The Vane Sisters by V Nabokov Translation and Analysis

V. Nabokov.

The Vane Sisters :

Translation and Analysis.

Fyodorova Mariya


11 Form

Children’s Creativity Centre


Teacher: Lyubina Elena





1. Introduction : p .3

idea of translation “The Vane Sisters”

great translators into Russian

Nabokov as a translator.

2. Rules of Translation. p. 3 – 4

3. Nabokov’s Style. P. 5 –7

4. Linguistic-Cultural Guide. P. 8 – 10

5. List of Literature. P. 11

6. “The Vane Sisters” ( translation of chapters 1-2 )

Vladimir Nabokov and his creative heritage has begun to be studied rather recently. That’s why we put quite a modest and definite purpose — we would like the pupils of the same age to get acquainted with one of the writer’s work. Nabokov’s creativity enriched the Russian and American literature of the passed century.

As for the story, it was written in English and it has never been translated into Russian. So the second goal was to understand, whether Nabokov’s , written in English, as original as the stories written by him in Russian. More over, the personality of the writer seems very interesting to me. I am astonished with his love and tenderness to the family, his warm and reliable attitudes with parents. I can’t help admiring his surprising ability to languages. And at last, I find his erudition exciting. And if I translate Nabokov’s story «The Vane Sisters» I think, that the personality of this writer will become more understandable for me.

At our English classes, according to school program, we have been involved in translation of adapted texts. Leaving school, it’s high time to translate original English texts.

Fiction has been translated into Russian for a long time intensively. Among translators it is necessary to name many writers. The first well-known translator in Russia was Lomonosov who showed the Russians the beauty of odes «Monument» by poet Goratsi. One more outstanding translator was V.A.Zhukovsky who presented the poem «Odisseya” by Homer ,ballads of German poets Fredric Shiller, Iogann Wolfgang Gyote and the English poet Robert Saute to the Russian reader. This list can be continued with Pushkin, I.S.Turgenev, M.Y.Lermontov, F.M.Dostoevsky. The ХХ-th century was famous with V.Y.Bryusov’s translations , I.A.Bunin’s » The Song of Hiawatha», B.L.Pasternak’s “ Faust” and the sonnets of Shakespeare, V.Gyote and lyrics of the Georgian poets.

If to glance at treasury of Russian translations we may say, that these translations enriched Russia.

V.V.Nabokov, whose story «The Vane Sisters» is an object of my investigation, was sure to be a very talented translator. He enriched not only the Russian literature, translating the works from English into his mother language, but also American one, translating verses of Russian poets and writers into English.

To tell the truth, it’s my first experience as a translator of a story in the original. I tried to do my best to have an adequate translation . First, I addressed to the” Encyclopedic dictionary of a young literary critic «, to the article “Translation art «. What conclusions have arrived to?

Art translation, both poetic, and prosaic is no doubt art. Art is a fruit of creativity. And creativity is incompatible to literalism. The Russian literature of the eighteenth century clearly proved it. It defined accuracy of literal, interlinear from accuracy of art. It is quite understandable, that art accuracy enables the reader to deal with ideas and the author’s mood, evidently to present all his style system in the original; that only art accuracy does not embellish and does not worsen the author.

Life experience is necessary for translators as well as writers and their impressions.

The language of the translator should comprise different levels: the language of simple people and the literary language in its historical development if necessary full of alive speech. Only those translators can be successful, who feel the language.

Literal background knowledge plays an important role in the work of a translator. For the translator an ideal is to merge with the author. It demands invention, resource, visual acuity, hearing. Opening creative individuality of the author, the translator opens his individuality.

There are definite rules of belles-lettres translation. For example, in a pupil’s book in literature for the sixth form one can read:

1) The translator must know the language, he deals with, deeply.

2) It is necessary to remember that belles-lettres translation can not be the translation of art. An exact, literal copy of this or that product of poetry is the most inexact of all translations.

