Thursday, 9 February 2017
The Quirks of Translation
Vladimir Nabokov published his memoir ‘Conclusive Evidence’ in 1951 and in 1954 completed the Russian translation.
In Lauren Collins memoir ‘When in French’, she describes the difficulty with translation, quoting Nabokov’s descriptions of the toilet in the family home at Bolshaya Morskaya 47 in St. Petersburg.
Photographs (below) of the Nabokov mansion on Bolshaya Morskaya c1900 and today
In ‘Conclusive Evidence’, Nabokov wrote that the toilet was “...casually situated in a narrow recess between a wicker hamper and the door leading to the nursery bathroom...”.
Plan (below) of the 3rd floor
In the translation of the Russian edition, he describes the toilet as “...between a wicker hamper with a lid (how immediately I remember its creaking)!...” And he continues with new details: “...a stained glass window with ornate designs of two halberdiers constructed from colorful rectangles, a floating thermometer, a celluloid swan, a toy skiff...”.
In 1966, Vladimir Nabokov published ‘Speak, Memory’, a “...re-Englishing of a Russian re-version of what had been an English re-telling of Russian memories in the first place...”. The thermometer vanished but the halberdiers remained.
Photographs (below) of the Interior of Bolshaya Morskaya 47
Boudoir and its bay window on Bolshaya Morskaya