Translation is Diabolical

I have just begun to read Vladimir Nabokov’s autobiography Speak, Memory. The author wrote his novelistic memoir in English, and, in the process of translating that English into Russian, reworked the original, necessitating alterations to the initial English.

From Nabokov’s forward:

“This re-Englishing of a Russian re-version of what had been an English re-telling of Russian memories in the first place, proved to be a diabolical task, but some consolation was given me by the thought that such multiple metamorphosis, familiar to butterflies, had not been tried by any human before.”

The image of translation as the productive agony of the stages of larval metamorphosis immediately brought to mind Benjamin’s “Task of the Translator.”

“Translation is so far removed from being the sterile equation of two dead languages that of all literary forms it is the one charged with the special mission of watching over the maturing process of the original language and the birth pangs of its own.”

Here is Nabokov, the diabolical lepidopteran linguistic alchemist, presiding over maturation and birth simultaneously, in an incestuous loop. No wonder I like his style.


Pynchon Amazons Pynchon?

According to Slate: "Last week, Amazon.com put up a page that listed Untitled Thomas Pynchon at a svelte 992 pages and bore a description purportedly written by the master himself." The description was promptly removed. (But you can still preorder the hefty untitled tome for $22.50 (you save 37%) for delivery in December.) A retrieved version of the text can be found here.

Now, what's the deal? Conspiracy theories: a) Pynchon is generating buzz (see also his "appearance" on the Simpsons); b) Amazon just jumped the gun; c) there's no book at all; d) the novel will reflect the nature of the deceased description: Pynchon is parodying his own writing (this would be postmodern pastiche taken to a whole new level, no? ); e) (this and the following are my contributions to the fray) Amazon, being a blundering monolith, sent Pynchon's editor a request for a description, and someone (the author himself?) sent a snide reply, which was posted to, and then removed from, the Amazon site; or f) someone at Amazon was having fun.

I smell a rat.

Any which way you shake it, I'm a dithering idiot in anticipation of the book.

Although, to be honest, if the author-blurb is real (a real what?), then I'm a little skeptical.

We'll see.