I don’t usually post random collections of links, but they’re piling up and I’m afraid of losing them, so here you go:

Project Professor Professor “is a prodigious international effort to identify and list all active research professors whose first and last names are identical. The first two professors celebrated by Project Professor-Professor are Abraham Abraham and Warren Warren… If you know of other professors who should be part of this listing, please send pertinent info (including a URL, if possible) to: PROJECT PROFESSOR-PROFESSOR c/o .”

Continuing on the name front, here is a list of Russian-Israeli names (thanks, Tatyana!). If you know Russian, I guarantee much laughter. (How would you like to be named Mikhail Klurglur?)

This post prompted a reader (thanks, Pat!) to send me a link to George Szirtes’ TS Eliot Lecture “Thin Ice and The Midnight Skaters,” a long discussion of many things connected with poetry and language. A snippet:

When our own family of four arrived in England as refugees in the December of 1956 only my father spoke any English, and he spoke it reasonably enough to act as interpreter to groups of other refugees. After a few days stop at an army camp we moved to Westgate on the Kent coast and found signifieds for which we had signifiers but of which we had no direct experience. There was the sea for a start. None of us had seen one of those, though we did have the word tenger, that meant ‘sea’. Tenger was a word from tales and fabulous stories, from other people’s talk, from films: it had a set of meanings that we had not experienced at first hand. The transfer of our old vocabulary to a new set of experiences naturally took time: so English tea meant not quite tea, so English bread meant not quite kenyér. For what we received as tea and bread was not what we had been used to. George Steiner talks about this in After Babel, about how even transactional language is inadequate to experience: brot and pain are not innocent blank counters. It is not just that you will get different kinds of bread in Germany and France but that these breads come with a complex baggage of history, culture and association.

And continuing with language and translation, a LibraryThing review by Ramage of Adair’s Georges Perec translation A Void sent me to Ian Monk’s “The Restrictive Muse. (Writings for the Oulipo)”, which has (among other amazing things) a stern e-less review of Adair’s e-less translation of Perec’s e-less novel. And while I’m on the subject of Ramage, the latest post features the Chesme Church (aka Church of Saint John at Chesme Palace), architect Yuri Felten (George Veldten), and says “I cannot believe it has never figured in a work of literature. An exhaustive ten-minute search in Google has, however, failed to turn up any citations.” I couldn’t find any searching in Russian, either; of course, the church is well south of the central city, but still, you’d think such a striking building would get mentioned somewhere. If my Russian-speaking readers know of any literary mentions, please leave a comment!


  1. To expand a bit on this beautiful church and the frog dinner service see this article.
    The only writer that comes to mind immediately is Tynyanov; I owuld imagine somewhere in his Pushkin he must’ve mentioned Chesmenskij Dvorets, Tserkov’ and Column, possibly in connection with Karamzin and Ekaterina.

  2. Monk’s stern e-less review is of Adair’s e-less translation of the novel, although the ghost of Monk’s is hovering in the background, seething.
    Monk’s suggestion for how to translate the typist example seems to fail as badly as Adair’s. “Quick! pour six whisky drams for an unjovial solicitor bringing cigars to a zoo.” — I doubt that would remind anyone of the familiar lazy brown fox. Although Adair does seem to have missed the reference on this one, unfortunately.
    I haven’t enjoyed Monk’s translations of Perec (without being able to comment on their accuracy), but this perhaps only makes me more curious what his translation of “La Disparation” is like. (And, for that matter, what he would have called it — I’m not entirely sure what he didn’t like about “A Void”, which gets at both the cleverness and sadness of the book.)

  3. Tat: Good idea, but I found a complete online text and it’s not there.
    Chris: D’oh! I’ll fix it.

  4. Yeah, he only mentions “Chesmenskaya kolonna”:
    Царское Село, о котором Малиновский при открытии говорил как о мирной обители; они не замечали ранее, что все наполнено здесь свирепою памятью войн и побед: Турецкий киоск, Кагульский мрамор и Чесменская колонна, Орловские ворота с надписями. Дворец был пуст и глух.
    I guess aristocratic follies were of no importance to Russian authors…

  5. On the Chesme church, thank you, Tatyana, for the hint of a reference, and to you, language hat, for bruiting my post abroad. I have to confess that my knowledge of the Russian language and its literature is not as deep as I’d like it to be. I have pencilled in on my Christmas and post-Christmas wishlist various of the Pevear and Volokhonsky translations of the greats, but my knowledge of Russian itself is, I’m afraid, a few scraps in a begging-bowl. Tynyanov is not a name I know – are there, in fact, any English translations?
    On Perec and Monk, Monk’s main beef (although of course I shouldn’t say “beef”), as I gather it, is Adair’s gratuitous (as he sees it) additions to what Perec actually says in the French version. I’m just glad to see any English translation of an important novel by this fascinating writer back in print. I’d certainly like to read Monk’s translation too. Having read La disparition in French, I can certainly vouch for what Perec himself said about it:

    “The narrative simply came, it just arose. I was in a state of jubilation from the start.”

    (see Georges Perec: A Life in Words, the excellent biography by David Bellos)
    I think it’s precisely this conjunction of the free-flowing exhilaration of its composition (after much painstaking initial research into the e-less vocabulary he would need) and the bleakness of its subject-matter that make the book so compelling.

  6. Dave, unfortunately, Google tells me there’s only one English translation (for shame!) and you can see some info on him here.

  7. Tatyana’s Wikipedia link led me on to this page about Tynyanov and his historical novels, which reminded me of a question I keep meaning to ask: do Russians perceive Смерть Вазир-Мухтара [Smert’ Vazir-Mukhtara] as ‘The Death of Vazir-Mukhtar’ (as it’s usually translated, with “Vazir-Mukhtar” an unintelligible name)? Because Вазир-Мухтар actually means ‘ambassador plenipotentiary’; it’s a cyrillic rendering of the Persian phrase, and I would translate the title The Death of the Ambassador Plenipotentiary [i.e., Griboedov]. But not if it doesn’t mean that to Russians.

  8. You should stick to the author’s transcription, in my opinion.
    If Tynyanov wanted to be neutral he would definitely translate the diplomatic title. As is, it has geographic implication of country where Griboedov was the Ambassador, and some sense of how Persians interpreted his diplomatic status.

  9. Right, but what I’m curious about is whether Russians who know the title but not necessarily the book know what the phrase means. Does it register as a foreign name for an ambassador, or is it just a meaningless foreign name?

  10. Can’t say for ‘average” Russian (if that creature exist at all); for me personally – I’ve lived for 8 years in Tatarstan so have overall idea who Vazir Mukhtar might be. I’d risk saying the kind of person who’d read Tynyanov at all will get the meaning; but I might be wrong in my assumptions – I’d like to err on a positive side and say even people with inferior reading habits would get the title.

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