Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027401, Thu, 1 Jun 2017 16:29:39 +0000

VN-Bib: Stanislas Gauthier,
"Cosmopolitisme et Guerre froide Aragon, Landolfi, Nabokov,
traducteurs de Pouchkine" (2017)
Attached please find ordering information. EDs.

Cosmopolitism and Cold war Aragon, Landolfi, Nabokov, translators of Pushkin by Stanislas GAUTHIER (written in French, Paris, éd. Hermann, 2017)

To what extend can history influence literary translation? This is the question examined by this book which focuses on the extreme political tensions during the 1937-1982 time span. Studying the translations of three novelists and translators of Pushkin, discussing and expanding upon the theory of Henri Meschonnic, a French poet, the author defends the idea that close links exist between context, writing and translation.

Initially, the ideas of Capitalists and Communists on foreign literature are compared by introducing the study of the confrontation between the translators and the political forces. It appears that Communists and Capitalists both refuse to consider ambiguity in translation during the Cold War. In addition, they also have difficulties to accept the specific experience of extreme loss and suffering. The book formulates the hypothesis that the willingness to translate Pushkin in the West after the Second World War emerges in response to the division of the world, the Russian poet questioning Eastern and Western artistic traditions in his works and accepting to confront the question of Evil through a literary style based on morals.

The second part of the book concentrates on the ways of editing translations of Russian literature in the West through the study of the three main translation circuits of the period i.e. the communist, the capitalist and the university editing circuits. A closer look at the corpus of translations shows the activity of Aragon and Landolfi during the Second World War and the Khrushchev Thaw. Nabokov who has an intimate knowledge of the whole Russian literature seems to be always translating Pushkin. Furthermore, Aragon who is often considered as a promoter of languages and cultures often chooses not to publish his translations. Nabokov - who is famous for considering that poetry is untranslatable - translates many poems, yet less than Landolfi, an unknown Italian writer, who often gives the priority to the texts of Russian writers before his.

The book then takes into account the multilinguism of those writers who read and write several languages. Nabokov, for instance, publishes his translations into French of poems of Pushkin in 1937 and in 1947. For making clear that Tatiana’s letter in Eugene Onegin is originally written in French, Nabokov brings together several verses of French translations of that part of the novel in verse in his 1964 commentary. When the translations do not suit him, he translates the missing lines from Russian into French. In a time where the USA patronize European cultures, Nabokov emphasizes the link between Russia and Europe for an American audience. The study of anthologies of translations and retranslations helps to understand how the policy of memory about Pushkin depends on the capture of his spirit and changes with the historical context.

Characterized by poetic openness and by contrasts, the texts of Pushkin question the links between life and the written world in his works. Translating such subtle texts requires to preserve their incomparable artistic vision. The vocation of the literalism promoted by Aragon, Landolfi and Nabokov during the Cold War is the respect of the will of a deceased author. But this method of translation also considers the translated text as an intermediate stage in a work in progress.

The final section of the book promotes this idea of continuity between the translations and the other works of Aragon, Landolfi and Nabokov. It demonstrates to what extent the name, the figure and the works of Pushkin influenced those writers and translators. Taking into account the heritage of Pushkin, translation paradoxically helps each of them to elaborate their own poetic voice. Finally, poetic prose, parody and literary history are reconsidered from a new angle. Many echoes can be seen in the works of the heirs of Pushkin. However, they have never been sympathetic to each other. Actually, Aragon, Landofi and Nabokov seem to be haunted by the same question in the Cold War: How to join past and future, East and West, the people and the writers? A closer look at the texts of Pushkin help them to find answers.

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