NABOKV-L post 0017770, Sat, 28 Feb 2009 11:48:25 -0800

One Gin
Dear Jansy M,

I can't comment on Verses and Versions at all, nor did I mean to. I
only found out about it because of recent postings regarding the
Nemser review. In my clumsy way I wished to point out that Nabokov in
spite of his many great achievements is still open to criticism. My
own enormous disappointment with his translation of Evgeniy Onegin
(was it VN who liked to called it "One Gin"?) is at the root of it.

You know, it reminds me of why I studied Russian in the first place.
One major impetus came from something Nabokov wrote - - I think it was
an afterword to Lolita, something to do with Lolita anyway. He wrote
that if you weren't able to read Pushkin in his original language it
was like going your whole life without ever hearing the music of
Mozart. My memory is doubtless flawed, but that's how I recollect it.

I couldn't stand the thought of a life without Mozart, and I invested
quite a number of years (and tears) in learning Russian. And Nabokov
was right - - Pushkin simply cannot be appreciated in any other
language. But there was one person who could have given the non-
Russian speaker a taste of Pushkin's verse (and I think he did
actually achieve this in some of his own poems) and that person gave us

"Of the four-foot iambus I've grown tired. In it writes everyone. To
boys this plaything 'Tis high time to abandon ..."

It doesn't make much difference to me, but I weep for you.


On Feb 27, 2009, at 5:36 PM, jansymello wrote:

C. Kunin [ it's not the quality of V & V that was really my point, but
the quality of Nabokov's translations[...] Didn't Nabokov himself
describe his translation as "monkey's chatter, the poet's head upon a
platter"? Nemser, myself and others only beg to agree...
JM: Much as I usually appreciate your frank remarks, the recent
posting you addressed to Katsell and List caught me by surprise. The
opposite of idolizing is denigration and I'm not sure that you didn't
fall into another extreme.
What I particularly enjoy in "Verses and Versions", as edited by
B.Boyd and Shvrabin , is the opportunity we have to accompany a poet
along his hesitations and choices, his different ways to address a
challenge, the presentation of his successful, and unsuccessful,
The collection, as published in VV is alive and breathing and
touchingly Nabokovian (and, I hope, Russian): it deserves my total
respect - this doesn't mean uncritical acceptance or an idealistic
reverence, but a less speedy approach.
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