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Набоков Владимир. Книга: [Proofed to line 1994]. Страница 25
Все книги писателя Набоков Владимир. Скачать книгу можно по ссылке s

This name, no doubt, is most tempting. The star over the blue eminently suits an astronomer though actually neither his first nor second name bears any relation to the celestial vault: the first was given him in memory of his grandfather, a Russian starover (accented, incidentally, on the ultima), that is, Old Believer (member of a schismatic sect), named Sinyavin, from siniy, Russ. "blue." This Sinyavin migrated from Saratov to Seattle and begot a son who eventually changed his name to Blue and married Stella Lazurchik, an Americanized Kashube. So it goes. Honest Starover Blue will probably be surprised by the epithet bestowed upon him by a jesting Shade. The writer feels moved to pay here a small tribute to the amiable old freak, adored by everybody on the campus and nicknamed by the students Colonel Starbottle, evidently because of his exceptionally convivial habits. After all, there were other great men in our poet's entourage - for example, that distinguished Zemblan scholar Oscar Nattochdag.







Line 629: The fate of beasts





Above this the poet wrote and struck out: The madman's fate



The ultimate destiny of madmen's souls has been probed by many Zemblan theologians who generally hold the view that even the most demented mind still contains within its diseased mass a sane basic particle that survived death and suddenly expands, bursts out as it were, in peals of healthy and triumphant laughter when the world of timorous fools and trim blockheads has fallen away far behind. Personally, I have not known any lunatics; but have heard of several amusing cases in New Wye ("Even in Arcady am I," says Dementia, chained to her gray column). There was for instance a student who went berserk. There was an old tremendously trustworthy college porter who one day, in the Projection Room, showed a squeamish coed something of which she had no doubt seen better samples; but my favorite case is that of an Exton railway employee whose delusion was described to me by Mrs. H., of all people. There was a big Summer School party at the Hurleys', to which one of my second ping-pong table partners, a pal of the Hurley boys had taken me because I knew my poet was to recite there something and I was beside myself with apprehension believing it might be my Zembla (it proved to be an obscure poem by one of his obscure friends - my Shade was very kind to the unsuccessful). The reader will understand if I say that, at my altitude, I can never feel "lost" in a crowd, but it is also true that I did not know many people at the H.'s. As I circulated, with a smile on my face and a cocktail in my hand, through the crush, I espied at last the top of my poet's head and the bright brown chignon of Mrs. H. above the back of two adjacent chairs: At the moment I advanced behind them I heard him object to some remark she had just made: "That is the wrong word," he said. "One should not apply it to a person who deliberately peels off a drab and unhappy past and replaces it with a brilliant invention. That's merely turning a new leaf with the left hand."

I patted my friend on the head and bowed slightly to Eberthella H. The poet looked at me with glazed eyes. She said: "You must help us, Mr. Kinbote: I maintain that what's his name, old - the old man, you know, at the Exton railway station, who thought he was God and began redirecting the trains, was technically a loony, but John calls him a fellow poet."

"We all are, in a sense, poets, Madam," I replied, and offered a lighted match to my friend who had his pipe in his teeth and was beating himself with both hands on various parts of his torso.

I am not sure this trivial variant has been worth commenting; indeed, the whole passage about the activities of the IPH would be quite Hudibrastic had its pedestrian verse been one foot shorter.







Line 662: Who rides so late in the night and the wind



This line, and indeed the whole passage (line 653-664), allude to the well-known poem by Goethe about the erlking, hoary enchanter of the elf-haunted alderwood, who falls in love with the delicate little boy of a belated traveler. One cannot sufficiently admire the ingenious way in which Shade manages to transfer something of the broken rhythm of the ballad (a trisyllabic meter at heart) into his iambic verse: 662 Who rides so late in the night and the wind 664 .... It is the father with his child Goethe's two lines opening the poem come out most exactly and beautifully, with the bonus of an unexpected rhyme (also in French: vent - enfant), in my own language: Ret woren ok spoz on natt ut vett?

Eto est votchez ut mid ik dett.

