In the sentence of VN’s version in English of “The Eye” we read: “Experience warned me, of course, that the particular image of Smurov, which was perhaps destined to live forever (to the delight of scholars), might be a shock to me; but the urge to gain possession of this secret, to see Smurov through the eyes of future centuries, was so bedazzling that no thought of disappointment could frighten me. I feared only one thing -  that ... Roman Bogdanovich would start right off ( like the voice, in full swing, that burst upon your ears when you turn on the radio for a moment) with an eloquent report on Smurov” (77/78 Vintage)


In Portuguese the translator opted to convert the radio’s “voice, in full swing” into “como a voz, a pleno vapor,...” (“full steam ahead”) that is, actually, the first choice offered for the English expression., in an internet dic. The best, perhaps, would be to make a bigger change, one that shies away from the original wording to eliminate “in full swing” and then stress the volume of the voice directly: “the full voice that bursts”...*


I had marked these lines because they reveal a preoccupation that is always present in VN’s writings: literary survival and a chance to take a peek through “the eyes of future centuries,”** something that is  brought up in “Pale Fire,” in “Lolita” ...  It sstarted after I promised to find quotes from “The Eye” to illustrate the extensive ramifications of certain ideas presented there. My first frustrated attempt this time resulted in the quote selected at the beginning of this posting but I discovered that the chain of associations, inspired by my reading of “The Eye” in translation is completely diferent from those found in the English text and it was useless to continue my search.


I’ll bring up only one more quote because it’s worth reading it anyway: “ I could already count three versions of Smurov, while the original remained unknown. This occurs in scientific classification. Longa go, Linnaeus described a common species of butterfly, adding the laconic note “in pratis Westmanniae.” Time passes, and in the laudable pursuit of accuracy, new investigators name the various souther and Alpine races of this common species, so that soon there is not a spot left in Europe where one finds the nominal race and not a local subspecies. Where is the type, the model, the original? Then, at last, a grave entomologista discusses in a detailed paper the whole complex of named races and accepts as the representative of the typical one the almost 200-year old, faded Scandinavian specimen collecte by Linnaeus; and this identification sets everything right.” (Vintage ed.,53/54).  The delightful information about finding an “original” butterfly species isn’t written in the style used by the narrator (nor by Smurov) but it sounds like a trip into “The Gift,” and it gives a preview of something related to V.’s search in “RLSK” for Sebastian’s always inaccessible “real life.”  The initial inspiration I’d found during my first reading of “The Eye” in Portuguese has vanished completely, though.  No more quotes I fear.




* -Btw: a few lines before the one I quoted, VN uses a strange word (or there’s a mispelling in my pocket edition) for which I’d like to get more information from those who own VN’s Webster’s or more sophisticated dictionaries than mine: “as a first-rate writer, who knew how to imortalize, with a striggle of his old-fashioned pen, an airy landscape, the smell of a stagecoach, or the oddities of an acquaintance” (78 V.) Striggle?


** There’s an old posting at the VN-L archives mentioning a movie and Beerbohm’s prank.(there’s not enough information in my Google VN-List entry, but I wrote it a long time ago), related to Fulmerford and a writer’s pact with the devil:


A discussion about the movie, "Unknown" (directed by Jaume Collet-Serra with Liam Neeson, Bruno Ganz, Diane Kruger, Quilty and others), brought other films to my mind, such as  Frankenheimer's "Second," or Dmytryk's "Mirage," but I couldn't recollect, initially, who was it that wrote a story about a pact with the devil in which there was a guy named Nupton, another called Fulmerford and a writer or a poet - Soames, was he?  Searching about, I finally reached Max Beerbohm's 1919 short-story, here summarized by Alberto Manguel: "In Beerbohm's story, set in 1897, Soames, who has sold only three copies of his book of poems, ''Fungoids,'' makes a pact with the Devil. In exchange for his ambitious soul, he asks to visit the (British Museum's) Reading Room a hundred years hence, to see how posterity had judged him. Unfortunately for Soames, posterity has not judged him at all; posterity has merely ignored him. In the story, he finds no record of his work in the library's voluminous catalog, and in a literary history the only mention of his name was a note describing him as an imaginary character in a Beerbohm story." No Fulmerford, though! And what about Nupton? According to Beerbohm, T.K Nupton is the scholar  who failed to identify Soames, thereby turning him into a "nobody." Carolyn Kunin once wrote to Nab-L about Botkin's name, as a mirror image of nikto b, which might be translated -he would be nobody-.  And there's also a remark by Nabokov (SO?) about searching for his own name and stumbling upon "Nobody."  However, in SO, there's Nabokov's 1964 Playboy interview in which he was asked about what he wanted to accomplish or leave  behind in the future,. Nabokov answered: 
Well, in this matter of accomplishment, of course, I don't have a 35-year plan or program, but I have a fair inkling of my literary  afterlife.  I  have sensed certain hints...With the Devil's connivance, I open a newspaper of 2063 and in some article on the books  page I  find:  "Nobody  reads  Nabokov  or  Fulmerford today." Awful question: Who is this unfortunate Fulmerford?"



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