{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Art of Translation.

This is Nabokov's essay on the art of translation, that appears in his lecture book on Russian literature. It ends with a tutorial on translating one line of Pushkin :)

sample this:

But masking and toning down seem petty sins in comparison with those of the
third category; for here he comes strutting and shooting out his bejeweled
cuffs, the slick translator who arranges Scheherazade's boudoir according to
his own taste and with professional elegance tries to improve the looks of
his victims.

and this

Now comes the authentic poet who has the two last assets and who finds
relaxation in translating a bit of Lermontov or Verlaine between writing poems
of his own. Either he does not know the original language and calmly relies upon
the so-called "literal" translation made for him by a far less brilliant but a
little more learned person, or else, knowing the language, he lacks the
scholar's precision and the professional translator's experience. The main
drawback, 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.

1 comment:

Alok said...

actually nabokov's own opinions on translation changed a lot over time. as a young writer he translated alice in wonderland into russian and it was a completely russianized version of the story. later in the career he took a literarlist line. i read one essay which speculates on why he changed his views. will find and send it to you.