NABOKV-L post 0023836, Tue, 26 Mar 2013 22:52:44 -0700

Re: Ada's dissolved epigraph
Deear Jansy,

I don't have access to my copy of EO as translated by VN into English, but I'm
assuming that he had his reasons for translating as he did. But in Pushkin's
original Russian, there is no ambiguity in the meaning. For whatever reason it
appears that Nabokov chose an ambiguous translation - but that may very well be
because Alexey only gave us a snippet -- a phrase. For a final clearing up a
full quotation of both the Russian and English stanzas should be posted, which
unfortunately I can not do.


From: Nabokv-L <nabokv-l@UTK.EDU>
Sent: Tue, March 26, 2013 7:06:17 PM
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] Ada's dissolved epigraph

Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] Ada's dissolved epigraph
From: Jansy <>
Date: 3/25/2013 12:14 PM
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU>

Jansy Mello: Fascinating exchanges*.There's one nagging
question,though. If, as AS and SS affirm, there is no ambiguity (or
little ambiguity) in Pushkin's sentence in Russian - but there are
"often fruitful" ambiguities in VN's translation (following JK and
SKB and, indirectly, CK) - can we say that VN was following the
strictures of the criteria he used in the translation of EO, or did
he deviate from them in this instance?


*AS:(quoting Pushkin) ...":lyubov'yu shutit satana(with love
jokes Satan)."
CK: I have to disagree with Alexey's usually excellent English
AS: Carolyn, you disagree with Nabokov's incomparable and
precise English - for it is his translation.

CK: Satan does not joke lovingly, as is would appear in Alexey's
translation, but uses love to make fun of humans.

AS: This is exactly what Pushkin is saying.
Stan Kelly Bootle: Do we have have a common word-order reversal adding
to the potential ambiguity? SVP (subject verb predicate) in many
languages can be varied for emphasis. Here we have PVS to stress the
adverbial predicate ... The object &/or nature of Satan’s
humour/satire. A comma/pause plus italics may clarify:With love, jokes
Satan.The preposition WITH remains ambiguous:Satan jokes ABOUT love? Or
Satan jokes LOVINGLY? Is the Russian dative case-ending lyubov'yu
equally ambiguous? Regardless of Nabokov’s ‘incomparably precise’
command of Russian & English, there remain inescapable (often fruitful!)
NL ambiguities, especially with poetry & aphorisms.Finally: Is the
‘epigraph/epigram’ referring to a particular incident (resting on
subsequent context), or a general accusation about the Devil’s
indifference to human emotions?

[to SKB: 'Is the Russian dative case-ending lyubov'yu equally
Jerry Katsell: Certainly there are no lack of ambiguities in VV's work,
often fruitful, as Stanley Kelly-Bootle states.One thing is certain
though: lyubov'yu is grammatically feminine with a soft consonant ending
and thus here in the instrumental, not dative case, -- perhaps adding to
the adjectival emphasis of the word in first position in the phrase.
Sergei Soloviev [ to SKB]: no, in Russian it is less ambiguous
(ambiguous variant would require "s lyubov'yu...").
AS: lyubov'yu is instrumental case. No ambiguity in Russian, despite the
reversed word order.Ljuba Tarvi lyubov'yu shutit satana. Here is this
line in the four latest full-text translations of EO:

Tom Beck (2004): for Satan loves а fiendish joke! Stanley Mitchell (2008):
That Satan plays оn gentlefolk.

Henry Hoyt (2008): Тhе Evil Оnе plays jokes with love. D.M. Thomas (2011):
For Satan always jokes with love.

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