Marina tsvetaeva and vladimir nabokov as french translators of pushkin

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This article places Marina Tsvetaeva's and Vladimir Nabokov's French translations of Pushkin into the context of the transnational culture of the Russian interwar dias pora in Paris as well as Tsvetaeva's and Nabokov's own theories and practices of mul tilingual literary creation. For both authors, recasting Pushkin in French on the occa sion of the 1937 centennial of his death served as a challenge to the official Russian Pushkin cult and as a repudiation of the existing French translations. Taking up the transposition of Russia's most canonical poet into French mirrored Tsvetaeva's and Nabokov's own situation as Russian authors stranded in a Francophone environment and confronted with the need or temptation to reinvent themselves in a new language. The translational encounter with Pushkin offers a glimpse of what Tsvetaeva's and Nabokov's aborted careers as French authors might have looked like. Nabokov gives us an elegant "French" Pushkin of classical harmony and balance, while Tsvetaeva offers the disruptive spectacle of a "Russian" Pushkin in French amplified though the magnifying lens of her own poetic maximalism. Tsvetaeva saw her French transla tions as proof of Pushkin's translatability, and, despite her difficulties in finding an audience, she continued to translate Russian poetry into French even after her return to the Soviet Union. By contrast, Nabokov's doubts about his French translations as an adequate rendition of the Russian source text reinforced his belief in Pushkin's untranslatability, ultimately leading him to create a version of Pushkin in English that foresakes any attempt at artistic equivalence.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)79-99
Number of pages21
JournalSlavic and East European Journal
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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