NABOKV-L post 0010693, Fri, 3 Dec 2004 13:07:18 -0800

Re: Fwd: Re: Krivulin poem re Nabokov. Translation
From Jeff Edmunds <>:

Thank you Alexey Skylarenko for pointing out the shortcomings of my
translation, especially the major goof in the second stanza (about which
more below).

As Alexey notes, "'Mgnove' is a truncated (and nonexisting) form of
'mgnovenie,' a moment." This form wonderfully embodies the "fragment"
mentioned in the first stanza. Another of the charms of the first stanza is
the artistry which which the verb "zaselo" (got stuck) is literally stuck
in the phrase "v moei golove" (in my head): "v moei zaselo golove." (Which
calls to my mind the masterful first sentence of Alain Robbe-Grillet's _La
jalousie_ [of which Nabokov said in a French interview published in 1959,
"C'est le plus beau roman d'amour depuis Proust"], in which the structure
of the sentence serves as a textual analog of the image described: "Now the
shadow of the column--the column which supports the southwest corner of the
roof--divides the corresponding corner of the veranda into two equal parts."

As for stanza two, I would like to explain one reason why I misread the
text as implying that it was Nabokov who "conceal[s] the genital organ /
With metaphysical delight." Nabokov was always precise in his terminology
(cf., inter alia, Peter Lubin's paper in ZEMBLA), but this precision rarely
if ever extended to human genital organs. So far as I can recall, Nabokov
does not once in his published prose or poetry use the word "penis." (He
*does* use the term in one of his letters to Edmund Wilson. If I recall
correctly, he says, in reference to the sex scenes in one of Wilson's
books, that despite their frankness, they are not arousing, in fact they
are about as arousing as "trying to open a can of tuna with one's penis."
Incidentally, the delivery of this line by Dmitri Nabokov playing his
father during a performance of Terry Quinn's "Dear Bunny, Dear Volodya,"
was, for me, a delightful moment of shared hilarity during the 1998 Cornell
Nabokov Centenary Festival.)

Whether the "pryshchushchii persik" (spurting peach) or "priap" (priapus)
in Chapter XIII of Prignlashenie na kazn' (Invitation to a Beaheading), or
the much more famous "scepter of my passion" in Lolita, a penis is never
simply a penis for Nabokov. Few writers, it might be argued, have so
artistically concealed "the genital organ" with "metaphysical delight."
Hence my too-hasty willingness to see Nabokov as the concealer in stanza
two rather than as the explainer of this concealment.

Finally, as I mentioned to Alexey in a personal message thanking him for
his corrections, I was also distracted by the fact that I had composed a
more ribald, even less literal, but rhymed version of the second stanza,
not sent to the list, in which I replaced "genital organ" with "cock" and
rendered "polotenchikom" as "with a sock."

Again, my apologies to Mr. Krivulin, and now to The Red Hot Chili Peppers
as well.

Jeff Edmunds

At 10:24 AM 12/2/2004 -0800, you wrote:
>----- Forwarded message from -----
> Date: Thu, 2 Dec 2004 19:36:39 +0300
> From: alex <>
>Thank you, Jeff Edmunds, for your translation and for providing a link to the
>complete version of this poem. I found it on a different web page
>( where the poem was published
>without the four last lines.
>The poem's strange title apparently needs a short commentary. "Mgnove" is a
>truncated (and nonexisting) form of "mgnovenie," a moment, and the whole title
>plays on the first line of Pushkin's famous poem "Ya pomnyu chudnoe
>(I remember a wondrous moment)addressed to Anna Kern (who was to become
>Pushkin's mistress a couple of years after he had written that poem). That's
>why "mgnove" is compared to a fragment of some antique statue in lines 3-4.
>I think the translation is marvelous, but I would like to correct one little
>mistake. The author of the poem doesn't want Nabokov to conceal the genital
>organ (of the statue) with metaphysical delight, he wants him to explain
>why it
>is concealed. Also, styd i sram (the phrase occurs in ADA, ch. 38) means
>Krivulin has also a poem entitled Chetvyortaya Sestra ("The Fourth
>Sister") that
>might have been inspired (and might be not) by Chekhov's well-known play "The
>Four Sisters" (again, see ADA).
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Donald B. Johnson
> Sent: Thursday, December 02, 2004 3:36 AM
> Subject: Fwd: Re: Krivulin poem re Nabokov. Translation
> EDNOTE. With thanks to Jeff Edmunds on ZEMBLA's Birthday.
> From Jeff Edmunds <>:
> The version of this poem that reached me via the list was both garbled and
> truncated, perhaps as a result of the encoding. The apparently complete
> version is available at
> about two-thirds of the way down the page.
> Below is an English version, composed hastily and immediately
> postprandially. It is whimsical, ugly, unrhymed, and probably wrong in at
> least three ways. My apologies to Viktor Krivulin.
> ---------------------------------------------
> Marvelous Moment
> Why did you, marvelous moment,
> Get stuck in my head
> Like a fragment from the naughty bits
> Of some antique statue?
> Let Nabokov explain
> The meaning of Russian diffidence and
> Shame, and conceal the genital organ
> With metaphysical delight
> As with a wisp of cloth --
> Why? What for and from whom?
> Harmony is deity
> On line, connected to us
> So that we don't see, but we know,
> There is something there, where there is nothing
>----- End forwarded message -----

----- End forwarded message -----