NABOKV-L post 0018512, Fri, 14 Aug 2009 13:33:26 -0700

2002] Driving in the Snow: Ithaca and New Wye
this is very amusing. Stacy Schiff, in her book Vera, has similar scenes, which involve Nabokov letting his wife do all the heavy lifting of groceries, and perhaps even doing the tire changing, but I'm not sure I have remembered that last none correctly. Pale Fire doesn't give us quite those kinds of images.

I never noticed that quote before. It's interesting, because later Shade waits to be picked up from the school by his wife who, late one day, prompts a restless Shade to accept a ride with Kinbote, as if he were usually chauffeured by Sybil, as Nabokov was in real life driven by his wife. But then John Shade seems meant to be very American, and having him completely attended by his wife as the blogger's grandfather recalled Nabokov's being attended by his would really stand out.

--- On Fri, 8/14/09, janfsymello <jansy@AETERN.US> wrote:

From: jansymello <jansy@AETERN.US>
Subject: [NABOKV-L] [NABOKOV-L] [SIGHTING, 2002] Driving in the Snow: Ithaca and New Wye
Date: Friday, August 14, 2009, 11:06 AM

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.

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 the archive
Contact the Editors
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal"

Visit Zembla
View Nabokv-L Policies
Manage subscription options

All private editorial communications, without
exception, are
read by both co-editors.

Search archive with Google:

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

Manage subscription options: