The Mad Hatter's Hats Part I

Submitted by Jim Buckingham on Mon, 09/02/2019 - 23:51

The Mad Hatter’s Hats

Unpacking the Nested Hat Boxes


Vladimir Nabokov’s Semi-Autobiographies

                  Part I

With a side ride through Leo Tolstoy’s Казаки Kazaki / The Cossacks

[See Attached. Title Page + 22 pages.]

That was quite the “hat trick,” Jim (3 scores in a row!). I enjoyed your fun and informative paper.


If I understand correctly, VN assumed that a Russian readership would understand (whereas Americans would not) the newsreel of the Tsarevich and the Tsarinas as an allusion to Tolstoy’s The Cossacks, with the private joke of Tsarinas giggling at the young Nicholas’ naivete, mimicking a Moslem Cossack?


And that this demonstrates VN’s selective memory when playing to a particular audience?


I personally agree that most of Nabokov’s work is artistically arranged autobiography. I would be curious to know what native Russians make of this. Would the average reader of Tolstoy understand Eroshka’s joking at the time of Tolstoy’s writing? At the time of Nabokov’s writing? Or did he make it purposefully abstruse for those who cared to ferret it out.  


It seems that Nabokov played a continual game of hide and seek – “catch me if you can, but don’t get too close.” I think of that short story where the boy finds the perfect hiding place while the rest of the children tire and abandon the game.