Acta Universitatis Lodziensis. Folia Linguistica Rossica, Vol. 15 (2018), s. 203-218
The multiplicity of the phenomenon of synesthesia has been a subject of intense scientific
research performed mainly within a relatively narrow field of neurobiology or psychiatry (see e.g.
Cytowic 2002; Cytowic and Eagleman 2009; Grossenbacher and Lovelace 2001; Sagiv 2009;
J. E. Harrison and S. Baron-Cohen 1997), for which it is mostly a medical condition of the brain.
However, synesthesia has also become a target of many linguistic endeavors as its realizations
through language give rise to what is called a ‘synesthetic metaphor’ – a spontaneous linguistic
production and/or a well-thought stylistic device.
The world-famous Nabokov’s masterpiece Lolita is by far one of his most synesthesia-laden
prose writings and it alone provided a fertile ground of research in both English and Russian, and
many other languages to which the novel has been translated (see e.g. Ginter 2008; Zasowska 2012;
The following paper aims at investigating the realizations of the English synesthetic metaphors
in Lolita in the two Polish translations available in the literature: that of Stiller (1991) and that of
Kłobukowski (1997). Of crucial importance is the function of color, a searchlight of some kind,
beaming only on those who count. It doubtless centralizes Lolita in the novel and therefore may be
called the ‘segregating’ factor: it is there whenever the girl is present and vanishes when she is no
longer in sight. As has also been noticed by Zasowska (2013), the distribution of synethesia is closely
linked with the sex of a character, and again it is Lolita that gathers almost all of the synesthetic
metaphors for herself. Not even a vaguely similar tendency has been observed in the case of the other
characters, both male and female, which are ‘synesthetically’ neglected by the author, that being
an apparently conscious decision on the part of the writer.
The present analysis consists of two main parts. First, all of the color-related synesthetic metaphors
have been found, counted and categorized. The same was done with metaphors relating to the
senses of sight, touch and taste. Second, their two Polish translations were compared and contrasted in
terms of the synesthetic metaphor construction. The findings have shown that in most cases synesthetic
metaphor was maintained by the translators throughout the novel and successfully rendered into the
Polish language. However, different stylistic devices and lexical markers were used in doing so.