The Nose

Transposition is a newly invented genre that differs from translation and adaptation. In the accompanying essay here and in an essay that appeared in the April 2012 issue of Translation Journal, you will find an exposition of the subject.

______________________________

I

…..

…..A really strange event happened in New York on March 25th.
…..An esthetician, Michele, worked on Second Avenue (I can’t read her last name, and even the sign on her salon–which shows a lady with sleek hair and the slogan: “Tarot card reading too”–doesn’t contain anything else). This esthetician Michele woke up fairly early and caught the scent of hot coffee. Propping herself against the backboard, she saw her husband, a fairly respected man who really loved to eat bacon, pouring the just-boiled water through a filter.
…..“Today, my love, I’m not going to eat bacon,” said Michele. “Instead, I want to drink hot coffee with sugar.”
…..(That is, Michele would have liked both this and that, but she knew it was completely impossible to demand two things at once. Her husband Steve did not like such impulsiveness.) “That’s what I thought; better for me,” her husband said to himself. “I can have an extra portion of bacon.” And he plunked her mug on the table.
…..For the sake of decency, Michele threw a nightgown over her pajamas and, once she was seated at the table, swallowed her pill, poured a bowl of cereal, took the milk in her hand and, with a still-drowsy mien, began to fill the bowl. After covering one half of the cereal, she mixed it with her spoon and, to her surprise, saw something white. Michele poked it cautiously with her spoon and felt it with her finger. “Solid!” she said to herself. “What can it be?”
…..She stuck in her finger and pulled out–a nose! Michele was baffled; wiped her eyes and touched it again: a nose; it’s really a nose! And what’s more, it seems familiar. A look of horror crossed Michele’s face. But this horror was nothing in comparison to the outrage that it evoked in her husband.
…..“You sadist! Where did you get a nose?” he shouted in disgust. “Fiend! Sorceress! I’ll haul you to the police myself. What a woman! You know, I’ve heard from three people that during the facial, you rub so hard it’s difficult to bear.”
…..But Michele was more dead than alive. She realized that this nose belonged to no one other than the real estate agent Bill, whose whole face she treated now and then.
…..“Wait, darling, I’ll lay it in the corner, sealed in a Ziploc bag; let it lie there a little, and after my shower I’ll remove it.”
…..“Keep your thoughts to yourself! I can’t believe we spent the night in a room with a cut-off nose! You reptile! She only knows how to massage a face with cream, and soon she won’t be in any condition to do that, hussy, deadweight! What if I’m interrogated by the police? Blockhead, you’re as dumb as a rock. There it is! There! Take it wherever you want! I don’t want to see it!”
…..Michele stood up completely defeated. She thought, thought–and didn’t know what to think.
…..“God knows how that happened,” she finally said, pushing stray hair behind her ear. “Was I possessed yesterday? I really don’t know. By all indications, it must have been an unprecedented event: Coffee is a matter ground in reality, but a severed nose is not. I don’t get it!”
…..Michele lapsed into silence. The thought that the police might find the nose on her and allege a crime caused her mind to go blank. She was already picturing the blue uniform, the nicely sewed patch, the pistol…and her whole body shook. Finally, she grabbed her winter jacket and boots, pulled on all this junk and–with Steve rebuking her harshly–wrapped the nose in a Ziploc bag and left the apartment.
…..She wanted to dump it somewhere: either toss it in the trash on the sidewalk or accidentally drop it and turn into a side street. But unfortunately, she kept running into some random person who had to be wondering: “Where are you going?” or “You going to work this early?”–so it was totally impossible for Michele to feel unobserved. At one point, she had actually gotten rid of it, but a school crossing guard pointed from afar: “Ma’am!” You dropped something!”–And Michele had to retrieve the nose and hide it in her pocket. Despair gripped her, all the more so because the number of people on the street steadily increased as the stores and delis began to open.
…..The Brooklyn Bridge? It seemed likely she would be able to toss the bag in the East River there…. But I am somewhat at fault here for not yet saying anything about Michele, a respected woman in many senses.
…..Michele, like many a good American professional, was a friendly contrarian. And although she treated other people’s faces, her own was eternally untreated. Michele’s jacket (Michele never wore a baroque parka) was typical, that is, it was black, but very short and tightly fitted; the waist was cut higher and, rather than covering her jeans button, showed her figure. Michele had a penchant for being cynical, and when the real estate agent Bill would say to her during a session: “Michele, you know, you’re always massaging so roughly!”–then Michele would reply: “Why shouldn’t I?”–“I don’t know, I guess, you’re just massaging roughly,” the real estate agent would say, and Michele, after stepping back for a breather, massaged his brow and his nose and his cheeks and his chin–in other words, all over the place.
…..This much-loved woman had now reached the Brooklyn Bridge. She initially glanced around; then bent over the railing, as if to look below the walkway to see the number of cars streaming onto the island, and stealthily flung the Ziploc bag over the edge. She felt like she had instantly dropped ten pounds; Michele even sneered to herself. Instead of going to administer the upper class’s facials, she was headed to Uncle Joe’s Coffee Shop for a cup of espresso when suddenly she noticed, at the end of the bridge, a police officer with taught features, a clean-shaven face, brimmed hat, and pistol.
…..She froze; but in the meantime, the officer was curling his index finger at her:
…..“Come here, ma’am!”
…..Michele, knowing the best approach, lowered her chin, approaching obediently, and said:
…..“Good day, officer!”
…..“No, no, ma’am, it’s not a good day; tell me, what were you doing there leaning over the railing?”
…..“My goodness, sir, I was going to work and just wanted to see if there was a lot of traffic.”
…..“You’re lying, lying! That’s not what you were doing. Answer the question!”
…..“Mr. Officer, twice or even three times a year, I’m ready to give you a facial for free,” replied Michele.
…..“No, ma’am, that is worthless! I don’t need any facial; I take pride in my natural appearance. So tell me, what were you doing there?”
…..Michele turned pale…. But here the outcome is completely engulfed by a sheet of rain from the ocean, and what happened next, remains definitely unknown.

