NABOKV-L post 0018517, Sat, 15 Aug 2009 15:04:57 -0300

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Re: Yuri Leving's online concordance to Nabokov's "The Gift"
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Don Johnson: This may have been run before on NABOV-L but I would like to call attention to Yuri Leving's online concordance to "The Gift" (Dar). This is the "most Russian" of all of VN's novels and the most dificult for non-Russian readers. Recommended for all. http://giftconcordance.pbworks.com/

JM: Very partial excerpts from one of the entries for "The Gift" after clicking Y.Leving's online concordance:
July 12th, 1900: Fyodor's date of birth (G12)
It appears that the biography of Chernyshevski is written in a circular fashion much like The Gift; the biography ends with N. Chernyshevski's birth and the mention of his death and arrest occurs before it actually happens. Also, there seems to be some symbolism in the dates. Both Fyodor's and Chernyshevksi's birthdays are the same, and particular emphasized dates coincide with key moments in Russian history i.e. 1917 and the Bolshevik revolution, 1861 and the emancipation of the serfs, etc. Also, certain dates seem to be repeated a lot i.e. the month April or January is repeated often, the number 4 comes up a lot in the dates (or even numbers especially those divisible by 4), the year 1919 and years in the 1850s or 1860s are mentioned frequently. However, deeper analysis needs to be taken in order to legitimize these connections and to elucidate new ones. See also: A.A. Dolinin, "Nabokov's time doubling: from The Gift to Lolita." Nabokov Studies (2) 1995, 3-40.
Crossings (i.e. intersections, past with present, streets/paths, with people, etc.)
. Pages: G3, 6, 29, 37-50, 53, 54, 55, 62, 65-66, 76, 79, 80, 84, 85, 86, 87, 89, 90, 95, 98-137, 152, 153, 155, 161, 163, 165, 166, 167, 174, 177, 181, 182, 194, 199, 202, 203, 204, 209, 211, 310, chapter ( 217-300), 325, 329, 334, 335, 337, 338, 341, 346, 349, 352, 354, 355, 359, 360, 361, 362, 366, 364, 365, 366
Circles/ circularity/ continuity
. Pages: G9-29 (poems; "lost ball'à "found ball"), 42, 45, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 64, 79, 87, 119, 132, 133, 140, 144, 147, 157, 163, 174, 179, 193, 194, 200, 204, 205, chapter 4 (217-300), 327, 360, 365, 366
Mirrors, reflections, reflective surfaces (puddles, eyes, glasses, etc.)
. Pages: G6, 54-55, 57, 60, 61, 62, 64, 65, 78, 89, 84, 89, 90, 93, 107, 109, 120, 122, 123, 130, 131, 132, 133, 134, 140, 144, 149, 155, 158, 165, 168, 171, 172, 175, 178, 183, 184, 187, 191, 196, 199, 203, 204, 209, 214, 216, 300, 310, 319, 321, 322, 323, 328, 332, 333, 335, 336, 352, 354, 361, 365, 366
( Vintage ed)

Jorge Luis Borges once stated that he considered himself lucky by not knowing Greek, for he would read Homer through versions in which every translator revealed something different about Homer: "it was as if he'd acquired not only one book, but an entire library" - confirming Walter Benjamin's assessment that the original literary text is only "a first manifestation", demanding different interpretations and versions ("Angelus Novus").I speak no Russian but, fortunately, my translation of "Dar" is by Michael Scammell in collaboration with Vladimir Nabokov. Unfortunately, I have no other translations in either Portuguese or French.

I was curious by the mention that "Both Fyodor's and Chernyshevksi's birthdays are the same." In "Pale Fire" John Shade, C.Kinbote and Gradus share birthdays in July 5. There are other echoing birth-dates and we know VN was fascinated by numbers ( 0-1-2...n; 1-2...n ), including his childhood's confusion related to his brother's age( SN was born in the XXth Century). There are Van's two birthdays in January 1 and July worth checking into.
The subdivisions of lines and Cantos of Shade's verses from 1 to 999 is another interesting issue. Would "Dar's" July 12 reappear in Pale Fire?


Whimsically counting lines to look for symmetries in the first and last Cantos (like those in Two and Three, with their identical length and covering 27 cards each), I realized that Shade's remnant eighty cards suggests that he'd needed 13 cards to write I and IV, with their 166/165 lines, at the pace of 55 lines a day.

Canto I is then one line longer than such an average counting suggests* ( I'm lousy with numbers, though).

The circularity of foreshadowed death, birth and a putative rebirth, are ever present themes since the first line. The description of Shade's courting and marriage and of Hazel's span of life happens in Canto Two (which he began on his birthday).

If "Pale Fire" is as carefully planned as Kinbote often affirms, Shade's death is part of the structure of PF (just like Gradus). This carried me on to T.S.Eliot's Four Quartets**.
Would Chernyshevski's July birthday have influenced all other July choices? If so, why?

The only interesting element (considering VN's fascination with continuities,cesurae, cause and effect, numbers) is that January is the first month in a semester and July, the first in the second.



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* Kinbote (Foreword) informs that Pale Fire "is a poem in heroic couplets, of nine hundred ninety-nine lines, divided into four cantos" and that his author (born July 5, 1898, died July 21, 1959) wrote them "during the last twenty days of his life", starting "in the small hours of July 2."
"He started the next canto on his birthday and finished it on July 11. Another week was devoted to Canto Three.Canto Four was begun on July 19." (:Canto Three seems to have begun in July 12 and finished in July 18, and its verses are numbered from lines 501 to 834.)
Kinbote's commentaries, on Canto Three, begin on Line 501 [ L´if...The yew in French. It is curious that the Zemblan word for the weeping willow is also "if" (the yew is tas)] and there are two other entries, both for line 502. The rest gets no more comments, since he skips to Line 549 [ on the big G and "the Gist of the matter" (original sin)], written already in July 13.
The lines that receive no comment describe how Shade'd been engaged for a term to "lecture on the Worm," moving to Yewshade with little Hazel . It is when he expresses the most tender recollections of Sybil, together with his darkest forebodings about "a boundless void" and "task unfinished" (line 544).
Next K proceeds to line 550, then on to lines 557-58; 570;584 with the entry about a "tanagra dust" variant in 596 [ "The last syllable of "Tanagra" and the first three letters of "dust" form the name of the murderer...This variant is so prodigious that only scholarly discipline and a scrupulous regard for the truth prevented me from inserting it here, and deleting four lines elsewhere (for example, the weak lines 627-630) so as to preserve the length of the poem". CK informs that Shade composed these lines on Tuesday, July 14th, and we find that they are linked to lines 597-608 - when he notes that "only a week later Tanagra dust and "our royal hands" were to come together, in real life, in real death."
His last entry on Canto Three is for line 830 ("Sybil, it is...This elaborate rhyme comes as an apotheosis crowning the entire canto and synthesizing the contrapuntal aspects of its "accidents and possibilities.").

** - T.S.Eliot's Four Quartets: In No.1, the first lines are: "Time present and time past/ Are both perhaps present in time future,/And time future contained in time past."
In No. 4 we find: "Midwinter spring is its own season/Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,/Suspended in time, between pole and tropic [...] Later: What we call the beginning is often the end/ And to make and end is to make a beginning./ The end is where we start from..../ Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning,/ Every poem an epitaph..."

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