Sunday, February 21, 2021

"My heart had stopped to beat": A solecism in Vladimir Nabokov's "Pale Fire"

The first time I checked lyrics in English for a German-speaking friend in Basel, I found a mistake I knew from my students: "my heart stopped to beat" instead of "stopped beating." Since "beat" was a rhyme word in the song, I changed it to "ceased to beat". In the third canto of the poem-in-the-novel "Pale Fire" in Vladimir Nabokov's novel "Pale Fire", Nabokov's poet-character John Francis Shade makes the same mistake, again with "beat" as a rhyme word: "My heart had stopped to beat." Nabokov's solecism could be that of a non-native speaker, but I have now learned that he read and wrote English even before becoming literate in Russian. (Andrew Shields, #111words, 21 February 2021)

No comments: