NABOKV-L post 0026715, Mon, 21 Dec 2015 09:36:52 +0100

Re: RES: [NABOKV-L] RES: [NABOKV-L] RES: [NABOKV-L] retranslating
That Nabokov “reacted with outrage to Don Quixote’s cruelty” and
conceived Pnin as “a reply to Cervantes” as Brian Boyd explains is
undeniable, yet there is a clear difference between Cervantes’s cruelty
and his own. Don Quixote is an intensely metafictional novel as all the
thresholds, the paratexts of the original edition, the narrative asides,
testify. Not only is it a parody of the novels of chivalry like Amadis
de Gaul, it is a found text which was allegedly written in Arabic and
translated afterwards, in which a confused man deliberately assumes a
role for which he is totally unfit. Despite his many blunders and
mishaps, he isn’t suffering from an inferiority complex, contrary to
Pnin: he thinks his approach to the world is the right one, and none of
the disasters will teach him a lesson. He is above all a distorting
mirror reflecting the world he lives in. The cruelty of which he seems
to be the target is mild in comparison with the one Pnin is suffering
from. The plight of Nabokov’s protagonist is closer to that of Gregor
Samsa. Pnin, like Gregor, is acutely aware of his inadequacy and vainly
tries to adapt himself to the world he lives in, suffering countless
humiliations as he fails to do so. And the vicious narrator does little
to make us sympathize with him or with anybody in fact. His treatment of
the Winds or of many subjects like modern education, modern painting and
psychology of one kind or another is on a par with that of Pnin. This
narrator, who obliquely reflects Nabokov’s sneering figure at that
particular moment in his life (and for which I have no explanation),
seems to be using his protagonist to vent his own discontent and sadism.
Jansy, just look carefully at the opening chapter or at the opening of
part 5 of Chapter 4 and try to translate them, and you’ll see what I
mean. Thank you, anyway, for pursuing this discussion.

Maurice Couturier

> PS to wiki’s: "According to Boyd, _Pnin_ is Nabokov's response to_
> __Don Quixote_ which he had read a year earlier. Nabokov lambasted
> Cervantes for his cruelty to Quixote, seeming to encourage the reader
> to be amused by the eponymous character's pain and humiliation. The
> title of the book, Boyd claims, lends even more credence to this
> theory, as it sounds like and nearly spells "pain.” (Boyd, AY,
> 1991,p.271-72). To my non-native English speaking eyes (and ears) the
> wiki redaction cited above is disconcertingly ambiguous since it seems
> to suggest that, for B. Boyd, it was Nabokov’s intention “to
> encourage the reader to be amused by…,” when it’s exactly the
> opposite that he observes (“_ __But if the opening of Pnin__
> __appears__ __to ask us to hoot at the novel’s hero,__ __ Nabokov
> suddenly turns the story about [ ] He has a complex inner existence
> Don Quixote is never allowed, and his pain suddenly matters.
> Mistake-prone Pnin comes to sum up all human mishaps and misfortunes,
> the strange blend of comedy and tragedy in all human life._”). This
> kind of false shock has never happened with me while reading_ __Pnin_:
> my confusions were always Pnin’s confusions and I always thought
> that they’d been deliberately planted in the novel by the author
> JANSY MELLO: A query about the narrator in_ Pnin … _was he not
> Pnin’s fellow countryman and coeval? If so, why isn’t he as
> afflicted as Pnin was when expressing his thoughts in English and
> dominating the pace of the novel with the same agility as those other
> “foreigners,” like HH and Kinbote?  Pnin was more familiar with
> the French, while living in Europe, than with the English, right?
>  (I’ve forgotten too much…)
> Recently, I sent a quiz to the VN-L where readers were invited to
> recognize Nabokov’s lines in _Lolita, _among others that were
> written by Ed Sheran in “Thinking out loud”*.  I tried to make my
> choices and made one shameful mistake on item 7 (“don't cry, I'm
> sorry to have deceived you so much, but that's how life is”). It
> occurred to me later on  that these lines are one of the few that
> were not written by HH - since they report Lolita’s words to him.
> “My” _Lolita_ is exclusively HH’s - I mean, V. Nabokov’s.
> …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….
> *;bab69023.1512
> [1]
> Google Search [2]
> the archive [2] Contact
> the Editors NOJ [3]
> Zembla [4]
> Nabokv-L [5]
> Policies [5] Subscription options [6]
> AdaOnline [7]
> NSJ Ada Annotations [8]
> L-Soft Search the archive [9]
> VN Bibliography Blog [10]
> All private editorial communications are read by both co-editors.
> Links:
> ------
> [1];bab69023.1512
> [2]
> [3]
> [4]
> [5]
> [6]
> [7]
> [8]
> [9]
> [10]

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Nabokv-L policies:
Nabokov Online Journal:"
AdaOnline: "
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada:
The VN Bibliography Blog:
Search the archive with L-Soft:

Manage subscription options :