……

II

…..
…..Real estate agent Bill woke up fairly early and went brrrr with his lips–which he always did while waking, although he didn’t have a clue why. Bill stretched and slipped out to go look in the small mirror over the vanity. He wanted to look at a pimple which had popped out on his nose yesterday evening; but to his great astonishment, he saw that instead of a nose, he had a completely flat space! Startled, Bill washed his face with water and wiped his eyes with a towel: There was really no nose! He began to feel about with his hand to make sure he was awake. It seemed he wasn’t sleeping. Real estate agent Bill bolted out of the bathroom to a different mirror: No nose! Instantly, he dressed and raced straight to the police station.
…..Yet in the meantime, I need to say something about Bill so the reader can see what kind of real estate agent he was. Real estate agents who were conferred this title by an academic degree are totally impossible to compare with real estate agents who established themselves in Las Vegas. They are two completely different types. Academic real estate agents…but America is such a fantastic place that if you speak about one real estate agent, then all real estate agents, from New York to L.A., are immediately lumped into this group. And the same with regard to professionals and entrepreneurs. Bill was a Las Vegas real estate agent. He had pursued this profession for just two years and therefore could not forget it for a minute; and to make it more impressive and weighty, he never called himself a real estate agent, but rather always a broker. “Listen, my friend,” he would say regularly at a party when running into a woman who was handling the catering. “Give me a call at the office; the place is on Pearl Street; just ask whether Broker Bill works there? Anyone will show you.” And if he met a cutie, then he would give her, on top of that, a secret command, adding: “You, Diana or Sally or Kate, should ask for Broker Bill’s suite.” For exactly this reason, we will proceed to call this real estate agent a broker.
…..Broker Bill had the habit of patronizing the Roadhouse every day after work. The collar on his shirt was always extremely clean and starched. His hair was cut in the way you saw on bankers and hedge fund managers, executives and hospital physicians, as well as senior NYPD officials in various capacities and generally on all those men who had rosy cheeks and played golf: His hair was parted on the left side and ran loosely toward the opposite ear. Broker Bill wore myriad leather gloves–those with brands and those on which were inscribed Wednesday, Thursday, Monday, etc. Broker Bill had come to New York for his career, that is, to achieve the prominence commensurate with his profession: if he succeeded, a leading politician, otherwise, a managing director in some prestigious unit. Broker Bill was also not opposed to marrying, but only in the case that a million dollars or a home came with the bride. And so you can imagine the position of this broker when he saw that instead of a fairly good and ordinary nose, he had an idiotic, flat, and smooth space.
…..Unfortunately, not one taxi appeared on the street, and he had to walk by foot, wrapped in his pea coat and covering his face with a scarf, making him look like he had a bloody nose. “But maybe I’m just imagining: It can’t be that my nose simply fell off,”–and he entered a bakery for the purpose of looking in the mirror. Fortunately, nobody was in the bakery; the staff was sweeping the floor and arranging the chairs; some, with sleepy eyes, removed hot bagels on trays; the scattered accessories for the morning baking littered the tables and counters. “Thank God nobody’s here,” he said. “Now I can look.” Shyly, he neared the mirror and peered into it. “To hell with you, damn shit!” he cursed and spit. “If only there was anything! But no, there is nothing at all!”
…..Biting his lips in despair, he left the bakery and decided, contrary to his habit, not to look or smile at anyone. Suddenly, he stood riveted at the door of a building as an unexplainable event occurred before his eyes: in front of the entrance, a taxi stopped; the door opened; a man in a suit, bending, exited and strode into the lobby. Can you imagine Bill’s horror, together with his disbelief, when he realized that it was his own nose! During this unusual scene, it seemed that everything swam before his eyes; he felt like he could hardly stand; but he decided that no matter what, despite shaking all over, as if in a fever, he would wait for him to return to the street. Two minutes later, Mr. Nose really left. He was in a suit with silk lining; an expensive matching tie; shiny shoes, a briefcase at his side. By the manner of his expression, you could tell that he belonged to the ranks of senior management. By everything, it was apparent that he was riding to a meeting. He glanced in both directions, hailed a taxi: “Let’s go!”–sat down and rode off. Poor Bill barely managed not to go crazy. He didn’t know what to make of such a strange event. How was it actually possible that his nose–which just yesterday had been on his face, could not travel or walk–was now in a suit!?!? He grabbed a cab that fortunately didn’t have to travel far. It stopped at Bank of America.
…..He hurried toward the bank, squeezed through the horde of illegal nannies with spoiled children and two holes for eyes, whom he’d previously mocked, and entered the bank. There were not many clients inside. They solely operated the ATMs in the foyer. Bill was in such a distracted state that he did not even think to check his account, instead searching for the man, looking in every direction. Finally, he saw him standing in the corner. Mr. Nose had his face completely shielded by a wide teller partition and, with an expression of the greatest concentration, banked.
…..“How should I approach him?” Bill wondered. “By everything, by his suit, shoes, it is evident that he is a senior manager. God only knows how he did that!”
…..He began to cough around him, but not for a second did Mr. Nose leave his pious position or stop pushing buttons.
…..“Sir, can I…” said Bill, mentally forcing himself to gain confidence.
…..“Sir, can I…”
…..“What do you want?” replied Mr. Nose, turning.
…..“I’m horrified, sir…it seems to me…you should know your place. But where have I found you now?–in a bank. You must agree…”
…..“Excuse me, I don’t quite follow what you want to say… Explain….”
…..“How can I explain it to him?” wondered Bill and, collecting his thoughts, he began:
…..“Of course, I…by the way, I am a broker. For me to walk around without a nose, you must agree–that’s not normal. Some vendor who sells hot dogs on Canal Street can sit there without a nose; but keep in mind that I invite…and in many places I am friends with women: Board Chair Iverson and others…. Judge for yourself…. I don’t know, sir (and Broker Bill shrugged his shoulders). “Excuse me…if you look at this in accordance with the rules of propriety and respect…you must understand….”
…..“I definitely don’t understand anything at all,” replied Mr. Nose. “Explain it a little better.”
…..“Sir…” said Bill with a sense of personal pride, “I don’t know how to interpret your words. The whole matter here, it seems, is completely clear…. Either you want to or…. After all, you are my own nose!”
…..Mr. Nose looked at the broker, a button, and his eyebrows contracted.
…..“You are wrong, sir. I am myself. Furthermore, we can’t have any close relationship. Judging by the tone of your voice, you should seek out professional help.”
…..With that, Mr. Nose turned and continued to bank.
…..Bill became totally confused, not knowing what to do or even think. However, he heard the pleasant sound of high heels; a middle-aged woman neared, all dolled up with curls, and another, with tight black slacks very nicely highlighting her thin waist below a fitted blazer, light, like a scone. Behind them, a tall businessman, with parted hair and extremely shiny shoes, stopped and opened his briefcase.
…..Bill moved somewhat closer, revealed the silk tie below his scarf, adjusted the Windsor knot at the collar and, grinning broadly, turned his attention to the light woman who, like a spring flower, slightly bent and raised her ivory hand with half-transparent fingers to her mouth. The smile on Bill’s face broadened even further when he studied the gentle, bright curve of her chin and the part of her cheek capering with the tint of first spring rose under her hood. But suddenly he lurched as if lit on fire. He recalled that instead of a nose, he had nothing at all, and tears burst from his eyes. He about-faced to accuse the man in the suit of just pretending to be a senior manager; to tell him that he was a jerk, a jackass, and only his own nose…. But Mr. Nose was already gone; he had managed to slip out, probably to some appointment again.
…..This drove Bill to the point of despair. He retraced his steps and stopped for a moment below the overhang, assiduously looking in every direction to see whether Mr. Nose would appear. He remembered his manner of expression and the shoes of supple leather; but he hadn’t noticed his coat or the color of his car, its make or even whether he had a chauffeur with a uniform. Furthermore, there were myriad cars racing back and forth with such speed that it was difficult to discern anything; but even if his eye caught one of them, he didn’t have any means of stopping it. The day was beautiful and sunny. On Broadway, people were out in force; an entire colorful waterfall of women poured over the whole sidewalk, extending from Fulton Street to City Hall. There, a familiar IT consultant was walking, whom he called Mr. Tech, especially if others were present. There, standing at the Tweed Courthouse, was Caesar the doorman, a big gossiper who constantly played the lottery with a million+ jackpot. And there, a colleague–who’d also become a broker in Vegas–was waving for him to cross…”
…..“To hell with them!” said Bill. “Hey, taxi, take me straight to Police Plaza!”
…..Bill sat in the backseat and thought for all of four minutes while shouting: “Every minute counts!”
…..“Is the police captain here?” he screamed, upon entering the building.
…..“No,” replied the secretary, “he left a moment ago.”
…..“Just what I need!”
…..“Yes,” the secretary added, “It wasn’t that long ago, but he left. If you had arrived a little earlier, then you might have caught him.”
…..Bill, not removing the scarf from his face, hailed another taxi and yelled in a despairing voice:
…..“Let’s go!”
…..“Where?” said the driver.
…..“Go straight!”
…..“Straight? There’s a fork: to the right or left?”
…..This question stumped Bill and forced him to rethink. In his position, it made the most sense to go to Manhattan Criminal Court, not because it had a direct relationship with the police, but because its handling would be much more serious than in other places; searching for a resolution among the senior staff–that is, people who resembled Mr. Nose–was unintelligent since from Mr. Nose’s own answers; it was already evident that this guy held nothing sacred and could lie and in this case did lie, swearing that he had never seen Bill. So Bill was about to order the driver to proceed to the Criminal Court when the thought again occurred to him that the jerk and jackass who acted in such an unscrupulous way at the first encounter, could again conveniently, using time, somehow slip out of the city–and then all searching would be fruitless, and might continue, god forbid, a whole month. Finally, it seemed that heaven itself enlightened him. He decided to go straight to a newspaper and prepare, in advance, a classified with a detailed description of all the features, so that anyone running into Mr. Nose could turn him in or, at least, report his location. So, deciding on that, he grabbed another cab to bring him to the editorial office and the whole way he never stopped banging on the glass between him and the front seat: “Faster, come on, faster, Mr. Driver!”–“Ahh, sir!” said the driver, maneuvering through traffic and slipping into a gap by angling his machine that glistened like plastic surgery. The taxi finally stopped, and Bill, gasping, raced into the small reception room where a bald assistant with a corduroy blazer and glasses sat behind a screen and, putting a pen in his mouth, counted the loose pages he had been handed.
…..“Who accepts classifieds here?” Bill yelled. “Oh, and good morning!”
…..“It’s usually done online or by phone,” said the bald assistant, raising his eyes for a minute and lowering them again to the spread-out pile of papers.
…..“I would like to publish one in print…”
…..“That doesn’t matter. But wait a second,” replied the assistant, placing one thumb on the corner of a paper and moving the pen in his right hand over the fine print on the line.
…..A well-groomed secretary with a tie, flaunting his status in a prestigious company, approached the table with an article in his hand, and considered it proper to show his affability:
…..“You’d better believe me, David, that book isn’t worth a cent, that is, you couldn’t pay me to read it; but the women love it, by god, they love it, and that’s why the committee who reviews it will confer the award on her! If we call a spade a spade, then, like you and I, people’s tastes don’t coincide at all: if it were a non-commercial writer, then he’d produce an uncompromising or multifaceted work; and he wouldn’t mind sacrificing all the awards or even publishers, but the narrative would have to be a good one.”
…..The dignified assistant listened to this with a serious mien and simultaneously scanned the text for the number of words in the given article. At other monitors, senior editors, data processors, and journalists sat with reports. One was about the difficulties of a non-corrupt contractor; another covered the taxi cartel operating in Manhattan since 1971; there was one on a five-year-old genius who spoke Chinese, Arabic, English and three other languages; then– more cars not running on gas; a young high-flying entrepreneur with an idea for online consumption, just out of college; a new diet and exercise program from London; an ad for a bungalow with all the amenities: a double garage for the cars and space where you can develop a spectacular vegetable or flower garden; an online banner for prospective buyers of jewelry, with an invitation to buy gold anytime twenty-four hours a day. The room in which all these people gathered was small, and the air extremely thick; but Broker Bill did not notice the smell because a scarf covered his face and his nose was capering god knows where.
…..“Sir, let me interrupt you, please…. It’s really important,” he finally said with impatience.
…..“One second, one second! In a bipartisan committee, comma! Right away! They will investigate the baseball player!” said the silver-haired man, tossing the text in the face of the senior editors and journalists. –What do you want?” he finally asked, addressing Bill.
…..“I’m asking you…” said Bill, “I was conned or defrauded. I still can’t figure it out. I’m only asking you to print that the person who brings me this asshole will receive a sufficient reward.”
…..“Tell me your last name?”
…..“No, why do you need my last name? I’m not allowed to say it. I have a lot of friends: District Manager Jessica, Board Chair Caroline Nicole Iverson…. If they suddenly hear about it, I’m really up the creek! You may simply write: Real estate agent, or something better like Broker.”
…..“And what, crooks swiped a computer and television?
…..“What computer and television? That wouldn’t be such a crime! They ran off with my…nose….”
…..“Hmm! That’s a strange last name! Did Mr. Nose steal a large amount from you?”
…..“My nose, that is…you don’t think! My nose, my own nose has ended up who knows where. Some devil is after me!”
…..“How did it disappear? I’m missing something.”
…..“I can’t tell you how it happened, but the main thing is that he’s riding around the city now and calling himself a senior manager. And for that reason, I ask you to indicate that the person who catches him contact me immediately, as soon as possible. Judge for yourself, how am I to live without such a prominent part of my body? It isn’t as if I’m missing a pinky toe on my foot, which nobody would see beneath my boots. I meet District Manager Jessica on Thursdays, and Caroline Nicole Iverson, Board Chair, and her very pretty daughter are also good friends of mine, and judge for yourself: How should I now…. Now I can’t show my face to them.”
…..The assistant considered it, which meant he pressed his lips together tightly.
…..“No, I can’t place that kind of classified in the newspaper,” he finally said, after a long pause.
…..“What? Why not?”
…..“Because. The paper might lose its reputation. If everyone started to write that his nose ran away, then…. And that’s already what they’re saying–that the paper is printing a lot of absurdities and partisan rumors.”
…..“Why is this matter incomprehensible? It seems pretty obvious here.”
