NABOKV-L post 0018162, Fri, 10 Apr 2009 13:52:08 -0300

Re: THOUGHTS: kot or in PF & learned cat in Pushkin
Alexey Sklyarenko:To the second edition (1828) of his Ruslan and Lyudmila (1820) Pushkin added a wonderful introductory poem that begins:
U lukomor'ya dub zelyonyi,/Zlataya tsep' na dube tom./I dnyom i noch'yu kot uchyonyi/Vsyo khodit po tsepi krugom./Poidyot napravo - pesn' zavodit,/Nalevo - skazku govorit.("A green oak grows at the sea, / A golden chain is on that oak. / Night and day a learned cat / Paces the chain round the tree. / When he goes to the right, he sings a song, / When he goes to the left, he tells a fairy tale.")
Pushkin's fairy tale cat paces a golden chain that winds round the oak (cf. Quercus ruslan Chat. that grows in Ardis park: Ada, 2.7) When he goes to the right, he sings a song ("Pale Fire" the poem consists of Cantos, i. e. "songs"), when he goes to the left, he tells a fairy tale (Kinbote's Zembla that makes up most of his Commentary is a fairy tale; note that, as a homosexual, Kinbote is "sexually left-handed"...)

M.Roth: Regarding the gunshot, I did not mean to suggest that there was an actual gunshot; rather, I meant that Shade's final mental break could have sounded like a gunshot in his head, just as Ansel Bourne's return to his original personality was accompanied by that same auditory illusion.
JM: I remember C. Kunin once wrote that, when Kinbote, Gradus and John Shade come together at the end of Pale Fire, there is a mental conflagration in Shade ( not a real shot) and he becomes Kinbote, his new mad personna, to be later intitutionalized in a mental asylum.
I wrote to her and CK answered me off-list: "Maybe you are the only person who [understands this part of my theory].
It's funny, because once I "saw" this solution, I found it so Nabokovian, so diabolically clever and simple at the same time, I thought everyone would understand and accept it at once. To me it is the "proof" of the multiple personality concept. It's very heartening to hear that you did understand, if not accept."
Actually, although CK understands that her interpretation is a proof of the multiple-personality-theory, in my opinion her hypothesis gains strength mainly after we drop this rather partial psychological theory which is, as I see it, entirely dispensable in order to appreciate CKunin's insights.

Alexey's addition of Pushkin's poem is GREAT!!! It heads or entails another way of looking at Pale Fire, through Pushkin's perspective with cat, songs and fairty-tales.
btw: While I was going through ADA I realized that there is a still little explored theme (related to "gradus" as the steps in a staircase, and even to "kat", as in Katya). Namely, "staircases" (important in Ada and attics, in PF's ivory-tower and winding stairs as well).
What first led me to it was reading how Ada counters her mother's appraisal. Marina states that ADA looks like Turgenev's Katya, Ada notes that she thinks of herself closer to "Fanny Price". Van adds: "in a staircase" ( but, children, not katrakatra!).

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: