"Literally" is not the literal translation of the Russian, which runs:
"Pri etom on glazami tak i ryskal po uglam kamery." (ch. 3, Syposium
p. 63; Vintage p. 36) The scourer is Roman Vissarionovich (Cin's
However, the tak i does bring emphasis to the strangeness of
the metaphor, which is the same purpose as the use of "literally."
There are, by the way, several similarly strange reference to eyes
doing unusual things, including the following later in the same
chapter: "His [Cin's] eyes were making highly illegal excursions" (44);
"Ego glaza sovershali bezzakoneishie progulki" (69). I am reminded of
VN's discussion of the dying horse's "eloquent eyes" (govoriashchie
glaza) in his lecture on Anna Karenin.
The translation and usage seem fully consistent within the language
play presented within Invitation, even if only as a
representation of the linguistic sloppiness of Cincinnatus' captors.
That Kingsley Amis made fun of this line demonstrates more a lapse of
careful reading than one in writing or translating.