…..“It seems like that to you. But just last week, there was a similar case. A businessman, just like you now, sent a classified, paid the standard price of seventy five dollars plus tax, and the whole ad consisted of the fact that a poodle with a black coat had run away. What could be the problem? But we were accused of libel: That poodle was a managing director, don’t remember the company.”
…..“But I’m not giving you a classified for a poodle. It’s for my nose: It’s virtually no different from an ad about myself.”
…..“No, I cannot place such an ad.”
…..“Even if I definitely lost my nose!”
…..“If you lost it, that is a matter for a doctor. They say there are many people who can conjure up any nose they want. But, by the way, I’ve noticed that you must be a cheerful person and love to joke at parties.”
…..“I thank you, the kindness is appreciated. If it comes down to it, I’ll show you.”
…..“Why worry!” the assistant continued, sniffing smelling salts. “However, if it doesn’t bother you,” he added with a movement of curiosity, “then it would be interesting to see.”
…..The real estate agent removed the scarf from his face.
…..“Indeed, it’s really strange!” said the assistant. “The place is completely flat, like a just-cooked pancake. Unbelievably flat!”
…..“So are you going to argue with me now? You see for yourself that you cannot but print it. I will be especially grateful; and very happy that this case gave me the pleasure of meeting you….”
…..The broker, as was apparent from his words, had decided to condescend this once.
…..“Of course, it’s not a big deal to print it,” said the assistant, “only I don’t foresee any benefit to you. You should give it to someone who has a scientific mind so he can describe the rare event in nature and publish an article in Science Daily (here the assistant again took a whiff of the salts) for the benefit of posterity (here he wiped his nose) or something like that, for the purpose of general curiosity.”
…..The real estate agent had no hope at all. He lowered his eyes to the newspaper where a theater ad jumped out at him; his face was ready to break into a smile seeing the name of an actress, a beauty. His hand reached for his pocket: Did he have a scheduled engagement that day? Because the board chair, in Bill’s opinion, was likely to attend…. But the thought of his nose ruined it all!
…..The assistant himself, it seemed, commiserated with Bill’s position. Hoping to offer some relief, he considered it proper to express his sympathy in a few words.
…..“I have to say that I find it absolutely awful that such an event has happened to you. Would you like a whiff of these salts? It alleviates head pain and sad situations; it’s good even with respect to hemorrhoids.
…..Saying this, the assistant raised a salt container to Bill, quite gracefully flipping the lid with a portrait of some lady in a hat.
…..This inconsiderate act made Bill lose his patience.
…..“How can you joke here,” he ejaculated. “Can’t you see that I don’t have what you need for sniffing? To hell with your salts! Do you think I want to see them now?!?! I don’t want your crappy brain drugs any more than if you were offering me cocaine.”
…..In great despair, he left the editorial offices and headed to his FBI special investigator, a real lover of sugar. In his apartment, the entire hallway, like the foyer, proffered bowls of candy that friends sent him in gratitude. At this moment, the special agent’s wife was helping him on with his official jacket; awards and all sorts of photo ops hung proudly on the walls, and his three-year-old son was already pointing to the influential and prestigious people. While the father, after a difficult, mediocre education, was ready to enjoy the pleasures of the world.
…..Bill entered the investigator’s home at an instant when its owner was annoyed. Grumbling, the investigator said, “By God, it’s eleven o’clock and they still haven’t notified me!” And for this reason, it was possible to foresee that the entrance of the real estate agent had not been timed well at all; but had he brought the investigator a few boxes of cigars and liquor, I don’t know if he would have been welcomed with joy instead. Though the broker was a big connoisseur of the movies and technology, he preferred renting houses to everything else. “This is the best job,” he often said. “There’s nothing better than this: You own your home; you make a profit; there’s always money in your pocket; and if you pay attention, you won’t fall on your face.”
…..The investigator greeted Bill fairly dryly and said that daytime was not good for personal visits since nature stipulated that the day is for work (from this, the real estate agent was able to see that the special investigator was familiar with the maxims of the founding Puritans); that you can’t lead an orderly man astray; and that there are many friends in the world who go downhill in an entirely conventional manner and then roam about all sorts of indecent places.
…..Hit a nerve! I should note that Bill was a very sensitive man. He was able to forgive nearly everything said about him, but could not excuse comments related to his profession or class. He even suggested that the movies could allow themselves anything related to managers, but could not attack brokers in any way. The investigator’s reception confused him. He shook his head and said with a feeling of pride, slightly spreading his hands: “I admit, after such offensive comments on your part, I cannot speak with you…” –and left.
…..He arrived at home, hardly hearing his legs below him. It was already early afternoon. The building seemed dreary or extremely revolting after all these unsuccessful searches. As he entered the lobby he saw, leaning on the mahogany wood podium, the doorman Nestor, who fiddled with his nose and fairly discreetly picked it from time to time. This indifferent man infuriated him; Bill yelled about the previous night’s inadequate heat, adding: “You guys can’t sleep on the job all the time!”
…..Suddenly, Nestor stood erect and rushed–as fast as he could–to hold the door. The sad and tired broker crossed the lobby, slumped into the elevator and, after sighing a few times, said aloud:
…..“My God! My God! How unlucky can you be? If I were missing an arm or a leg, it would be better; if I were missing an ear, it would be terrible, though more tolerable. But without a nose–the Lord only knows what sort of thing that is: It’s a dog, but no, not quite; it’s a person, but no, not quite; you may as well chuck such a thing out the window! It would even be better had they shot it off in a war or a duel or if I were the reason. But it disappeared out of nowhere, just like that, without a penny in return!…. Only, no, it can’t be,” he added, thinking a little. “It’s unlikely my nose disappeared. It’s not likely in any way. Probably, I’ve dreamed it, or I am simply daydreaming now. By mistake, I somehow swallowed, instead of water, the rubbing alcohol to avoid ingrown hairs. The cleaning lady, the bitch, distracted me, and I probably took it.”
…..To make absolutely sure he wasn’t drunk, the broker pinched himself so hard that he screamed. The pain completely convinced him that he was really alive and awake. He slowly approached the mirror and began to blink his eyes at the thought that somehow his nose would appear in its place, but then he jumped back:
…..“What an awful-looking face!”
…..It was definitely incomprehensible. If only a button, a silver spoon, a watch or something similar had disappeared; but such a disappearance!? How did this disappear? And furthermore in his own place! Broker Bill, analyzing the circumstances overall, could only guess that the person at fault in all this must actually be Board Chair Caroline, who wanted him to date her daughter. He loved to flirt with her, but avoided a commitment. When the board chair had told him directly that she wanted him to date the girl, he’d slowly tempered his compliments, saying that he was still young, that he needed to work another five years until he was exactly forty-two. And so the board chair, probably out of revenge, had decided to ruin him and hire a witch, since there was no way you could suggest that his nose had been ripped off: Nobody had entered his apartment; the esthetician Michele had actually treated him on Wednesday, but throughout all of Wednesday and even Thursday his nose had been whole, he remembered and understood this very well. Furthermore, he would have felt the pain, and without a doubt, the wound would not have been able to heal so quickly, becoming smooth like a pancake. He constructed options in his head: formally take the board chair to court, or go see her personally and accuse her? But his thoughts were interrupted by the bell that rang at the front door, likely indicating that a neighbor needed to borrow something. Bill opened the door slowly, holding the knob in his left hand and planning to quickly say no. The first move he made then was to grab his scarf and hide the place where his nose had been the day before so the dumb guy would not gape when he saw this peculiarity.
…..No sooner had the neighbor withdrawn into the hallway than the intercom buzzed to announce an officer:
…..“Does real estate agent Bill Smith live here?”
…..“Come in. Broker Bill is here,” said Bill, quickly moving aside and letting him enter.
…..The officer in uniform with nice features, hair not too short and not too long, and fairly full cheeks, the same office who’d stood at the end of the Brooklyn Bridge in the beginning of our story, entered the apartment.
…..“You lost your nose, huh?”
…..“That’s right.”
…..“It was found.”
…..“What’s that?” exclaimed Broker Bill. His tongue tied for joy, he fixed his gaze on the face of the officer standing in front of him; on his full lips and cheeks, the cold from the raw weather slowly receded. “How?”
…..“In a strange way: They caught it almost on the street. It was boarding a plane and wanted to travel to Miami. And its driver’s license had already been issued in the name of a manager. And the strange thing is that at first I took it for a person. But, fortunately, I had my glasses on and instantly saw that it was a nose. I may be short-sighted and if you’re standing in front of me, then I only see that you have a face. I won’t see either a nose or lips. My mother-in-law, that is, the mother of my wife, also doesn’t see anything.”
…..Bill was beside himself.
…..“Where is it? Where? I’ll run there right now.”
…..“Don’t worry. Knowing you need your nose, I brought it with me. And the strange thing is that the main actor in this affair is a con artist esthetician on Second Avenue, who will now be heading to court. For a while we have suspected her of manipulation and theft, and three days ago she snagged some designer buttons in a store. Your nose is completely the same as it was.”
…..The officer dug in his pocket and pulled out the nose wrapped in paper.
…..“That’s it!” cried Bill. “That’s totally it! Would you enjoy a glass of juice with me?”
…..“I would be honored for the great pleasure, but I can’t under any circumstances: From here I need to go to the Walt Whitman Houses…. The price of all food has soared…. My mother-in-law, that is, my wife’s mother, also lives with us, and we have children; the oldest holds particular promise: a very intelligent boy, but we don’t have any money at all for their education….
…..Bill guessed what the officer was hinting at, pulled a clump of bills from his wallet, and stretched his arm out to the policeman who–lowering his head in gratitude–turned and left. A moment later Bill imagined his voice on the street as he growled a warning to some dumb kid riding his bike on the sidewalk.
…..The real estate agent, upon the departure of the officer, remained in a sort of trance for several minutes, and only gained the ability to see and sense a few minutes later: His unexpected joy had precipitated this unconsciousness. He took the discovered nose attentively in both hands, his palms enveloping it, and again examined it carefully.
…..“That’s it, that’s definitely it!” said Broker Bill. “Here’s the pimple on the left side that popped out yesterday.”
…..The broker almost laughed for joy.
…..But nothing lasts long in this world, and so even the joy following that first moment is not as strong; and three minutes later it becomes even weaker; and finally it inconspicuously merges with the ordinary state of your soul, like a circle in water borne of a falling rock; eventually it merges with the smooth surface. Bill began to contemplate and gathered that the matter was still not resolved: They had found the nose, but it had to be attached, put it in its place.
…..“And what if it doesn’t stay?”
…..Asking himself this question, the broker turned pale.
…..With a feeling of unexplainable anxiety, he ran to the bathroom and concentrated at the mirror to make sure he didn’t attach it crookedly. His arms shook. Carefully and cautiously he laid his nose in its former place! What the hell! It wasn’t sticking! He held it to his mouth, warmed it a little with his breath, and raised it up to the smooth spot between his two cheeks; but his nose did not hold any which way.
…..“Come on, dumbass, stay in place!” he said to it. But the nose was like wood and fell to the table with such a strange sound that you might have thought it was a cork. The broker’s face contorted fitfully. “Is it not going to grow back on?” he worried in fright. But no matter how often he raised the nose to its place, the effort ended unsuccessfully as before.
…..He called a cab and went to a hospital situated on the same riverbank in the wealthiest zip code of the Upper East Side. His doctor was visibly a real man; he had a perfectly shaved face and fresh, clean smock, ate fresh apples for breakfast, and kept his teeth unusually clean, brushing them every morning for almost three quarters of an hour and rinsing his mouth with five different types of mouthwash. The doctor examined him immediately, asking how long ago the accident had happened. He lifted Broker Bill’s chin and gave him a pinch with his fingers in the very place where his nose had been before, so the broker had to throw back his head with such force that the crown hit the wall. The physician said it was nothing and recommended moving away from the wall a little, ordering him to swivel his head first to the right and touching the place where his nose used to be. “Hmm!” he said, then ordered Broker Bill to bend his head to the left, saying: “Hmm!” again; he finally gave him such a pinch with his finger that Broker Bill jerked his head like a dog on a chain. After this examination, the physician shook his head and said:
…..“No, don’t do it. You would be better off leaving it because you could make it worse. Of course, you might attach it; I could even do it for you now; but I assure you it would be worse for you.”
…..“Great! So I’m supposed to live without a nose?” said Bill. “I can’t imagine anything worse than it is now. The Lord only knows what this is! Where can I go with such a stain? I see people in high places; today I’m supposed to have a lunch and dinner appointment. I’m friends with many locals: District Manager Jessica, Caroline the board chair… although after today’s events, I won’t have anything to do with her, except through lawyers. “Please tell me,” said Bill in an imploring voice, “Do you not have any recommendation? For how to attach it, even if not well, just so it would hold; I could support it a little with my hand in dangerous situations. Furthermore, I don’t play sports, so I can’t harm it with some incautious movement. Anything that involves help with connections, be absolutely certain that I will do everything in my power….”
…..“Believe me,” said the doctor in a voice neither loud nor soft, but surprisingly nice and agreeable. “We don’t deal with appearance. That is against our rules and our philosophy. It is true that we are connected with plastic surgeons, but only to please our patients. Of course, I could attach your nose; but I assure you on my honor–if you don’t believe my word–it will be much worse. You’re better off accepting the acts of nature herself. Wash yourself with cold water, and I promise that, even without a nose, you will be as healthy as if you had one. But I recommend you place the nose in a jar with alcohol or, even better, pour in two tablespoons of strong vodka and heated vinegar–and then you’ll get some real money for it. I’ll even take it off you myself if you don’t object.”
…..“No, no! I’m not selling it for anything in the world,” cried a despairing Broker Bill. “It would be better if it had just disappeared!”
…..“I’m sorry!” said the doctor, lowering his head, “I wanted to be helpful…. What can you do! At least you saw the trouble I went to.”
…..On saying this, the doctor, with a respectful handshake, left the room. Bill did not even register the doctor’s face and, in a complete stupor, only saw the white and clean-like-snow cuffs of the doctor’s shirt peeking out of the arms of his similarly white smock.
…..The next day he decided, before filing a complaint, to write the board chair to see whether she would agree to return what she should without a legal battle. The content of the letter consisted of this:

.
…..“Dear Board Chair Caroline Nicole Iverson,
……….I cannot understand this strange act on your part. You can be certain that in pursuing such a course, you won’t gain a thing and won’t succeed in inducing me to date your daughter. Believe me that the story with regard to my nose is completely known to me, along with your role as the main actor. In its sudden severance from its place, its flight and disguise, first looking like a businessman and then looking like itself, we have nothing other than the manifestation of witchcraft practiced by you and those who engage in similar activities due to you. For my part, I consider it my duty to forewarn you: If the aforementioned nose is not back in its place today, then I will be required to seek recourse to and protection under the law.
……….Otherwise, with the utmost respect, I am honored to be,
……….Yours sincerely,
……….William Smith.”

.
…..“Dear Mr. William Smith,
……….Your letter surprised me greatly. I, confessing to you openly, in no way expected it, especially with regard to the unjustified reproaches on your part. I forewarn you that I never, either in disguise or looking like himself, met with a man like the one you are describing. It is true that I had a talk with District Manager Jessica. And although she certainly has wanted to date my daughter, since she conducts herself well, modestly and is of that nature, I have never had any influence. You also mention your nose. If you think that I would want to lead you away by the nose, that is, to keep you entirely separated, then it surprises me to hear you speak about this when, as you know, I was of a completely different opinion, and if you gain the consent of my daughter at her own volition, then I am ready this minute to agree, since that has always been the object of my dearest wishes, in the hope of which I continue to remain at your disposal,
……….Caroline Iverson.”

.

…..“No,” said Bill, upon reading the letter. “She is definitely not guilty. She can’t be! The letter has been written in a way that no person guilty of a crime could write.” The real estate agent was conversant in this because he had seen a number of investigations in serialized thrillers. “How did it happen, how did I fall so out of God’s favor? It must be the work of the devil!” he finally said in resignation.
…..In the meantime, rumors about this unusual event spread through the whole city and, as happens, resulted in some peculiar embellishment. At that time, everyone’s mind was attuned to the fantastic: Just recently, the public had been preoccupied with liar loans. Furthermore, the story about aliens landing in Roswell had resurfaced, and therefore it isn’t surprising that people soon began to talk as if Broker Bill’s nose were walking down Broadway at exactly three. Every day, myriad curious onlookers collected. Then someone said that the nose was on display in the swan boutique–and such a crowd or horde gathered by the swan that the police actually had to come. One opportunist with a venerable appearance, cleanly shaven, who scalped various theater tickets on the street, deliberately imitated the beautiful wooden park benches and invited curious spectators to sit for ten dollars an hour. One retired executive, for this purpose, left his home early and with great effort forged through the crowd; but to his great dismay, he saw in the window of the store, instead of a nose, the usual glittering accessories and a pair of torsos: a woman’s with a low-cut blouse and no arms beside a man’s in a tux with a vest, standing erect, also missing arms–a scene that appeared in dozens of these windows. Moving away, he said in despair: “How can you bamboozle the people with such dumb and farfetched rumors?”
…..Then the rumor mill churned out that not on Broadway, but rather in Gramercy Park, Broker Bill’s nose was roaming and had been roaming for a long time already, since Jennifer Aniston had moved in, which offered a real surprise in this strange game of nature. Some students at the medical college headed there. One distinguished high-society woman asked the caretaker of the garden, in a special letter, to show her children this rare phenomenon and, if possible, with an instructive and enlightening explanation for the kids.
…..These events were celebrated by all the essential members of upper-class clubs, who loved to confound the women whose reserves were running low at this time. A small number of respected and well-intentioned people were very dissatisfied. One woman said with displeasure that she did not understand how such dumb ideas could spread in today’s enlightened age, and she was surprised that the regulators were not paying attention to it. This woman, as we see, belonged to the group of those citizens who wanted to involve officials in everything, even in the daily arguments between couples. After this…but here again the entire outcome is hidden behind a sheet of rain from the ocean, and what came after, remains definitely unknown.

…..

III

…..

…..Complete nonsense occurs on earth. Sometimes there is no plausible explanation whatsoever: Suddenly, this very nose that traveled as a senior manager and caused such an uproar in the city surfaced, as if there were nothing to it, right back in its place, that is, namely, between Broker Bill’s two cheeks. This happened on April 7th. On waking and accidentally looking in the mirror, Bill saw: His nose!–oh sweet bejesus–it was definitely his nose! “Whoopee,” said Bill and in joy almost did a little jig across the entire room barefoot, but a call interrupted him. Right after, he had to go wash and, having done so, peered in the mirror again: his nose! Drying himself with a towel, he again peered in the mirror: his nose!
…..“Look, Bill, you have a pimple on your nose,” he said to himself and thought: “But the unfortunate thing would actually be: No, sir, not a pimple, your whole nose is gone!”
…..But it was clear: “It’s not a big deal: Your nose is there…. Good, to hell with it!” continued the broker, leaving the apartment.
…..On the way to work, he looked in the door of the esthetician Michele, who reacted as skittishly as a cat that was just slithering away with stolen bacon.
…..“Tell me now: Are your hands clean?” Bill called to her across the room.
…..“Clean.”
…..“I don’t believe it!”
…..“See for yourself.”
…..Bill sat. Michele covered him with an apron and a couple minutes later, following a filtrate, turned his forehead and most of his face into the cream that is the second of four layers.
…..“You see!” said Michele to herself as she stared at his nose, and then turned his head to the other side and looked at it in profile. “There it is, as you would think,” she continued, but kept looking at it. Finally, lightly, with caution, as much as you can imagine, she used just two fingers to rub this part too. That was Michele’s system.
…..“Well, well, you’re enjoying it, aren’t you,” cried Bill.
…..Michele gave up, confused, wondering as she had never wondered before.
…..Carefully, she began to massage the cream into his face; and although it was quite unusual and improper to stroke without nearing the olfactory part of his body, she gave the impression by lightly smoothing it with her finger and dabbing in points. Ultimately, she mastered the impediments and completed the task.
…..When everything was ready, Bill washed himself quickly, hailed a cab, and rode straight to the bakery. On entering, he cried from afar: “Ma’am, a cup of espresso!” and that moment went to the mirror: His nose was there! He turned back happily and with a satirical expression looked, his eyes slightly narrowed, at two officers, one of whom had a nose no larger than a vest button. After that, he went to the office of the department where he was angling to be nominated for a seat on the board, or, if unsuccessful, to expand his network. Passing through the foyer, he peered into the mirror: His nose was there! Then he rode to see another real estate agent or broker, a real comedian to whom he frequently said in response to various harsh comments: “Well, I know you, you wiseass!” On the way he thought: “If the broker doesn’t convulse with laughter on seeing me, then it is probably a reliable sign that whatever needs to be wherever is definitely sitting in the right place.” The real estate agent indeed said nothing. “Good, good, to hell with him,” Bill thought. In a restaurant he met with Board Chair Caroline and her daughter, shook hands with them and was greeted by joyous exclamations: it turned out that they harbored no resentment. He talked with them for a very long time, intentionally dabbing his nose and tilting both nostrils of his nose toward them while saying to himself: “You women are great! But I’m not marrying this girl anyway. It’s that simple, par amour, say what you will!” And from then on, Broker Bill marched about as if nothing had happened–on Broadway, at the opera, and everywhere. And his nose, also as if nothing had happened, sat on his face without even giving the impression that it had gone astray. And after this, you always saw Broker Bill in a good mood, smiling, decidedly chasing all the pretty women and even stopping once in front of a store on Fifth Avenue and buying a diamond necklace, for some unknown reason, since he didn’t have any use for jewelry.

…..So this kind of story occurred in the Big Apple of our enormous country! Only now, judging by the description of it all, we see that there are a lot of farfetched occurrences. Not to mention the definite strangeness in the supernatural separation of a nose and its appearance at various places in the guise of a senior manager–but how did Bill not realize that you can’t run a classified ad about a nose? And in saying that, I don’t mean that it seemed expensive to pay for the classified: nonsense, I’m not at all from the ranks of stingy people. But it isn’t appropriate, isn’t professional, isn’t good! And another question: How did the nose land in the bowl of cereal and specifically Michele’s? No, I don’t understand that at all, definitely don’t understand it! But what’s still stranger, what’s less understandable than anything else, is how authors can take up such stories. I admit, this is quite mysterious, that’s for sure…. No, no, I don’t understand. First of all, there is definitely no benefit for the country; secondly…but secondly, too, there is no benefit. I simply don’t know what this is…..                                                                              ….But, nonetheless, in everything, though, of course, you can read this, that and more; it’s even possible…well, yes, and, what’s more, where aren’t there absurdities? Yet everything, nonetheless, as you may realize, in everything, it is true there is something. And whatever anyone says, such things happen on earth–rarely, but they happen.

The Nose Transposed

Henry Whittlesey

…..

Introduction: Transposition in general

A transposition moves an original narrative to a new context with each sentence of the transposed text standing in direct relation to the commensurate sentence in the original. A transposition might look like this example from The Nose by Nikolai Gogol:

Original and translation:

Иван Яковлевич, как всякий порядочный русский мастеровой, был пьяница страшный.

Ivan Yakovlevich, like every proper Russian master, was a raging alcoholic. (My translation)

Transposition:

Michele, like many a good American professional, was a friendly contrarian.

If solely the content is transposed, then the transposition will try to retain the original’s form (a sentence or segment’s nouns, adjectives, adverbs, clauses, prepositions, length, etc.) as we see above. Should the transposition also shift the form, then the original structure will be replaced, but in each case, the correlation of sentence to sentence will remain (otherwise it would become an adaptation).

In a categorization of derivative works, a transposition would fall between a translation and an adaptation. Like a translation, it incorporates each segment, i.e. sentence of the original. But unlike a translation, it alters the content: It might cause a man in the original to become a woman, a barber to metamorphose into an esthetician, a servant to be transfigured to a doorman, etc. In this sense, the transposition resembles an adaptation in literature, with its palpable similarities to the original: Protagonists retain at least the specter of their identity, character, and consciousness; the setting permits commensurate relationships, and often the plot is shifted to a different time and place. In adaptation, however, the correspondence of the final text to each segment of the original is often lost: Entire passages and scenes are added, eliminated, altered for the new context. In transposition, on the contrary, the shift and potential addition, subtraction or alteration is pursued systematically on the basis of each original segment (sentence), creating a new text on top of the original.[i]

It should also be noted that while we will examine a transposition from one language to another, the genre of transposition also includes texts shifted within one language, such as a Jane Austen novel moved to the 21st century, and some transfers from one medium to another, e.g. novel to film or novel to painting/photo or vice versa.[ii] Furthermore, although it stretches beyond the scope of this essay and my work to date, a transposition could also occur from film or photo/painting to text, or from any media with segments to another that furnishes parallel segments.

I will unfold here central aspects of a narrative in transposition. These aspects include the transposition of character, setting, identity, the continuity of consciousness, and the intangibility of voice, each of which appears in the shadow of the aforementioned transposition process. For a more general discussion of transposition in relation to translation and adaptation, please consult the essay entitled “A typology of derivatives: Translation, transposition, adaptation,” which appeared in the April 2012 edition of Translation Journal.

Again I have chosen a story, The Nose, by Russian author Nikolai Gogol. His narratives offer a potentially rich source for transposition because his style of writing differs vastly from contemporary American English. It also presents difficulties for contemporary American readers familiar with personal narration modeled on discourse, but forced in Gogol to peruse translations with lengthy, complex, detailed, descriptive, omniscient narration not defined by discourse. Finally, the content of opulent bureaucrats, nefarious landowners, and lazy servants seems to be something we can safely relegate to the distant past, dismissing them as irrelevant today. By having this content transposed, however, we are able to recognize the similarities between two seemingly disparate ages. Although the scope of this essay does not permit an extensive comparison of a translation and transposition of The Nose, such an analysis would also offer insight into essential and metaphorical aspects of the narrative.[iii]

…..

A. The transposition of character

i. Essence and genes informing profession

A given character in the original reappears in transposition. The character may see a change in gender, habits, or mentality, and will certainly undergo a change in appearance. But only in rare cases will a character vanish completely. Unable to escape, reject, or liberate themselves from their pre-existing type, the transposed character tends to imitate their predecessor, leaving the foreordained core untouched. This divergence from mimetic translation harks back to the quest for artistic altitudo in the seventeenth century, which Thomas Steiner describes as the freeing of thought from the narrow problems of linguistic reproduction (61-62). In French theory at the time, this type of translation offered greater sensibility for the target language and the audience, and entailed paraphrase, alteration and even reduction or addition (62-66), i.e. the components of a transposition of form. Although we are addressing a transposition of content here, the non-mimetic approach treats its subject matter, with regard to form or content, as immutable: “sense is so stable that ‘words’ cannot alter it beyond recognition” (Warren 501). It is this sense or essence that the transposition seeks to distill.

In my transposition of The Nose, the character Michele renders services to the protagonist Bill. The original by Gogol proffers a barber: Specifically, the barber shaves Bill three times a week. Our transposed protagonist needs to receive some regular services to maintain the structural parallel to the original. Could the original barber remain a transposed barber? Do men go for a shave at least once a week? Here in our working class Brooklyn neighborhood, barber shops actually still exist and are patronized (as compared to the tony Upper West Side of Manhattan), but the clients do not have a shave every week. For that, there is a razor on the bathroom vanity. Nonetheless, the barber must evolve into some kind of personal service provider.

If a direct correlation of professions is not possible for the transposition, then a parallel can be sought in the sense or essence of the character’s profession.[iv] In the original Nose, the barber deals with appearance. A parallel in terms of essence might find the barber becoming an esthetician. Not only does such a profession fall within the evolution of the beauty sector, but it also fits the context of The Nose where the barber/esthetician must regularly cater to the needs of a man in a profession where appearance is critical: politics/real estate.

By focusing on each segment of the original, a transposition is structurally trapped by the past, and commensurately its characters are trapped. Unlike an adaptation, which might release them through a radical change, the characters in transposition must live with their genes. They are not cloned as in a translation, but their genetic makeup shows traces of their progenitors directly or atavistically.

ii. Essence and circumstance informing transposition

The sentence- or segment-based requirements coupled with a shift in context often preclude a transposition of “genetic” evolution as we just saw. This is the case with the civil servant in the original Nose, who, if transposed to some sort of 21st-century bureaucrat, would certainly not be on the street nearly as much as his ancestor. At the same time, the protagonist should be able to retain the essence of having a respected profession, though one that affords a greater degree of freedom than a pure office job.

In the original Nose, the protagonist is a bureaucrat living in a society that Gogol describes as having the following characteristics:

– job brings him into contact with many different people (4, 7)
– professionals, bureaucrats, women, officers are often on the street (4)
– decorum requires a certain physical appearance in conformity with the accepted standards[v] (4, 7, 12, 14)
– attainment of protagonist’s status is possible through two paths: practical experience (in the mountains) or formal education (school) (5)
– prospect of promotion comes through networking (4)

These characteristics can be found in many professions today:  The transposition of such a bureaucrat to a real estate agent furnishes the following essential parallels:

– a real estate agent is in contact with many different people
– a real estate agent must often leave his office (be on the street)
– physical appearance assumes great importance
– a real estate agent could gain his knowledge through practice (in Las Vegas) or formal training (at school)
– the money in real estate offers additional prospects for the future

…..

B. The transposition of setting

As The Nose was originally set in Russia, and my transposition takes place in America, it is necessary to shift all the places and references to places. Along the lines of the transposition of character, this act seeks intrinsic properties of the Russian places that will apply in the context of the transposition. Here are the properties of some significant places in The Nose:

Place…………………………Properties

Saint Petersburg             Central, urban metropolis

Nevsky Prospekt             Common place where people randomly meet

Isakievsky Bridge           Prominent bridge in the city

Kazansky Sobor              Public place frequented in the morning; symbol of religion

The city, street, and bridge bear intrinsic properties that appear universal and conventional. But as you can see, the properties of Kazansky Sobor do not necessarily conform to its main function(s). Independently, the cathedral (sobor) would be described above all as a place of worship or rest or spirituality rather than a public place that people frequent in the morning. What we see in this description of the church is an intrinsic property already informed by the transposition. Kazansky Sobor gives the man who lost his nose (Kovalev) the opportunity to talk with the person his nose becomes. The place’s religious significance is secondary and becomes metaphorical. In 21st-century America, a man who runs into his lost nose on the street in the morning will follow him to places that a businessman might enter before work, which would allow for an encounter.

With regard to these four settings in Gogol, we find the following parallels in 21st-century America:

Saint Petersburg -> New York

Idea: Setting needs to be shifted to an English-speaking city that is large and prominent, similar to the city in the original

Nevsky prospect -> Broadway/Roadhouse bar; Isakievsky Bridge -> Brooklyn Bridge

Idea: The main street in 19th-century Russia should become the main street in 21st-century America or, in the event of meeting familiar people on it, a single place (see following caveat).

Caveat: In New York, there is no contemporary equivalent to the 19th-century Nevsky prospect. Essential aspects of the street at that time, which included the collecting of the aristocracy in one place at a certain hour (on the sunny side in the winter), lent the boulevard a unique socio-historical character. Consequently, the transposition reflects the decentralization of society as a whole, which likewise requires consideration with regard to meetings. Where the concentration of familiar people on Nevsky prospect takes precedence, a transposition to the 21st century must shift to a specific regularly patronized place like the Roadhouse bar.

Church -> Bank

Context: A random morning encounter takes place in a frequented location.

Idea: A church was this frequented location in Gogol; today it must be a grocery store, deli/kiosk, mode of transportation, gym, or bank-as discussed above-i.e. places that a businessman might enter before work and that allow for an encounter. Since a spiritual element is linked to this location in The Nose, it seemed appropriate to choose a parallel that has some relation to “worship,” i.e. the worship of money represented by the bank.

…..

C. The transposition of consciousness

Often the characters and the narrator possess a mentality that is not far removed from contemporary consciousness. The relationship, however, is obscured by antiquated details from a bygone time. In transposing consciousness, by which I mean the mental processes of the characters and narrator, we discover the parallels.

An example of congruity is the influence of smell on an individual and the ability of a husband or wife to influence their partner through subtle acts. In my transposition of The Nose, some of the details are altered: a man becomes a woman; coffee and bread are replaced by bacon, coffee, and cereal. The updates have the effect of focusing our attention on the non-material, i.e. metaphysical aspects of the text-such as influence or sense or cultural peculiarities, etc.-phenomena that bear no less significance today than two hundred years ago.

i. Continuity: Difference and subtle guidance

The dialogue between husband and wife at the beginning of Gogol’s short story reveals a mutual desire to express independence, but be guided and subtly consent to guidance by the other (please note: their roles are exchanged in this transposition, that is, the husband becomes the wife and vice versa). Michele/Ivan Yakovlevich (hereinafter Michele Yakovlevich when reference is made to the character both in the original and transposition) is influenced by her/his spouse through a kitchen smell. Michele Yakovlevich accepts this influence, but affirms her/his independence by preemptively rejecting coffee in the original and bacon in the transposition.

Original:

Приподнявшись немного на кровати, он увидел, что супруга его, довольно почтенная дама, очень любившая пить кофий, вынимала из печи только что испеченные хлебы.

– Сегодня я, Прасковья Осиповна, не буду пить кофию, – сказал Иван Яковлевич, – а вместо того хочется мне съесть горячего хлебца с луком.

(То есть Иван Яковлевич хотел бы и того и другого, но знал, что было совершенно невозможно требовать двух вещей разом, ибо Прасковья Осиповна очень не любила таких прихотей.) «Пусть дурак ест хлеб; мне же лучше, – подумала про себя супруга, – останется кофию лишняя порция». И бросила один хлеб на стол. (1)

Translation:

Raising himself a little in bed, he saw that his wife, quite a respectable lady, who very much liked her cup of coffee, was taking just-baked loaves from the oven.

“Today, Praskovya Osipovan, I will not have coffee,” said Ivan Yakovlevich, “but instead I’d like to have some hot bread with onion.”

(That is, Ivan Yakovlevich would have like the one and the other, but he knew it was utterly impossible to ask for two things at the same time, for Praskovya Osipovna very much disliked such whims.) “Let the fool eat bread; so much the better for me,” the wife thought to herself, “there’ll be an extra portion of coffee left.” And she threw a loaf of bread on the table. (Pevear/Volokhonsky 364-5)

Transposition:

Propping herself against the backboard, she saw her husband, a fairly respected man who really loved to eat bacon, pouring the just-boiled water through a filter.

“Today, my love, I’m not going to eat bacon,” said Michele. “Instead, I want to drink hot coffee with sugar.”

(That is, Michele would have liked both this and that, but she knew it was completely impossible to demand two things at once. Her husband Steve did not like such impulsiveness.) “That’s what I thought; better for me,” her husband said to himself. “I can have an extra portion of bacon.” And he plunked her mug on the table. (1)

By transposing the consumption of bread to coffee (and then coffee to bacon), we are not distracted by the materially different breakfast in Gogol’s time. Switching address from first name and patronymic to just the first name brings the form closer to contemporary practice in English. Shortening sentences attenuates the difficulties of comprehending the text. Yet maintaining each segment of the original ensures that among others, the “influence of smell” and the “ability to influence” surface in commensurate fashion to the original.

ii. Modification and the return of generalizations

At the moment in New York, no sooner have you opened your mouth to voice a generalization or stereotype than an interlocutor douses you with a bucket of cold-water exceptions to the approval of bystanders. Gogol’s universals, generalizations, and stereotypes must be modified for a transposition to 21st-century America. Within the scope of the transposition genre, it would be possible to modify them to the point where they cease to assume their original general form, becoming particulars instead. But what if Gogol observes New York society and tosses some tongue-in-cheek universals into his Neo-Baroque text? What might these be? Surely not something like all Russian masters are raging alcoholics, as we briefly mentioned in the introduction:

Иван Яковлевич, как всякий порядочный русский мастеровой, был пьяница страшный.
(Ivan Yakovlevich, like every proper Russian master, was a raging alcoholic.)

In this generalization about professionals, the narrator reveals a mind that perceives the world according to schema (in the Kantian sense: a rule or principle that facilitates understanding). It classifies Michele Yakovlevich as a certain type similar to many others. Suddenly, in an age of individualism, Gogol or Gogol’s narrator exerts his authority from the past to declare that Michele is not the individual she may perceive herself to be. The claim is then followed by an example of her contrarian character:

Michele, like many a good American professional, was a friendly contrarian.

Here again, the modification of the original helps draw attention to the subject of generalizations. When reading the Russian original or its translation, we quickly dismiss to the past the narrator’s claim about all Russian masters, especially during its exposition of Ivan’s shaking hands. We laugh and are amused at how they survived back then, but this only further distracts the reader from the potential plausibility and relevance of universals as at least a frame of reference for an age defined by duality. In particular, it draws us away from uniform personal narration. This structure mirrors the 19th-century relationship between the omniscient narrator/author and his/her narrative, where the raconteur shifts from omniscience to showing and various positions in between in order to recount the story. In transposition, consequently, we enjoy a revival of former macro structures, as even an extensive transposition of form could not incorporate the alteration necessary to remove the duality of omniscient and personal narration. (Again, in general, it is possible, but then the narrative becomes an adaptation.)

iii. A specific example: Bill Kovalev’s consciousness

If we take a specific character, Kovalev from the original and Bill from the transposition (hereinafter Bill Kovalev), the transposed narrative exposes the similarities between ambitious urban men living almost two hundred years apart from each other. Here is a list of continuities:

ROUTINE

– Waking up early, going brrrr with your lips, stretching, checking appearance in the mirror (3)
– Visiting places regularly (4)

ACTION IN THE WAKE OF AN UNPLEASANT SURPRISE

– Disbelief, check, shock, act (4)
– Return of disbelief, check (5)
– Repetition of cycle again after failure to resolve unpleasant surprise (13)

DESCRIPTION OF INDIVIDUAL PERSON

– Difference between professional coming from academic institution and those learning by practice (4)
– Desire for status: naming yourself differently (4)
– Habit of going to some place to be seen (4)
– Hair and clothing as important signifier of type (4); professionals in different spheres look similar: officer has hair that resembles protagonist’s (14)

CONSCIOUSNESS OF IMPRESSION ON OTHERS

– Uncertainty about approach in addressing stranger (6)
– Assumption that women will be horrified when they realize he doesn’t have a nose (7)
– (Newspaper’s refusal to print classified ad due to liability and reputation concerns also symptomatic of this) (10)

DISTRACTION FROM PRESENT STATE

– Sound instantly shifts focus of mind (6)

ANXIETY ABOUT POSSIBILITY

– Worry that something may happen in the future (Mr. Nose may run away) (8)
– What if the nose cannot be attached? (16)

ORDERING IN ANGER

– Urges cab driver (8)
– Yells at servant/doorman (13)
– Yells at nose (16)

REVEALING TRUTH DOES NOT HELP!

– Failure to influence despite proof of truth (11)
– Protagonist ignores advice of doctor (16)

DESPAIR

– Places look different than before (13)

– ILLOGICAL ACTION TAKEN ON ACCOUNT OF UNPLEASANT SURPRISE

– Departure for police (4)
– Editorial office/newspaper (8)
– Visits частный (inspector)/FBI investigator (11)
– Accuses friend of causing his nose to disappear out of revenge (13, 17)

This long list of continuity describes the intrinsic congruity between Kovalev in the 19th century and Bill in the 21st century using identical words for both epochs. In the length of this list, we see the broad extent of the similarities.

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D. The transposition of identity

i. Change of identity

Who is Michele Yakovlevich? In the original, Ivan Yakovlevich is an alcoholic professional. Michele from the transposition is also a professional, but not an alcoholic. Why? A quirk in Ivan consists of being a professional whose hands shake from alcohol. Through the generalization that all good Russian professionals are alcoholics, we encounter a narrator who perceives widespread acceptance of this phenomenon. This narrator in 21st-century America does not share the same opinion due to the new context. We find lots of quirks in American professionals, but Michele reflects a phenomenon as widespread in our contemporary society as alcoholic barbers were in Saint Petersburg (as implied by Gogol’s narrator): Michele is a mystical contrarian. Here we see the transposition of this repeatedly mentioned aspect:

Original:

Иван Яковлевич, как всякий порядочный русский мастеровой, был пьяница страшный.

Ivan Yakovlevich, like every proper Russian master, was a raging alcoholic.

Transposition:

Michele, like many a good American professional, was a friendly contrarian.

In the original, furthermore, a regular state of intoxication leaves Ivan Yakovlevich wondering if the nose has ended up in his bread because he was drunk yesterday (2). Michele (his character transposed) wonders if the nose has ended up in her muesli because she was possessed yesterday. Between these two examples, the character trait that passes through multiple passages in direct or indirect reference to alcohol is lost. It is replaced by a common peculiarity accepted in contemporary society. Hence, the transposition of identity in the case of a change in that identity may mean a parallel of this kind from consistent alcoholic Ivan to contrarian Michele. As a result, consistency in narration commensurate with the barber will also be transposed to a type of narration that is commensurate with a contrarian. Against the backdrop of the sign in the window of Michele’s salon (Tarot card reading) and the names Michele’s husband calls her (sadist, fiend, sorceress), traits of a commonplace profession and a peculiar mindset parallel the original, even if the specific material differs.

Another example of this is Michele Yakovlevich’s clothing and appearance. Ivan’s appearance and dress reinforce the implied years of drinking: He does not pay attention to either. Michele, true to her contrarian character, does not attend to her face, but dresses as if she did:

Consistency:

Ivan is a barber who never shaves, but shaves others daily. (3)
Michele is an esthetician who never receives her own four-layer facial.

Contrarian:

Ivan’s regular clothing is identical to his professional outfit and thus dirty and missing buttons. (3)
Michele’s regular clothing is different from her professional white lab coat: it is ordinary, sexy, and shows her waist (as well as pants button).

ii. Modification of identity

At various points in the original, the bureaucrat Kovalev is aggressive and rude to service providers like carriage drivers and servants, calling them names such as мошеник, свинья (crook, pig) and treating them as inferiors. In my transposition, Bill is also aggressive, but does not call service providers derogatory names (8, 13). Sometimes the modification entails a division into contextually plausible possibilities. This is necessary when something from the past no longer assumes a similar position in the context of the transposed composition. For example, Kovelev’s servant becomes a service provider, neighbor, or even a conversation with oneself-whatever is plausible as a substitute in the given context of a real estate agent without a team of hired domestic staff (13, 19, in general).

Other instances of modification include the protagonist’s opinions and the course of his career. Bill Kovalev has no issue with actors criticizing professions other than his, but he speaks about the movies instead of the theater (12). The transposition furnishes a form of popular entertainment in harmony with the respective time. A similar phenomenon can be seen in Bill’s understanding of himself. Practical experience forms the basis of his knowledge. For Kovalev, it is a few years in the Caucasus, while for Bill, it consists of work in Las Vegas. In Kovalev’s case, an academic foundation is absent. And almost two hundred years later, Bill is basically lacking it, too. Since the transposed Bill hasn’t been in the army, which is the start of Kovalev’s career, the parallel was moved from the Caucasus to Las Vegas, where he gained practical experience as a real estate agent.

iii. Retention of identity

In many instances, the transposition retains the identity of the original character without any (or much) modification. Bill, just like Kovalev, is proud of his profession (4), wants to look important (4), likes flirting with women (4, 7), and wants to have a career-hence the move to a metropolis (5). These character traits are contiguous with the present day in this context. Others surface as well: Bill Kovalev wears nice clothing and has his hair cut in the fashionable way (although the details differ) (4). Bill is sensitive (12). Failure alters Bill Kovalev’s apprehension of his surroundings (12, however the details are transposed on account of the different context). When Bill loses his nose, he hopes for a miracle-the return of his nose-when all other options are exhausted (13). He also takes extreme measures: writing a letter accusing a friend of witchery (13, 17). Then there is joy in response to a miracle (14). Then frustration at the realization that a problem is not resolved (15, 16). Later, with regard to the incident of a lost nose, gossip spreads (18). Finally, Bill Kovalev celebrates in the wake of the miracle (19, 20, 21).

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E. The intangibility and alteration of the narrator’s voice

Although distinctions in the voice of the narrator show up in translation, it is difficult for American readers to distinguish, for example, between Gogol’s, Dostoevsky’s, or Tolstoy’s styles in translation, despite them being as clear as the difference between Jane Austen and Elizabeth Inchbald. Largely, this problem is due to the inevitable clumsiness of a translation, which at best (or worst, according to the literal school of translation[vi]) sounds awkward. One or two degrees of awkwardness are ignored in a fleeting critique: Dostoevsky and Tolstoy exhibit an identically complicated, longwinded style of writing, according to the reader of translation. By nature, translations also have great difficulty with wordplay. As Eichenbaum writes in How Gogol Created The Overcoat, articulation, mimic, and sounds play a definitive role in the development of Gogol’s plot.[vii] Names are particularly important as are the shifts between humor, absurdity, and seemingly conflicting pedantic declarations.[viii] In translation, the transliteration of the Russian names is the most common approach and loses the etymological relationship between the name and its signified.

In transposition, the degree to which the narrator and/or character’s voice is retained offers more flexibility. Depending on the approach, the original can be substantially altered to accommodate the original’s voice. Irrespective of the scope of these changes, the original’s structure and orientation (position of narrator, point of view, etc.) continue to set boundaries in transposition like a template for a document. Although my transposition of The Nose attempted to retain the original’s form as much as possible in the narration, there were situations that required a shift in sentence structure. Nonetheless, through the modernization of individual sentence structure, but not the perspective or the structure of the paragraph in The Nose, the idiomatic features of Gogol’s voice are apparent:

– Descriptive, objective, omniscient narrator, with infrequent familiar address to reader
– Objective narration mixed with implausible events
– Light irony and humor

Let us examine a specific passage where the protagonist considers throwing his/her nose in the river:

Original:

Он решился идти к Исакиевскому мосту: не удастся ли как-нибудь швырнуть его (нос) в Неву?.. Но я несколько виноват, что до сих пор не сказал ничего об Иване Яковлевиче, человеке почтенном во многих отношениях. (2)

Translation:

He decided to go to St. Isaac’s Bridge: might he not somehow manage to throw it (the nose) into the Neva?… But I am slightly remiss for having said nothing yet about Ivan Yakovlevich, a worthy man in many respects. (Pevear/Volokhonsky 366)

In this sequence, the narrator’s descriptive approach is reflected in sentences such as «Он решился идти…» and «человеке почтенном во многих отношениях…» “He decided to go…” and “a worthy man in many respects”) where the narrator, similar to a stage director, moves the actors here and there and describes them from a distance. This directing and the address of the reader «Но я несколько вниоват…» (“But I am slightly remiss”), followed by comprehensive characterization of the protagonist, both showcase the omniscience of the narrator’s position.

Here is the passage in transposition:

The Brooklyn Bridge? It seemed likely she would be able to toss the bag in the East River there…. But I am somewhat at fault here for not yet saying anything about Michele, a respected woman in many senses. (2)

First, we notice a slight attenuation of the descriptive approach by shifting the narration of «Он решился идти…» (he decided to go…) to the discourse of “The Brooklyn Bridge?” (this shift is necessitated by what would otherwise be an intolerable repetition of subject-verb-object across multiple sentences)[ix]. This shift also reduces the omniscience. Against the backdrop of 21st-century American literary fiction, with its preference for personal narration and sparse stage direction, replacement of an occasional passage of narration with discourse facilitates the reading of a work, although it does slightly alter the overall impression of omniscience or the descriptive approach. Furthermore, such discourse is also found in Gogol (page 4/4: «нет носа» / “no nose”; page 11/11: «есть ли при нем синяя ассигнация» / “Does/Did he have a blue note”; etc.). As in the original, the personal address to the reader “But I am somewhat at fault…” in transposition has a similar effect of emphasizing the aforementioned aspects of omniscience and description.

The narrator’s intangibility, as expressed by the interweaving of objective narration and implausible events, correlates in transposition. We see the parallel in the rumors related to Bill Kovalev’s nose:

Original:

Всем этим происшествиям были чрезвычайно рады все светские, необходимые посетители раутов, любившие смешить дам, у которых запас в то время совершенно истощился. Небольшая часть почтенных и благонамеренных людей была чрезвычайно недовольна. Один господин говорил с негодованием, что он не понимает, как в нынешний просвещенный век могут распространяться нелепые выдумки, и что он удивляется, как не обратит на это внимание правительство. Господин этот, как видно, принадлежал к числу тех господ, которые желали бы впутать правительство во всё, даже в свои ежедневные ссоры с женою. (19)

Translation:

All these events were an extreme joy for those inevitable frequenters of social gatherings who delight in making the ladies laugh and whose stock was by then completely exhausted. A small portion of respectable and right-minded people was extremely displeased. One gentleman said with indignation that he does not understand how such preposterous inventions could spread in our enlightened age and that he is astonished that the government pays no attention to it. This gentleman was obviously one of those gentlemen who wish to mix the government into everything, even their daily quarrels with their wives. (Modified from Pevear/Volokhonsky 389)

Transposition:

These events were celebrated by all the essential members of upper-class clubs, who loved to confound the women whose reserves were running low at this time. A small number of respected and well-intentioned people were very dissatisfied. One woman said with displeasure that she did not understand how such dumb ideas could spread in today’s enlightened age, and she was surprised that the regulators were not paying attention to it. This woman, as we see, belonged to the group of those citizens who wanted to involve officials in everything, even in the daily arguments between couples.

The narrator emphasizes his omniscience by summarizing the views of diverse people in society. Similar to a report requiring objectivity, he outlines one group’s position, then another’s. For the latter, he paraphrases a person’s words «один господин говорил…что он удивляется, как не обратит на это внимание правительство» (Translation: One gentleman said…that he is astonished that the government pays no attention to it // Transposition: One woman said…she was surprised that the regulators were not paying attention to it). The author of the report inserts some contextual information: «Господин…принадлежал к числу…» (Translation: The gentleman was obviously one of those gentlemen… // Transposition: The woman…belonged to the group). Irony is sensed in the upper class’s joy at baffling nervous people and probably the desire to have the (incompetent) government look into the matter (narrator’s implied view: as if that would solve anything). Despite changing some words, altering the form and completely shifting the context, each of these aspects surfaces in each layer of the palimpsest and extends to the nuances of stressed socialites (reserves running dry) and the expectation of help from an incompetent source (the government), which is in turn reflective of a mentality that submits to and desires authority.

Regarding Gogol’s wit, we might revert back to the change of a “raging alcoholic” to a “contrarian.” The transposition does weaken the humor of the original. Yet this alteration of voice, which is required by the transposition’s context, also illuminates a significant difference between contemporary America and 19th-century Russia: For all the apparent physical diversity today, the demands placed on the individual entail conformity to sober, orderly behavior with little trace of absurdity (exempting the length to which we go in an effort to simulate). On the other hand, where we continue to evince independence, difference, or diversity, is in our opinions, attitudes, or views. This I would term mental diversity, even to the point of illogic (where we disagree for the sake of disagreeing, asserting our individuality), as opposed to the previous behavioral conformity. Hence the transposition here draws our attention to this change in manifestation over time.

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Conclusion

One of the central features of a transposition is the duality of cause for effect. The transposed sentence, i.e. the segment, does not represent the product of one primary cause, but rather two. It is shaped by the past context and segment as well as the contemporary context and possibilities for the segment. On the one hand, the constitution of such segments entails a high degree of uncertainty about source due to this dual influence that may also be amplified by intercontextual factors such as the circumstances of the narrative itself. On the other hand, the segment reflects the palpable existence of duality in any given phenomenon due to its history rooted in a different time but interpreted in ours. One might also draw a parallel to indirect discourse in order to understand the nature of the transposed segment: In most indirect discourse we find a mixture of the narrator and character’s idiom, which has ignited an extensive debate in literary circles on the mode of this discourse. With the transposed segment, the original signified is as murky as a statement in indirect discourse: We know absolutely what the original segment is (as opposed to an original narrative where we do not know exactly which house or rock or tree the narrator is describing), but we encounter different details depending on whether the source is the original segment or the contemporary context or an intertextual relationship. Transposition teems with uncertainties. There is no single cause.

…..

Works cited

Augustine. De doctrina christiana. Trans. R.P.H. Green. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996.

Bayley, John. “A New Dostoevsky?” The New York Review of Books. June 13, 1991.

Bowman, Herbert. “The Nose.” The Slavonic and East European Review. Vol. 31 No. 76 (December 1952) 204-211. Online. Accessed: March 20, 2012.

Гоголь, Николай. Нос. http://ilibrary.ru/text/76/index.html

Gogol, Nikolai. The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol. Trans. Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. New York: Vintage Books, 1998.

Steiner, Thomas and Langer, Suzanne. “Precursors to Dryden: English and French Theories of Translation in the Seventeenth Century.” Comparative Literature Studies. Vol. 7. No. 1 (March 1970). 50-81. Online. Accessed: April 11, 2012.

Warren, Michelle. “Translating Literary History.” The Journal of English and Germanic Philology. Vol. 110 No. 4 (October 2011). 489-515.

Эйхенбаум, Б.М. «Как сделана «шинель» Гололя». http://www.opojaz.ru/manifests/kaksdelana.html


[i] The mutability of a derivative has been discussed since the Middle Ages. As Michelle Warren quotes Coldiron, “for late medieval translators, such as Caxton, ‘acculturation’ disseminates knowledge to a broader audience than would be reached by other languages in England…. Caxton’s occasional excuses and invitations to correction cast translation as provisional and perfectible” (Warren 501).

[ii] To date, a pure transposition within one language does not exist to my knowledge. I have attempted a still unpublished transposition of Austen’s Persuasion interwoven with Gogol’s Dead Souls.

[iii] Augustine discusses this at length in book two of De doctrina christiana with regard to the different translations of scripture: “Obscure passages are often clarified by the inspection of several manuscripts, like the passage in Isaiah rendered by one translator as ‘and do not despise the household of your own seed’, but by another as ‘do not despise your own flesh’. Each one confirms the other. One is explained by the other, because ‘flesh’ can be taken literally-so that one may consider this a warning not to despise one’s own body-and ‘household of your seed’ can be metaphorically understood as ‘Christians’, those spiritually born with us from the same seed of the word. But when the ideas of the translators are compared a more plausible idea suggests itself: that the command is literally about not despising your kinsfolk…” (Augustine 73). In light of transposition, the translations complement each other and thereby help with interpretation. The transposition, as compared to the translation of an original passage, would support a similar clarification of the original’s sense, essence, or metaphysical character through the reading of translations and transposition to understand the author or character’s position with regard to the given statement.

[iv] While the term sense draws on Augustine’s distinction between “sense for sense” and “word for word” translation, Aristotle treats different languages as variable expressions of mental concepts that are themselves universal (Warren 497).

[v] See Bowman’s essay “The Nose” for an analysis of the story with regard to the theme of appearance (206-7).

[vi] Bayley, John. “A New Dostoevsky?” The New York Review of Books. June 13, 1991.

[vii] Eichenbaum writes: «…в ней (Шинели) комический сказ, со всеми свойственными Гоголю приемами языковой игры, соединен с патетической декламацией, образующей как бы второй слой» (http://www.opojaz.ru/manifests/kaksdelana.html).

[viii] On Gogol’s approach in general, Eichenbaum continues: «…логическая абсурдность замаскирована еще обилием подробностей, отвлекающих внимание в сторону; каламбур не выставлен на показ, а наоборот- всячески скрыт, и потому комическая сила его возрастает» (http://www.opojaz.ru/manifests/kaksdelana.html).

[ix] I have discussed this issue in a blog post entitled “The Modification of Form” (http://perypatetik.blogspot.com/2012/01/transposition-modification-of-form.html).

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Bios

Nikolai Gogol

One bio says that Nikolai Gogol was an early 19th-century Russian writer born in today’s Ukraine. Another says that Gogol was a master at distilling a wide range of Russian characters. Another says that Gogol’s texts are produced not in the idiom of narration, nor of discourse, but rather with words joined by mimic, articulation, expression, and oral gesture. A physical person named Nikolai Gogol told a number of stories about Russia during his life from 1809 to 1852. A hundred and fifty years later, in 2012, a literary person, also named Nikolai Gogol, is telling such stories about America.

Henry Whittlesey

Henry Whittlesey is a writer and translator of Russian and German. His work in literature and translation has prompted an attempt to define a type of derivative that lies between translation and adaptation. This genre is called transposition. Now 35 years old, he lives in Brooklyn after 13 years in Moscow (Russia) and Röhrmoos (Germany). Whittlesey can be reached through his blog at: http://perypatetik.blogspot.com.

English translation/transposition copyright (c) Henry Whittlesey, 2012.