Transposition: The intangibility and alteration of the narrator's voice

Features of Gogol’s idiom in The Nose

- Descriptive, objective, omniscient narrator, with infrequent familiar address to reader
- Objective narration mixed with implausible events
- Light irony and humor
Он решился идти к Исакиевскому мосту: не удастся ли как-нибудь швырнуть его в Неву?.. Но я несколько виноват, что до сих пор не сказал ничего об Иване Яковлевиче, человеке почтенном во многих отношениях. (2)
In this sequence, the narrator’s descriptive approach is reflected in sentences such as «Он решился идти...» and «Этот почтенный гражданин находился...» where the narrator, similar to a stage director, moves the actors here and there. Both this directing and the address of the reader «Но я несколько вниоват...» followed by an all-encompassing characterization of the protagonist, showcase the omniscience of the narrator’s position. The repetition of “respected citizen” with regard to a raging alcoholic is humours, and that every orderly Russian master is one, suggests a rather goofy mindset on the part of the narrator.

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 attentuation of the descriptive approach by shifting the narration of «Он решился идти...» to the discourse of “The Brooklyn Bridge?” (Elsewhere I have discussed the formal necessity of changing this sentence to discourse due to what would otherwise be an intolerable repetition of  subject-verb-object across multiple sentences). This likewise reduces the omniscience. Against the backdrop of twenty-first-century American literary fiction, with its preference for personal narration and sparse stage-directing of characters, replacement of an occasional passage of narration with discourse facilitates the reading of a work and odes not alter the overall impression of omniscience and description. As in the original, the personal address of the reader “But I am somewhat at fault...” in transposition has a similar effect of emphasizing the aforementioned aspects of omnisicence and description.

By changing a “raging alcoholic” to a “contrarian,” however, the transposition does weaken the humor of the original. This alteration of voice, which is required by the transposition’s context, also illuminates a significant difference between contemporary America and nineteenth century Russia: For all the apparent physical diversity in today’s society, 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 stimulate). On the other hand, where we do continue to evince independence, difference or diversity – however you want to call it – in our opinions, attitudes, 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 type of change over two hundred years

As for Gogol’s voice here, the humor may recede, but it continues to neutral report the observed aspect, which in turn leads to the unsentimental flirtation between Michele and Bill with respect to her leaning too far over him during the facials. And here, arguably, the scene in transposition is more humorous and slightly more absurd, like the story itself, than Ivan’s hands shaking from alcohol.

Another example of these three characteristics of the narrator’s idiom, but with greater correlation in transposition, can be found in the rumors related to Bill Kovalev’s nose:
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)

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 attempting to be objective, he outlines one group’s position, then another’s. For the latter he paraphrases a person’s words «Как не обратит на это внимание правительство». The author of the report inserts some contextual information: «Господин принадлежал к числу...» 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: as if that would solve anything). Despite changing some words, altering the form and completely shifting the context, each of these aspects surfaces clearly in the transposition with similarities that extend down to the nuances of stressed socialites (reserves running dry) and expecting help from an incompetent source (the government), which is in turn reflective of a mentality that submits to and desires authority.
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