3) The translator should know his native language perfectly:

а) Rich thesaurus is necessary for the translator for not to make word –for-word translation

b) Not to destroy the style of the text. it is necessary to be very cautious.

c) Good aesthetic taste is necessary for the translator. He should have the feeling of rhythm.

d) Each phrase must be of the foreign origin submitting the laws of its syntax and intonation.

e)The translator must know the laws proverbs and sayings are translated. So, for example, having read the proverb » It’s no use crying over spoilt milk. «, nobody will understand, that it is the English proverb, and its sense is in the words » What is done cannot be done «.

K.I.Chukovsky in the book » High art » told about the principles of translation. One of the chapters began with the words: » In belles-lettres translation it is required to use not only an image and ideas of the translated author, not only his subject circuit, but also his literary manner, his creative personality, his style. If it is not done, translation does not suit anywhere. «

» Everything, that I have, is my style. » This Nabokov’s recognition is essentially important for the translator, because it points out an idea, that during translation one must go not from the contents, but from the writer’s style. To understand Nabokov’s style , I addressed to E.V.Tikhomirova’s and O.D.Filatova’s article » Practical recommendations on V.V.Nabokov’s story » Cloud, Lake, Tower. » There are some reference points:

1) Themes and problems Nabokov dwelt upon as a rule are apolitical: what is discussed at all corners is not interesting to him. «The Vane Sisters » is an example of it.

2) The story opens a surprising picture of spring dripping. The hero tries to communicate with icicles, as with alive essences. Such wonderful aliveness of landscapes is one of the features of Nabokov’s style.

3) » Nabokov’s mirrors » is an echo of reflections. Mirrors create a harmonious picture of the world. Searchers for this harmony and the hero of the story «The Vane Sisters» observed icicles. To my mind, diamond icicles is a version of » Nabokov’s mirrors «.

Harmony is frequently broken by disharmony. This story is not an exception: there is an adversative union but, an overlapping way to harmony which is searched by the story-teller. The sense of disharmony in the story arises with the appearance of the old familiar story-teller. This is the beginning of the Vane’s sisters tragedy.

4) Nabokov’s portraits are original. For example, the portrait of the younger sister Sybil. Translation of this pаrt turned out to be the most interesting and difficult at the same time to interpret in Russian.

This portrait includes only three offers: the last includes seven printed lines.

Nabokov’s style assumes, that the portrait should characterize not so much external, but inner world of the hero. Even Sybil’s description speaks about her deep feelings more and emphasizes her charm as a female: she keeps to d definite style in clothes, her gestures are negligent, graceful (“.She came in on high heels, with a suitcase, dumped it in a corner where several other bags were stacked, with a single shrug slipped her fur coat off her thin shoulders, folded it on her bag.”) The second time we come across with Sybil is when she is disfigured by suffering (“cubist” model of a person: an open mouth, dark eye-lids, grey or white complexion she has a problem with her skin ). If the hero is dear to the writer he is sure to be noticed by his eyes — a mirror of his soul. Here is how this detail is depictured in Sybil’s portrait :”. so childishly slight in close-fitting gray, and kept observing that carefully waved dark hair, that small, small-flowered hat with a little hyaline veil as worn that season, and under it her small face broken into a cubist pattern by scars due to a skin disease, whose charm was further impaired by her having painted everything that could be painted, so that the pale gums of her teeth between cherry-red chapped lips and the diluted blue ink of her eyes under darkened lids were the only visible openings into her beauty.”

5) Originality of details is another feature of Nabokov’s style.

In D.’s portrait there is no detail speaking about his soul. But the grotesqueness of the instructor is shown in triple usage of the word “still” (He was still young, still brash, still shifty, still married to the gentle, exquisitely pretty woman….). The hero is deprived not only internal shape, but even a name.