Another fabulous ruler, the last king of Zembla, kept repeating these haunting lines to himself both in Zemblan and German, as a chance accompaniment of drumming fatigue and anxiety, while he climbed through the bracken belt of the dark mountains he had to traverse in his bid for freedom.







Lines 671-672: The Untamed Seahorse



See Browning's My Last Duchess.

See it and condemn the fashionable device of entitling a collection of essays or a volume of poetry - or a long poem, alas - with a phrase lifted from a more or less celebrated poetical work of the past. Such titles possess a specious glamor acceptable maybe in the names of vintage wines and plump courtesans but only degrading in regard to the talent that substitutes the easy allusiveness of literacy for original fancy and shifts onto a bust's shoulders the responsibility for ornateness since anybody can flip through a Midsummer-Night's Dream or Romeo and Juliet, or, perhaps, the Sonnets and take his pick.







Line 678: into French



Two of these translations appeared in the August number of the Nouvelle Revue Canadienne which reached College Town bookshops in the last week of July, that is at a time of sadness and mental confusion when good taste forbade me to show Sybil Shade some of the critical notes I made in my pocket diary.

In her version of Donne's famous Holy Sonnet X composed in his widowery: Death be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for, thou art not so one deplores the superfluous ejaculation in the second line introduced there only to coagulate the caesura: Ne soit pas fiere, Mort! Quoique certains te disent Et puissante et terrible, ah, Mort, tu ne l'es pas and while the enclosed rhyme "so-overthrow" (lines 2 - 3) is fortunate in finding an easy counterpart in pas-bas, one objects to the enclosing disent-prise rhymes (1 - 4) which in a French sonnet of circa 1617 would be an impossible infringement of the visual rule.

I have no space here to list a number of other blurrings and blunders in this Canadian version of the Dean of St. Paul's denouncement of Death, that slave - not only to "fate" and "chance" - but also to us ("kings and desperate men").

The other poem, Andrew Marvell's "The Nymph on the Death of Her Fawn," seems to be, technically, even tougher to stuff into French verse. If in the Donne translation, Miss Irondell was perfectly justified in matching English pentameters with French Alexandrines, I doubt that here she should have preferred l'impair and accommodated with nine syllables what Marvell fits into eight. In the lines: And, quite regardless of my smart, Left me his fawn but took his heart which come out as: Et se moquant bien de ma douleur Me laissa son faon, mais pris son coeur one regrets that the translator, even with the help of an ampler prosodic womb, did not manage to fold in the long legs of her French fawn, and render "quite regardless of" by "sans le moindre egard pour" or something of the sort. Further on, the couplet Thy love was far more better than The love of false and cruel man though translated literally: Que ton amour etait fort meilleur Qu'amour d'homme cruel et trompeur is not as pure idiomatically as might seem at first glance. And finally, the lovely closule: Had it lived long it would have been Lilies without, roses within contains in our lady's French not only a solecism but also that kind of illegal run-on which a translator is guilty of, when passing a stop sign: Il aurait ete, s'il eut longtemps Vecu, lys dehors, roses dedans.

How magnificently those two lines can be mimed and rhymed in our magic Zemblan ("the tongue of the mirror," as the great Conmal has termed it)!

Id wodo bin, war id lev lan, Indran iz lil ut roz nitran.







Line 680: Lolita



Major hurricanes are given feminine names in America. The feminine gender is suggested not so much by the sex of furies and harridans as by a general professional application. Thus any machine is a she to its fond user, and any fire (even a "pale" one!) is she to the fireman, as water is she to the passionate plumber. Why our poet chose to give his 1958 hurricane a little-used Spanish name (sometimes given to parrots) instead of Linda or Lois, is not clear.







Line 681: gloomy Russians spied



There is really nothing metaphysical, or racial, about this gloom. It is merely the outward sign of congested nationalism and a provincial's sense of inferiority - that dreadful blend so typical of Zemblans under the Extremist rule and of Russians under the Soviet regime. Ideas in modern Russia are machine-cut blocks coming in solid colors; the nuance is outlawed, the interval walled up, the curve grossly stepped.

