Półrocznik Językoznawczy Tertium/ Tertium Linguistic Journal

Vol 4, No 1 (2019)

“Sounds that Create the Image.” On Polish and Russian Translations of Alliteration in Pnin by Vladimir Nabokov

Olga Letka-Spychała


The article explores procedures used for the rendition of alliteration in the novel Pnin written by Vladimir Nabokov (1957). Two target texts will be compared. The first one is the Polish translation prepared by Anna Kołyszko (1987), the second one is the Russian version done by Sergey Ilyin (1993). The analysis of the texts will draw on research into three major thematic areas: proper names, appearance and feelings/emotions where an accumulation of alliteration is distinctly noticeable. These fields are linked by the focal character, a Russian émigré who comes to America after the Russian Revolution. His oddness and eccentricity are constantly emphasized by the unreliable narrator, whose speech abounds in alliterations. In the original this device not only reinforces the narrator’s orality but also structures the image of the focal character. In the target texts alliteration is subject to various formal modifications. In many cases it is substituted by onomatopoeias, consonances, descriptive equivalents or it is simply abandoned. As a result, the translators do not always preserve the alliterative effect (especially when it comes to proper names, feelings and emotions). Translation procedures applied by the translators allow them to achieve partial equivalence on the semantic level. Inaccuracies in this field are visible in examples referring to Pnin’s feelings and emotions in which alliterative word strings are omitted and semantically distant counterparts are used.



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