Friday, November 11, 2005

NY-area Nabokov-lovers take note

Brian Boyd is lecturing on Monday Nov. 14 at Columbia University, 4-6pm in International Affairs Building 1219, sponsored by the Harriman Institute. Here are more details, including Boyd's description of what the talk will be about:

"Nabokov, Or What Could Be Verse”

Nabokov is famous, even notorious, for his rejection of rhymed verse translations during and after his monumental translation of Pushkin’s "Eugene Onegin." But for many years he translated verse into rhyme in various directions, from English, French and German (Shakespeare, Baudelaire and Goethe, for example) into Russian, and from Russian (all the way from Lomonosov to Okudzhava) into English and French. I will consider Nabokov’s changing theory and practice of verse translation, and the problems of any attempt to offer access to a foreign poetic tradition, focusing especially on the example of one of Pushkin’s most famous short lyrics, “Ya vas lyubil” (“I loved you once”), which Nabokov attempted three times to translate. I think a non-Russian reader /can/ be made to enjoy Pushkin’s genius—but did Nabokov himself succeed?

I love that little Pushkin poem, it's the only poem I know by heart in Russian (it's very sweet and sad, although I fear I probably picked it to learn more because it's so short); and I still remember having one of those funny and strangely serious conversations you have in language classes with my long-ago Russian teacher about whether the narrator really means what he says in the last line. (Here's the poem, in transliterated Russian and English translation.)

And for a bonus, if you haven't already seen it, go and check out this Nabokovian gem in the VLS by the proprietor of The Dizzies.

1 comment:

  1. THe link to the "Ya vas Lyubil" poem in russian does not work. Do you think you can send the poem to me if you have it in your archives? I would greatly, greatly appreciate it....