On Literary (Ab)normality: Lolita and Self-Translation

  • Author / Creator
    Roscoff, Nadia
  • In this dissertation I consider a famous self-translation, the Russian version of Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, through the prism of a descriptive approach in translation studies. Self-translations have been traditionally excluded from consideration in scholarly studies as unrepresentative of common practices, yet I am convinced that comprehensive consideration of such texts is very valuable for the field of translation studies at large. I argue that in this translation Nabokov intentionally violated norms of translation; I approach the text of the novel as a highly sophisticated literary game, a game that was taken by the author to the next level in the Russian version of the novel. Critical consideration of Nabokov‘s reflection on the process of translating Lolita reveals the ambiguity of his own statements and opens to debate his own famous assessment of the Russian version as ―correctly‖ translated into Russian (Nabokov "Postscript":192). The analysis of Nabokov‘s strategy of translation as evident in the English and Russian versions of the text confirms that Nabokov‘s version is very different from what would be a ―correctly‖ translated novel in the hands of a commissioned translator. As violation of norms in translation is likely to result in sanctions, I review the Russian reception of novel in order to get a better understanding of what constitutes sanctions in regard to this work. In the case of Nabokov‘s Lolita, this approach is particularly fruitful, as the Russian Lolita circulated widely in two drastically different cultural environments: first in the Soviet Union, then in post-Soviet Russia. My research examines a wide array of opinions about this text in the target culture in conjunction with culturally-specific emendations to the Russian text of the novel, as evident in common publishing practices in Russia. While the idea of norms only provisionally applies to Nabokov‘s own practice of translation (as there appears to be a pattern of emendations to the
    Russian text in comparison with the original novel), the Russian reception of the novel was governed by norms that informed reception of translated literature in the target culture. Consequently, the text of the novel was systematically amended in common publishing practices of the novel. One could argue that the text of the Russian translation has been brought into compliance with the dominating norms of literature, and these norms were very different in various historical periods.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2015
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.