Nabokov on the Art of Translation

Two grades of evil can be discerned in the queer world of verbal transmigration. The first, and lesser one, comprises obvious errors due to ignorance or misguided knowledge. This is mere human frailty and thus excusable. The next step to Hell is taken by the translator who intentionally skips words or passages that he does not bother to understand or that might seem obscure or obscene to vaguely imagined readers; he accepts the blank look that his dictionary gives him without any qualms; or subjects scholarship to primness: he is as ready to know less than the author as he is to think he knows better. The third, and worst, degree of turpitude is reached when a masterpiece is planished and patted into such a shape, vilely beautified in such a fashion as to conform to the notions and prejudices of a given public. This is a crime, to be punished by the stocks as plagiarists were in the shoebuckle days.


# 1.   

Executive summary: "I am the only person who should be allowed to translate Yevgeny Onegin and everybody else is bad and wrong and stupid and I hate them SO MUCH."

Brendan, June 2, 2010, 5:01a.m.

# 2.   

But who else could write about how everyone else is either stupid or evil, and demonstrate that he could do better if he chose, and then NOT ACTUALLY DO IT, and still make you love him?

Also: "stump a dunce or debauch a dauphin!" Ha!

Eric Abrahamsen, June 2, 2010, 5:30a.m.

# 3.   

Nabokov executed his broad aesthetic view on crime and punishment with his novel 'Pale Fire' quite masterfully, yes?

Shades of Frost: A Hidden Source for Nabokov's Pale Fire by Abraham P. Socher

susan, December 20, 2016, 3:18p.m.

# 4.   

The private desire to translate is always to discover a masterpiece large and small, better than all that one has hidden in his translator's hat, than to switch salutation, in other words 'if you met a Buddha, kill him softly with your song' ...

susan, December 20, 2016, 3:39p.m.

# 5.

.... however, in this case is the fact that the greater his individual talent, the more apt he will be to drown the foreign masterpiece under the sparkling ripples of his own personal style. Instead of dressing up like the real author, he dresses up the author as himself ...

I can sense Nabokov's teasing remark that he only knew this minor poem by Robert Frost's , later entitled ' questioning faces'. Here, Abraham Socher made quite a convincing case. I totally buy it.

On November 29, 1960, in Nice (the date preserved in his manuscript), Nabokov began his poetic parhelion about a bird: I was the shadow of the waxwing slain By the false azure in the window pane Nabokov was, like Frost and Shade, the sort of artist who hid his traces, and the manuscript of Pale Fire now in the Library of Congress is a fairly clean fair copy with few signs of "the fluff and pebbles" with which he began.

Nonetheless, it is worth noting that both Shade's Sherlock Holmes couplet (which was, at first, uncharacteristically clumsy: "Fellow in Sherlock Holmes tried to confuse / Pursuit by putting on backwards his shoes") and Kinbote's comment on Frost, Shade and the "temperature charts of poetry," are thoroughly reworked. It was clearly important to Nabokov to leave a telltale hint of Holmesian mystery in those footprints on the "diamonds of frost," even before the perfect couplet came to him, and later to handle the Frost-frost-Shade connection in Kinbote's comment with precision.

Nineteen sixty-two, when Pale Fire was published, was also the year that Frost published In the Clearing, his final book. "Of a Winter Evening" was included, though it was re-titled "Questioning Faces." Frost had unknowingly helped to erase the paper trail to the poem whose reflected light shines from the opening lines of "Pale Fire," and without which Nabokov's novel is almost unimaginable.

and here's a bit on beauty behold by Pushkin.

susan, December 20, 2016, 4:22p.m.

# 6.   

How do I translate this short poem, by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, into Chinese ? Anyone else might be interested in trying as well?


Out of my heart, one day, I wrote a song,/ With my heart's blood imbued,/ Instinct with passion, tremulously strong,/ With grief subdued;/ Breathing a fortitude/ Pain-bought./ And one who claimed much love for what I wrought,/ Read and considered it,/ and spoke:/ "Ay, brother, - 'tis well writ,/ But where's the joke?"

susan, July 21, 2017, 12:29p.m.

# 7.   

A friend of mine, Eva, after a few exchange on the fine point "一笑置之“ and 承蒙错爱 sent me her translation on this piece "Misapprehension" by Paul Dunbar: 错爱/

心迹坦露的那一日,我写了首歌,将心血熔铸,本能并激情,强烈至战栗,又忧伤暗涌,痛驻于一呼一吸,挥之不去。 那人对它如此钟爱,手不释卷,而后说

" 啊,兄台,果真佳作。 只是,笑点何在?"

susan, July 28, 2017, 2:57p.m.

# 8.   

"Hart Crane and the Private Judgment" (1953) "

So many cranes are UP these days at New Hope/West Trenton, US of A. go figure.

susan, September 22, 2017, 8:42p.m.

# 9.   

反帝修正主义版: -- 以及所有天朝的工蜂 。。。And Bees of Paradise 哈特- 克莱恩, Hart Crane

con-versed by S. Ye on translation by 得一忘二



啊,高阔的日子向太阳赓续流逝。我们已走过许多燃过的天宇,它们不卑不亢,被你的赞美环绕,/ ​ 末日将尽于美利坚的白鸽,以及所有天朝的工蜂。

susan, September 25, 2017, 10:10a.m.

# 10.   

reading 'the bee meeting' Chinese translations from Sylvia Plath's anthology...

susan, September 25, 2017, 9:38p.m.


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