NABOKV-L post 0019276, Sat, 30 Jan 2010 12:24:24 +0100

Re: Russian allusions in LATH
The same situation was used much earlier in The Defense, on page 86 (1st US ed.) we read:

She made his acquaintance on the third day after his arrival, made it the way they do in old novels or in motion pictures: she drops a handkerchief and he picks it up -with the sole difference that they interchanged roles.
Luzhin was walking along a path in front of her and in succession shed: a large checked handkerchief that was unusually dirty [...] She gathered up only the handkerchief and the coin and walked on,
slowly catching up with him and curiously awaiting some new loss.

A. Bouazza.


From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum [mailto:NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU] On Behalf Of Alexey Sklyarenko
Sent: woensdag 27 januari 2010 23:30
Subject: [NABOKV-L] Russian allusions in LATH

The episode in LATH, when Vadim meets his last love ("you" of the book) for the first time, seems to parody the real episode as recounted by Irina Odoevtseva in her first book of memoirs "На берегах Невы" (Upon the Neva's Banks, 1967). Below is an excerpt from LATH followed by the fragments from the Odoevtseva book (sorry I bring them up in the original, it would take too long and cost me a lot of trouble to translate them):

"I was on the way to the parking lot when the bulky folder under my arm - replacing my arm, as it were - burst its string and spilled its contents all over the gravel and grassy border. You were coming along the same campus path, and we crouched side by side collecting the stuff. You were pained you said later (zhalostno bylo) to smell the liqour on my breath. On the breath of that great writer." (Part Six, 1)

"И будто в доказательство того, что я очень нервна, руки мои начинают дрожать и я роняю свои тетрадки на тротуар. Тетрадки и листы разлетаются веером у моих ног. Я быстро нагибаюсь за ними и стукаюсь лбом о лоб тоже нагнувшегося Гумилёва. Шляпа слетает с моей головы и ложится рядом с тетрадками.
Я стою красная, не в силах пошевельнуться от ужаса и стыда...
я стою не месте и бессмысленно слежу за тем, как Гумилёв собирает мои записки и аккуратно складывает их. Он счищает пыль с моей шляпы и протягивает её мне.
"Я ошибся. Вы нервны. И даже слишком. Но это пройдёт.
Бывают головокруженья
У девушек и стариков -
цитирует он самого себя."

"Young girls and old men
can be dizzy sometimes."

In the episode recalled by the memoirist, a distinguished poet and lecturer (Gumilyov) helps a young lady (Irina Odoevtseva, Gumilyov's favorite pupil in his poetic class*) to collect from the ground her copy-books and sheets of paper. Nabokov reverses the situation by making a young woman help the venerable old writer to do the same thing.

A few words about Irina O. and her maître:
By the time of his death, Nikolai Gumilyov (1886-1921) was a leading Russian poet (and a famous explorer of Africa). He was a World War One hero, was in London in 1917, at the the time of Revolution, returned to Petrograd in 1918, just before the civil war broke out. He didn't participate in it, although he was a brave officer and a staunch monarchist. After the Kronstadt riot, Gumilyov was accused of counter-revolutionary activities and executed in August, 1921, surviving Alexander Blok (whom he considered his main rival in poetry) less than three weeks.
Irina Odoevtseva (Iraida Heinike, 1901?-1990) left Russia in 1922. She married Georgiy ("Zhorzhik") Ivanov (1894-1958), a talented poet, who was a friend of Gumilyov in Petrograd and who became Nabokov's foe in emigration. The enmity between the two writers began after Odoevtseva had sent to Sirin a copy of her novel Isolda (1931), with the inscription "Thank you for King, Queen, Knave", and Sirin had published a negative review of it. Odoevtseva lived in Paris till 1987, when she returned to Leningrad where she died three years later. In her memoirs, Upon the Neva's Banks and Upon the Seine's Banks, she mentions practically all more or less significant Russian writers of the time (including Mayakovsky and Kuzmin, both of whom I mentioned earlier in connection with LATH), with only one exception: Sirin.

*it is unclear if Odoevtseva ever became Gumilyov's mistress; anyway, when she met him in October 1918, he was, like Vadim in LATH, a married man (his second wife, Anna Engelgardt, lived with Gumilyov's mother and his two children from the previous and the current marriage in Bezhetsk, in the province of Tver). It was a shock to learn that, a few months before he was arrested, Gumilyov had placed his little daughter in a children's home. His (and Akhmatova's) son Lev (the famous historian and etnographer, 1911-90) seems to have had a somewhat happier childhood.

Alexey Sklyarenko
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