Thursday, May 23, 2024

Tracing a phrase from Vladimir Nabokov’s “Pale Fire” (1962) to François Rabelais and Tomas Tranströmer

In "Pale Fire" (1962), by Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977), Charles Kinbote annotates poet John Shade's unfinished poem "Pale Fire". For the phrase "the grand potato", Kinbote refers to the supposed "last words" of François Rabelais (1483/1494?-1553): "Je m'en vais chercher le grand peut-être." This line first appeared in the life of Rabelais included in the 1693 translation by Peter Anthony Motteux (1663-1718) of Rabelais's "Gargantua et Pantagruel" (1532-1564). For me, it echoes "the unshakeable PERHAPS" in "Brief Pause in the Organ Recital" ("Kort paus i orgelkonserten"), from "The Wild Market Square" ("Det vilda torget", 1983), by Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer (1931-2015), as translated by Scottish poet and translator Robin Fulton (b. 1931). (Andrew Shields, #111Words, 23 May 2024)

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