Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004553, Tue, 9 Nov 1999 14:05:59 -0800

Revisions to VN Translation of "Onegin" Chapter II, XXXIV (fwd)

I am intrigued by the discrepancy between the 1964 and 1976 Nabokovian
versions of "Eugene Onegin," Chapter II, XXXIV, line 13:

Tam uzhin, tam i spat' pora (Pushkin)

then supper came, then 'twas bedtime (1964)

then supper comes, then, lo, 'tis bedtime (1975).

In his prefatory comments to the 1975 version, "'EO' Revisited," Nabokov
explains that he attempted in revising to achieve "a closer line-by-line
fit," yet I find the 1964 translation much closer metrically to Pushkin's
original. Although one must acknowledge the shift to present tense as an
improvement, serving to mirror Pushkin's sense of immediacy, the spondaic
introduction of "lo" is invasive, inviting interpretative speculation
within an array of biographical and intertextual registers.

Has anyone studied Nabokov's revisions of the "Onegin" translation

I wonder if the inscription of "lo" here refracts the Russianizing
of "Lolita" between 1964 and 1975. It strikes me, too, that this may be a
significant clue in our game of "Find What the Sailor Has Hidden." Could
it be that Nabokov used his reworking of the Onegin translation here to
signal much broader relations, of the sort discovered by Priscilla
Meyer, between "Eugene Onegin" and "Lolita"? The dramatic situation of
stanza XXXIV parallels that of Humbert's time as Charlotte's husband, and
one may read Nabokov's second translation as echoing Humbert's parental
instructions to Delores. The dressing gown worn in stanza XXXIV by
Tatiana's father animates -- and is reciprocally animated by -- Humbert's
wearing of a similar garment. Such interanimating, metonymic coincidences
intensify my separate pleasures in Pushkin's, as much as Nabokov's,
larger novels.