NABOKV-L post 0018511, Fri, 14 Aug 2009 13:06:09 -0300

2002] Driving in the Snow: Ithaca and New Wye
Dear List,

While checking online for items on VN's biography of Gogol, I came across an interesting inclusion in a curious site, going as Everything2, "a collection of user-submitted writings about, well, pretty much everything...This affordable entertainment brought to you by The Everything Development Company.
All content copyright © original author unless stated otherwise."
The entry is kind of a hearsay testimonial by Ikura, posted in Feb 06 2002.Here it is:

"When my father was young, he lived in Ithaca, New York, home of Cornell University. Nabokov, a professor at the time, lived four houses down the street. Now it's worthwhile to note that winter in Ithaca is very cold and snowy, with this weather often extending well into late fall and early spring.
My father once told me that on each morning that the snow would block cars parked on the side of the road, (which, due to new snowfall or wind creating drifts out of snow on the ground, was a fairly common thing,) the same thing would happen. Nabokov would walk out his front door and get in his car. He would start the engine and attempt to drive. He would get nowhere. At this point, he would roll down the window and call for his wife Vera. She would bustle out the front door and quickly shovel snow out of the way, freeing the car. At this point, Nabokov would drive off.
As far as my father or his friends could tell, he never said a word to Vera while this happened. He would follow this pattern no matter how much or how little snow was obstructing his path, even when a cursory observation would tell the car was obviously stuck before he got in. He would never clear the snow himself, and he would never get out of the car while his wife did it.
An interesting little insight into the private life of this talented and prolific author."
*Note* yegorm alerts me that it is documented that Nabokov himself never learned to drive, and Vera acted as his chauffeur. Perhaps my father, around 65 at the time he told me this, had fuzzy memories of six decades earlier, I'm not sure. Luckily, he's still alive for me to ask, and I will try to get the situation clarified.

Unfortunately I couldn't find any other reference dealing with Ikura's father's clarification.There is an episode in Pale Fire in which we find a rare occurrence of John Shade's (not Sybil's) driving manoeuvers in Winter. For comparison (from Kinbote's Foreword):
"On one of my first mornings there, as I was preparing to leave for college in the powerful red car I had just acquired, I noticed that Mr. and Mrs. Shade, neither of whom I had yet met socially...were having trouble with their old Packard in the slippery driveway where it emitted whines of agony but could not extricate one tortured rear wheel out of a concave inferno of ice. John Shade busied himself clumsily with a bucket from which, with the gestures of a sower, he distributed handfuls of brown sand over the blue glaze. He wore snowboots, his vicuña collar was up, his abundant gray hair looked berimed in the sun...I was about to cross that lane when I lost my footing and sat down on the surprisingly hard snow. My fall acted as a chemical reagent on the Shades' sedan, which forthwith budged and almost ran over me as it swung into the lane with John at the wheel strenuously grimacing and Sybil fiercely talking to him. I am not sure either saw me."

Search archive with Google:

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

Manage subscription options: