Manny's Reviews > Eugene Onegin, Vol. I

Eugene Onegin, Vol. I by Alexander Pushkin
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Jun 17, 10

bookshelves: why-not-call-it-poetry, translation-is-impossible
Read in January, 2000

What could I possibly say that would be more interesting or beautiful than Nabokov's own comments? In case you haven't seen them:

On Translating Eugene Onegin


What is translation? On a platter
A poet's pale and glaring head,
A parrot's screech, a monkey's chatter,
And profanation of the dead.
The parasites you were so hard on
Are pardoned if I have your pardon,
O, Pushkin, for my stratagem:
I traveled down your secret stem,
And reached the root, and fed upon it;
Then, in a language newly learned,
I grew another stalk and turned
Your stanza patterned on a sonnet,
Into my honest roadside prose--
All thorn, but cousin to your rose.


Reflected words can only shiver
Like elongated lights that twist
In the black mirror of a river
Between the city and the mist.
Elusive Pushkin! Persevering,
I still pick up Tatiana's earring,
Still travel with your sullen rake.
I find another man's mistake,
I analyze alliterations
That grace your feasts and haunt the great
Fourth stanza of your Canto Eight.
This is my task--a poet's patience
And scholastic passion blent:
Dove-droppings on your monument.
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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Hazel (new)

Hazel love this!

message 2: by David (new)

David What can I say about your review, except to express the hope that you also read a translation other than the miserable effort by that venomous old pedant Nabokov, who spent countless hours vilifying those who actually dared to rise to the challenge that he himself ducked completely - that of producing a translation that respects the subtle and sublime rhyme scheme of the original Pushkin stanzas?

In chapter 9 of his brilliant meditation on translation, "Le Ton Beau de Marot", Douglas Hofstadter expresses his contempt for the virulent old toad far more eloquently than I can manage here. Let me just say that I completely share his disdain and loathing.

Manny Thank you, Hazel!

David: well, Nabokov himself says that his translation is crap. He couldn't be clearer. But what a wonderful way to say it!

By the way, did you notice my reviews of The Golden Gate and Pippi i Söderhavet ? If not, you might want to look at them...

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