NABOKV-L post 0021823, Sun, 17 Jul 2011 22:58:38 -0300

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Re: [NABOKOV-L] More of Steiner
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Georg Steiner is often as hard to follow as Stan-Kelly's exchanges with BBoyd on JJ.

Steiner mentions Lolita, Ada, Speak,Memory besides his main intererst, VN's translation of Pushkin. No Pale Fire and CK's uncle Conmal?
According to him Nabokov belongs neither to the language mystics nor to the monadic crew, but suffers by being a perfectionist, like Dr. Johnson, although, in the long run, he didn't believe that a real translation is impossible. In "After Babel" (1975) on p.253/54 we find that Nabokov "declares, with reference to English versions of Pushkin, that in the translation of verse anything but the 'clumsiest literalism' is a fraud," but here he was exclusively dealing with the translation of verse - which runs the risk of being 'begrimed or beslimed by rhyme' (Steiner doesn't mention that, for Nabokov, only males could translate male poets when he is arguing about the "perfect"translator's project to inhabit the original text and its world...).

Although Steiner could admit that "Nabokov's memoir, ironic and full of traps for the unwary" was "deeply instructive, of how he rendered Onegin into English," later on he would detail VN's achievement as a curio, an artifact. He even places "English language" inside quotes when he writes about "the permanent strangeness and marginality of an artifact such as Nabokov's 'English-language' Onegin." Apparently, he agrees with Alexander Gerschenkron's judgement: that 'Nabokov's translation...despite all the cleverness and occasional brilliance...cannot be read' . Nabokov once admitted that his "real passport is his art" and I hope readers may sometimes qualify as "artists" in their own right.

Returning to Dan, the "Red Veen". I wonder if the allusions to black and red are used to indicate only chess pieces, or if they include playing-cards. Not only Van's wet nurse (Ruby Black) became mad but also, for his mad aunt/mother Aqua, "mental panic and physical pain joined black-ruby hands" and soon "panic and pain, like a pair of children in a boisterous game, emitted one last shriek of laughter and ran away to manipulate each other behind a bush as in Count Tolstoy's Anna Karenin, a novel, and again, for a while, a little while, all was quiet in the house, and their mother had the same first name as hers had."
Like her brother-in-law, Aqua suffers all sorts of mental torments, from which Marina and Demon, probably Ada and Van, were immune.

Red and black are casually (or not as casually) mentioned in other novels, as in KQKn. I chanced to find them in Transparent Things, when Hugh "plucked a black hair out of a red nostril."






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