Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0008578, Mon, 15 Sep 2003 12:13:30 -0700

Fw: Fw: Fw: Linguistic showoffs
EDNOTE. Jeff Edmunds is the editor of ZEMBLA, as well as artist, writer, & scholar.
----- Original Message -----
From: Jeff Edmunds
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Monday, September 15, 2003 6:32 AM
Subject: Re: Fw: Fw: Linguistic showoffs

>From Jeff Edmunds <jhe2@psulias.psu.edu>:

Allow me to quote myself, from an article published in Nabokov Studies #2 (1995):

"In KQK, on the other hand [i.e., in the English version of King, Queen, Knave as opposed to the original Russian], there is no mistaking the mature Nabokov's stylistic virtuosity in the imagery, word-play, and alliterative language as well as in the self-referentiality (or what Maurice Couturier calls autotextualité) of the text. In more than one instance VN's revamping of KDV seems overdone. Frants' "izbegat' mestoimeniia i obrashchenie" [avoid pronouns and forms of address] (35) becomes "Avoid vocatives" (34), an unconvincingly precise vocabulary in the mind of a nervous twenty-year-old German yokel, and the simple and evocative "frukt" whose lack at the station's sandwich stall Dreier bemoans is transformed into the absurdly overwrought "nice, plump, lumpy, glossy red strawberries positively crying to be bitten into, all their achenes proclaiming their affinity with one's own tongue's papillae" (2).* It is difficult not to reproach the master (like the elder Luzhin's composer father-in-law) for sometimes being inclined, "v zrelye gody, k somnitel'nomu blistaniiu virtuoznosti."

*I explained the presence of this image in a footnote:

The strawberry/tongue relationship may have bled into the English version of KDV from Ada, which Nabokov was composing at the same time he was revising KQK. In chapter 17, Van and Ada are exchanging sloppy kisses: "'I can lend you my tongue,' she said, and did. A large boiled strawberry, still very hot." (p. 103).

Of course, it is a matter of opinion whether the passage quoted (or any other) is or is not a gratuitous display of virtuosity.