from Eugene Onegin by Pushkin

Ah, much, much has fate snatched away!

blest who left life’s feast early,

not having to the bottom drained

the goblet full of wine;

who never read life’s novel to the end

and all at once could part with it

as I with my Onegin.

(Translated by Vladimir Nabokov)



Filed under Fiction, Nabokov

8 responses to “from Eugene Onegin by Pushkin

  1. I haven’t read Eugene Onegin… It seems rather sad judging from this quote which is btw a perfect illustration in favour of L2 translations.

  2. Too difficult for me, sorry, I don’t understand.

  3. Nabokov’s translation is notorious for being doggedly literal and often unreadable. The lines quoted above are the final lines of Pushkin’s poem, and appear as follows in Tom Beck’s translation:

    ……………………………………..Fate has taken
    so much: good friends who’ve not remained
    at life’s great feast, who have not drained
    their cups, who have by now foresaken
    life’s narrative, as you have seen
    me leave my cherished friend – Eugene.

    (Let me declare a personal interest here: Tom Beck is a friend of mine, and I naturally lean towards his very fine translation. Here’s a review of it in The Guardian:

  4. The Nabokov overall though is famously unreadable. Accurate, incredibly accurate, but lifeless and inaccessible.

    I plan to read this soon. I have a Penguin Classics edition, I’ll need to check the translator. My impression is that the Beck is livelier, and has a good feel for the rhythms of the poem which Nabokov utterly crushes. It’s also by Dedalus, which I have to admit cuts a great deal of ice with me.

  5. Looking at Lezard’s review it reminds me of what else I’d heard, that Beck makes almost the opposite choice to Nabokov, prizing spirit over accuracy.

    Clearly the only answer is to read it in multiple translations.

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