However, not all Russians are gloomy, and the two young experts from Moscow whom our new government engaged to locate the Zemblan crown jewels turned out to be positively rollicking. The Extremists were right in believing that Baron Bland, the Keeper of the Treasure, had succeeded in hiding those jewels before he jumped or fell from the North Tower; but they did not know he had had a helper and were wrong in thinking the jewels must be looked for in the palace which the gentle white-haired Bland had never left except to die. I may add, with pardonable satisfaction, that they were, and still are, cached in a totally different - and quite unexpected - corner of Zembla.

In an earlier note (to line 130) the reader has already glimpsed those two treasure hunters at work. After the King's escape and the belated discovery of the secret passage, they continued their elaborate excavations until the palace was all honeycombed and partly demolished, an entire wall of one room collapsing one night, to yield, in a niche whose presence nobody had suspected, an ancient salt cellar of bronze and King Wigbert's drinking horn; but you will never find our crown, necklace and scepter.

All this is the rule of a supernal game, all this is the immutable fable of fate, and should not be construed as reflecting on the efficiency of the two Soviet experts -who, anyway, were to be marvelously successful on a later occasion with another job (see note to line 747). Their names (probably fictitious) were Andronnikov and Niagarin. One has seldom seen, at least among waxworks, a pair of more pleasant, presentable chaps. Everybody admired their clean-shaven jaws, elementary facial expressions, wavy hair, and perfect teeth. Tall handsome Andronnikov seldom smiled but the crinkly little rays of his orbital flesh bespoke infinite humor while the twin furrows descending from the sides of his shapely nostrils evoked glamorous associations with flying aces and sagebrush heroes. Niagarin, on the other hand, was of comparatively short stature, had somewhat more rounded, albeit quite manly features, and every now and then would flash a big boyish smile remindful of scoutmasters with something to hide, or those gentlemen who cheat in television quizzes. It was delightful to watch the two splendid Sovietchiks running about in the yard and kicking a chalk-dusty, thumping-tight soccer ball (looking so large and bald in such surroundings). Andronnikov could tap-play it on his toe up and down a dozen times before punting it rocket straight into the melancholy, surprised, bleached, harmless heavens: and Niagarin could imitate to perfection the mannerisms of a certain stupendous Dynamo goalkeeper. They used to hand out to the kitchen boys Russian caramels with plums or cherries depicted on the rich luscious six-cornered wrappers that enclosed a jacket of thinner paper with the mauve mummy inside; and lustful country girls were known to creep up along the drungen (bramble-choked footpaths) to the very foot of the bulwark when the two silhouetted against the now flushed sky sang beautiful sentimental military duets at eventide on the rampart. Niagarin had a soulful tenor voice, and Andronnikov a hearty baritone, and both wore elegant jackboots of soft black leather, and the sky turned away showing its ethereal vertebrae.

Niagarin who had lived in Canada spoke English and French; Andronnikov had some German. The little Zemblan they knew was pronounced with that comical Russian accent that gives vowels a kind of didactic plenitude of sound. They were considered models of dash by the Extremist guards, and my dear Odonello once earned a harsh reprimand from the commandant by not having withstood the temptation to imitate their walk: both moved with an identical little swagger, and both were conspicuously bandy-legged.

When I was a child, Russia enjoyed quite a vogue at the court of Zembla but that was a different Russia - a Russia that hated tyrants and Philistines, injustice and cruelty, the Russia of ladies and gentlemen and liberal aspirations. We may add that Charles the Beloved could boast of some Russian blood. In medieval times two of his ancestors had married Novgorod princesses. Queen Yaruga (reigned 1799-1800) his great-great-granddam, was half Russian; and most historians believe that Yaruga's only child Igor was not the son of Uran the Last (reigned 1798-1799) but the fruit of her amours with the Russian adventurer Hodinski, her goliart (court jester) and a poet of genius, said to have forged in his spare time a famous old Russian chanson de geste generally attributed to an anonymous bard of the twelfth century.


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