6) Lexical and grammatical features of the text are closely connected to the concept of style. Syntax of the story “The Vane Sisters” is rather complicated: the text consists of compound sentences. Very often they are rather long and have gerund constructions, participles, conditional sentences of four types. For me as a translator it was necessary using rich grammatical opportunities of the Russian language, to demonstrate this feature of the writer’s style. E.g. “This twinned twinkle was delightful but not completely satisfying; or rather it only sharpened my appetite for other tidbits of light and shade, and I walked on in a state of raw awareness that seemed to transform the whole of my being into one big eyeball rolling in the world’s socket.” – “ Это сверкание было очаровательным, это мерцание было восхитительным, но чего-то в нём не хватало, или вернее только усиливало мой аппетит на другие лакомые кусочки света и тени; и я инстинктивно смутно ощущал будто всё моё существо превратилось в одно большое глазное яблоко, утопающее в мировой глазной впадине.”

7) Lexical filling of the text is very original. It includes:

а) words and the expressions typical of informal speech: «Say» instead of » I say «, » Just like her! » instead of ”It looks like her!”.

b) a set of adjectives of emotionally — estimated character E.g. “ Everything seemed blurred, yellow-clouded, yielding nothing tangible”.

c) set phrases. They have the national specificity determined by features of the American variant of the English language. Their translation has caused special difficulties.

This story contains fine material for acquaintance with phraseology of the English language.

The author widely uses phrase verbs without which the English speech is practically impossible: » take down «, » make out «, » go on «, » to stand out «, » come in «, » walk up «, » come out «, » be over «, “kicked out”.

d) use of complex or compound words : “goose — flash, highball, her thirty-two-year-old-face, small-flowered, drip-dripping, clear-cut, unhappy, dutiful, carefully, happily, display, conscientiousness, wearily.”

e) Nabokov’s style is rich in epithets — art definitions which help to present a subject more precisely: » night had fallen without sound or snow «, » a family of brilliant icicles drip-dripping from the eaves of a house «.

f ) Favourite means of the writer is the logic chain of attributes : “Erect, dark headed shapes of dead snow; carefully waved dark hair.”

g ) The author frequently uses comparisons: » like cold uncooked liver » — unusual, as a cold unprepared liver.

While translating it is important to find the most adequate object of comparison used in the native language. Complexity very often consists in discrepancy in different languages.

h)There was a rhythm, an alternation in his story: “drip-dripping”, “I walked up, and I walked down, and I walked straight”

8) Grammatical aspect.

While translating this text it was necessary to take into account the following moments:

а) Models of negative offers. In the English language they have some certain specificity. Sometimes the Russian translation is made without denying.

b) For the English speech restraint is characteristic in terms of the opinion.

c) For expression of the request or the offer in the English speech the structures are widely used: Do you think we can.?, Why don’t we.?

9) There are different means of graphic registration, which are used in the story: italics, capital letters, abbreviations.

Having investigated the text and studied Nabokov’s style, lexis, grammar, I want to tell that the theme of this story, as well as many other stories of his is about “little” people.

10) The idea of life and death seems to be the main in the story. The personage’s moods have changed quickly: first, he is shown as a life-lover, to whom everything is important ( the sun, icicles, spring streams ) and then he is depicted as a man, suffering badly from the young woman’s death.

11) Background knowledge.

Once Nabokov underlined that understanding of literature of another culture is impossible without commentaries. When he translated «Евгения Онегина» into English in 1975, he made huge commentaries ( about 1100 pages ). K. Chuckovsky, who had it occasionally, was astonished by the work : “I’ve got a two-volumed “Eugine Onegin”. It’s a very interesting work…. His commentaries are very biting caustic.” We share Nabokov’s opinion of the necessity of linguistic and cultural guide and offer it for 2 chambers only. Why? The entries contained are those which, for an American, contain certain overtones or connotations- as often as not social, political or historical – which may not be detected by a non-English speaker. Such words and phrases as are included are those which are regularly met in all kinds of writing – from literature to the press – and which are heard in every day speech at all levels and ages of society. Even in America itself there are areas where the speech or writing of one element of the society may be poorly comprehended by the members of another. Such a disparity in communication is evident, for example, in the difference between the language of the so-called “Popular press” and that of the “Heavies”, or by the failure of many young people to communicate fully with their parents.


