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Early Russian Wealth

Submitted by zack_yota on Sat, 12/07/2019 - 15:30

I have been compiling research on the Nabokov family's life in the Russian Empire. I've been consulting Brian Boyd heavily, but there are still some gaps I would like to fill -- hoping some of you can help. I'm specifically wondering about the cars. I believe there were five, but I do not know the make and model. Does anyone have access to a photo from that time period with their cars in it? Also when Boyd talks about the 50 servants from VN's childhood, do you think he includes the governess in that number? 

Poling in Arizona — A More Likely Source for Lolita’s Poling Prize

Submitted by Alain Champlain on Sat, 11/30/2019 - 02:20

While reading Nabokov’s Butterflies, I came across a likely source for the “Poling Prize” given to John Ray Jr. for his “modest” work “Do the Senses [M]ake Sense?” which prize helped him land the job as editor of Humbert’s manuscript.

The source is Nabokov’s paper, Some new or little known Nearctic Neonympha, which, far from modest, Nabokov referred to as “my big work.” Here are the references to Poling:

Pale Fire - Evidently a Joke

Submitted by Alain Champlain on Wed, 10/30/2019 - 21:16

I'd like to point out an element of Nabokov's style in Pale Fire, which is his use of words like "obviously" and "evidently." These go a long way in creating the voice for Kinbote. They also often signal an irony, a joke which Kinbote isn't a part of, helping to reveal a reality which Kinbote is in conflict with. (I want to stress the joke aspect though: Nabokov is really funny, and I don't want that to get lost in academese.)

Here are a few examples:

Re: Brown Study

Submitted by MARYROSS on Thu, 10/24/2019 - 13:08

Re: Brown Study


This is a continuation of an idea I proposed in a comment on in Alain Champlain’s post, “Tea With Ancestors.”  Since it is rather long, I don’t wish to hijack Alain’s insightful take on Shade’s poem lines 365-366 (Submitted by Alain Champlain on Sun, 10/20/2019 - 16:22) 


[...] and you would be
In your own study, twice removed from me,”

Q & H

Submitted by Shakeeb_Arzoo on Tue, 10/22/2019 - 15:38

For a long time I was wondering why this phrasing sounded so familiar (the scene where Quilty is murdered):

"He was naked and goatish under his robe, and I felt suffocated as he rolled over me. I rolled over him. We rolled over me. They rolled over him. We rolled over us."

Apart from the instinctive farcical-comedy of the scene, I always felt an echo of something I had read before. Was casually re-reading some Joyce, when I came across this:

Tea with Ancestors

Submitted by Alain Champlain on Sun, 10/20/2019 - 19:22

I mentioned recently, in my post "A FEW BRIEF NOTES ON SPACETIME IN PALE FIRE," that "twice removed" might in part be a joke about John and Sybil Shade being related. Two pertinent lines:

"[...] and you would be
In your own study, twice removed from me,”
(Lines 365-366)

“John Shade’s wife [...] was a few months his senior. I understand she came of Canadian stock, as did Shade’s maternal grandmother (a first cousin of Sybil’s grandfather, if I am not greatly mistaken).”
(From note to line 247)


VDN's Swan Pen Advertisement

Submitted by matthew_roth on Thu, 10/17/2019 - 11:27

While searching for Nabokovian items in a new digital archive, I happened upon the attached ad for Swan fountain pens, with a quote from Nabokov's father. The ad campaign is mentioned by VN on page 255 (Chapter 13) of Speak, Memory, though his recollection of the art doesn't match the version here. Enjoy.

Matt Roth

Elemental spirits, Pope and a clue to the barn message in PF

Submitted by MARYROSS on Thu, 09/26/2019 - 18:15

PALE FIRE is a pastiche of parody, drawing from many sources. My particular focus has been Jungian archetypes and alchemy. Of course it is well known that the satirical poets of the 18th Century, Pope, Swift and Johnson comprise a major constituents in Nabokov’s “bursting spongebag” novel. They each made fun of the alchemy of the day. I admit to not knowing much about these men, so I’m doing some catch-up and discovering some interesting things that support my theories.



Pope’s Rape of the Lock: