March 5, 2014

"When Nabokov started translating [his memoir] into Russian, he recalled a lot of things that he did not remember when he was writing it in English..."

"It came out in Russian and he felt that in order to represent his childhood properly to his American readership, he had to produce a new version. So the version of Nabokov's autobiography we know now is actually a third attempt, where he had to recall more things in Russian and then re-translate them from Russian back into English."

From Alan Yu's "How Language Seems To Shape One's View Of The World," via Metafilter's "If Inuit have 100 words for snow, linguists must have many for this idea."

12 comments:

betamax3000 said...

betamax3000ese is my chosen language for re-translation purposes. Esperanto is a close second.

Bob Boyd said...

The Obama Administration must have 100 words for "Uh Oh" by now.

BJK said...

...just like the old man in that book by Nabokov.

betamax3000 said...

"One must lie to better understand the truth."

Not quite sure what it means, I just made it up off the cuff. Maybe my mind was toying with a similar thought of someone else, just beyond my reach. Maybe I knew this person but do not remember now. However, if I continue to think about it I will apply meaning, and the meaning will develop associations. Just getting words on a page opens many strange doors.

Patrick O said...

Is it language or is it sitting close with the text again.

When I edit or rewrite stuff, I often have these bursts of remembrances or ideas.

whswhs said...

There is an entertaining book on linguistics titled "The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax," which traces the origin of the "hundred-words-for-'snow'" urban legend to an offhand comment by Benjamin Lee Whorf in a popular article. I'm sorry to see it being further perpetuated.

Ann Althouse said...

"There is an entertaining book on linguistics titled "The Great Eskimo Vocabulary Hoax," which traces the origin of the "hundred-words-for-'snow'" urban legend to an offhand comment by Benjamin Lee Whorf in a popular article. I'm sorry to see it being further perpetuated."

Follow the links in the post and you might not have to feel so bad!

If you're into stopping misconceptions, don't propound a misconception about the articles I'm citing.

RecChief said...

huh, at first I thought it was Evgeni Nabokov, the Islanders' Goalie. Shows where my head is at with only 20 games left in the season.

St. George said...

It is well known that Nabokov was a practicing lepidopterist and was fixated on nymphs. He did this without shame for many years. He probably also practiced philately while masticating.

whswhs said...

Thanks for pointing that out. I don't habitually click links; I was reacting to the title. I'm glad to see the discussion beneath it addressing the issue.

buwaya said...

Nabokov was obsessed with language, of course. Also butterflies.

I have a collection of some of his essays, several being commentaries on his translation of Eugene Onegin.
In his case I can believe it was the language that changed the substance, not a simple review.

David said...

Thus providing a number of Phd. thesis topics.