Compunctious зд. день, когда человек может избавиться от угрызений

совести, сходив в церковью

girls college колледж – самостоятельное высшее учебное заведение.

В этом закрытом заведении обучаются только девушки.

Eaves архит. Свес крыши, венчающий карниз

Jut выдаваться, выступать

Blocks преим. амер. квартал

Kelly Road название улицы

Instructor преподаватель высшего учебного заведения в Америке

Jot йота, ничтожное количество;

Thaw оттепель, таяние;

Tidbits разг. Лакомый кусочек

parking meter счётчик на стоянке

ruddy красный, красноватый

tawny рыжевато-коричневый, коричнево-жёлтый

sidewalk амер. тротуар

loiter слоняться без дела

tramp пешая прогулка

Albany г. Олбани, адм. ц. штата Нью-Йорк

Boston capital and largest city of Massachusetts. It is also New

England’ largest city, its chief cent of commerce and industry,

its leading seaport, and a major educational and cultural centre.

Buoyant жизнерадостный, весёлый

Platitude банальность, пошлость

Brash порывистый

Shifty хитрый, ловкий

Raised desk стол преподавателя в американских колледжах всегда

приподнят, находится на возвышенности

Mail them their grades результаты экзаменов студентам сообщаются по

почте с указанием оценки и места по количеству набранных

за экзамен баллов и примечаний преподавателя.

Hyaline прозрачный

Chapped потрескавшийся

Legibility разборчивость

Conscientiousness добросовестность

Highballs амер. разг. хайбол ( виски с содовой водой и льдом)

Bandy обсуждать

Wench девка ( особо о проститутке)

Snap ломаться

Tumbled помятый

Led me upstairs to a chilly little bedroom — она повела меня на второй

этаж…. ( традиционно жилище американцев

состоит из 2 этажей. На втором этаже

располагаются спальни, ванная, гардеробная )

A sympathetic Irish neighbor видимо, ирландцы отличаются особым

добродушием и умеют сочувствовать соседям


Энциклопедический словарь юного литературоведа.

М. Педагогика, 1988.

В мире литературы 6 класс:

Учебная хрестоматия для общеобразовательных учебных заведений. Автор – составитель А. Г. Кутузов. – М: Дрофа 1997 год.

Е. В. Тихомирова, О. Д. Филатова . Практическое занятие по рассказу В. В. Набокова «Облако, озеро, башня» — В. Ж. «Литература в школе»1994.

4. Русская литература 11 класс . Учебное пособие для общеобразовательных учебных заведений . Автор – составитель В. В. Агеносов. М: Дрофа 2001.

В. В. Набоков « Рождество».Cобрание сочинений в 4-х томах. Том 1 Москва: Правда,1990

В. В. Набоков « Облако, озеро, башня». Cобрание сочинений в 4-х томах. Том 4. Москва: Правда,1990

English. # 22 , 1999. 100 years of Vladimir Nabokov. The Vane Sisters.

V. K. Muller. English – Russian Dictionary. Moscow. 1978

A.V.Kunin. English-Russian Dictionary of Phraseological Units. Moscow. 1955

Britain. Linguistic-Cultural Dictionary. Moscow. 1978

Е. В. Беспальчикова. Обучение анализу текста. Иностранные языки в школе. № 2 2002

Юдина Т.П. Некоторые вопросы обучения переводу в лингвистическом лицее. Иностранные языки в школе. № 1 2003

Журнал «Переводчик» # 2,3,4, 2004

Лингвистический энциклопедический словарь.- Моска: Советская энциклопедия, 1990