Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0022123, Wed, 26 Oct 2011 13:17:22 -0200

[QUERY] Nabokov's Monism
A group of colleagues was discussing Pale Fire's "incompleteness" and Kinbote's variant lines using dots, dashes and a gap. These seem to create a poetic "quirk in space" which Shade describes when he muses about various geographical points of view.[Cf. (a) Lines 39-40: .............and home would haste my thieves,/ The sun with stolen ice, the moon with leaves ; (b) CK's "beautiful variant, with one curious gap, branches off at this point in the draft" [Poor old man Swift, poor -, poor Baudelaire ] "...the name required here must scan as a trochee. "]
A scholarly-minded participant mentioned " Problema Stikolvornovo Iazika" by Iuri Tinianov ( "O problema da linguagem poética I - o ritmo como elemento construtivo do verso",1923, Ed.tempo brasileiro,1975) and his reference to Pushkin's dots as "text-equivalents," his "incomplete poems" and "omitted" lines in 'Eugene Onegin.' One of I.Tinianov's elaborations discusses rythm and a poetic "form = content." old-fashioned view Differently from Nabokov's answer to Alfred Appel Jr.:"Philosophically, I am an invidisible monist" (SO,Vintage, 85), in "Problems of Translation: Onegin in English" Nabokov applies "monism" to literary matters when they are related to verbal form and content.
"Can a translation while rendering with absolute fidelity the whole text, and nothing but the text, keep the form of the original, its rhythm and its rhyme?" he asks. "To the artist whom practice within the limits of one language, his own, has convinced that matter and manner are one, it comes as a shock to discover that a work of art can present itself to the would-be translator as split into form and content, and that the question of rendering one but not the other may arise at all. Actually what happens is still a monist's delight: shorn of its primary verbal existence, the original text will not be able to soar and to sing; but it can be very nicely dissected and mounted, and scientifically studied in all its organic details."

I got the impression that in his essay on translating EO Nabokov states that poems can only remain alive in their original language since "soaring and singing" translations are close to impossible to achieve. On the whole he seems to be suggesting that translators should act like entomologists when they hunt down and mount a specimen to study its physical traits and who register its location and favorite foods in a tag (at least, this is what he often holds when the issue is translating Pushkin's EO), after etherizing and spreading their subject with pins.
In that sense would translations only become the projected shadows of a "real thing" in Nabokov's eyes? It doesn't make sense to me when I read his translations, particularly the "soaring" Pushkin in French ( "Le vrai et le vraisemblable").
Any special bibliographical indications and comments as a guide to such probings?

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