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Another Post-Scriptum to: "I got the impression that in his essay on translating EO, Nabokov states that poems can only remain alive in their original language ... In that sense would translations only become the projected shadows of a "real thing" in Nabokov's eyes?"

When a line is taken out of its context (this time it was thanks to Kinbote's quote from a Shade variant in PF), a sea of different associations rushes in*. These have carried me onto a different swell of rhyme and reason in connection to poetic translations in general and at an impossible distance from a platonic "real thing."#
Kinbote's famous equivocations concerning Shade's Shakesperean title begin in note to lines 39-40 ["Was close my eyes to reproduce the leaves,/Or indoor scene, or trophies of the eaves."] when he notes that these "lines are represented in the drafts by a variant reading: 39 .............and home would haste my thieves,/40 The sun with stolen ice, the moon with leaves." when he links this variant to a passage in "Timon of Athens" before he explains that, since he has "no library in the desolate log cabin where I live" his quick citation must derive from a retranslation of "this passage into English prose from a Zemblan poetical version of Timon which, I hope, sufficiently approximates the text, or is at least faithful to its spirit." He also recommends that for "a prudent appraisal of Conmal's translations of Shakespeare's works, see note to line 962." although he is the main "distortionist." Isolated Kinbote has access to Conmal's rendering of the poem in Zemblan and he chooses to reconvert it in English although the reader mustn't consider his citation as a new poetic version of WS's Timon but as an example of prose! ( what a convoluted way to express views on how to translate poetry. Note the indirect reference to his childhood's German/Zemblan in his choice of "she" for the sun, "he" for the moon and "it" for the sea):
"The sun is a thief: she lures the sea
and robs it. The moon is a thief:
he steals his silvery light from the sun.
The sea is a thief: it dissolves the moon."

The lines over which Kinbote muses also offer a repetition of words related to Shade's palpebral screens: "For whatever in my field of vision dwelt - /An indoor scene, hickory leaves, the.../... frozen stillicide -/Was printed on my eyelids' nether side/... all I had to do/ Was close my eyes to reproduce the leaves,/ Or indoor scene, or trophies of the eaves." which, I suppose, are related to the clear echoes or simplistic duplications found in every translation of a poem.

Kinbote starts his note to line 962 ( Help me, Will. Pale Fire).offering a paraphrase of Shade's line. However he wonders about "which of the Bard's works did our poet cull it? ...All I have with me is a tiny vest pocket edition of Timon of Athens** - in Zemblan! It certainly contains nothing that could be regarded as an equivalent of "pale fire" (if it had, my luck would have been a statistical monster)." For Kinbote "It is easy to sneer at Conmal's faults...Writers should see the world, pluck its figs and peaches, and not keep constantly meditating in a tower of yellow ivory..." and I remember that Nabokov and Edmund Wilson once discussed how familiar Pushkin had been with Byron's original poems. Here we find Kinbote saying that "no English author was available in Zemblan except Jane de Faun...and some fragments of Byron translated from French versions.[...]English being Conmal's prerogative, his Shakspere remained invulnerable...few dared question its fidelity... "
Conmal's reply to an academician's criticism states that "I am not slave! Let be my critic slave....I work with Master on the architrave!" and offers glimpses into PF creator's opinions about translation and poetic freedom ( ie: about those who cannot become slaves to literalness or to rhyme).

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# - Perhaps Nabokov, in "Pale Fire," has been deliberately turning his readers away from a "literary Real Thing" not only by bringing in an unreliable commentator. He is creating reproductions that have been extracted from copied copies, rather like the very actual artist Thomas Demande in his evaluation of truth and historical fact (or the antiquated S. Freud in "Constructions in Analysis").

* - Kinbote's variant lines have sun and moon acting like a pair of thieves who hold onto disparate items (stolen ice, random leaves), when he seems to suggest that Shade has missed the cyclical succession of borrowings... I confess that a disparate image has also occurred to me but, apart from a vague sound and rythm added to Shade's dislodged "home" and a reference to the two poets involved (Robert Louis Stevenson's "Requiem" and Housman's homage to him) in my association, I find no real link to VN's novel. Anyway, here it is:
"...and home would haste my thieves " - "Home is the sailor, home from the sea"

** - CK's vest pocket edition of Timon of Athens must be the same that we find in note to line 130, when young Charles, who was looking for a "toy circus," finds a misplaced "thirty-twomo edition of Timon of Athens translated into Zemblan by his uncle Conmal." A marvel of poetic compression, no?


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