NABOKV-L post 0018640, Wed, 7 Oct 2009 01:41:31 -0700

Dear Mr Nabokov,

I realize there is something rather ridiculous, silly and absurdly distasteful in a perfect stranger from the backwoods of Oklahoma attempting to tell a great man's son who his father really was; so I won't bother. I would, however, like to explain why I made such a "gross overstatement". In the note which began this discussion, I believe jansymellow queried a quote from Speak Memory, which, resourceful as ever, she cross-referenced with something from the Nabokov-Wilson correspondence, letter 123, page 173 of the paperback. I don't remember if she only quoted part of the passage which led me to make my assertion, where Nabokov tells Wilson about the death of his brother, so I'll quote it in full: "My other brother [Sergei] was placed by the Germans in one of the worst concentration camps (near Hamburg) and perished there. This news gave me a horrible shock because Sergei was the last person I could imagine being arrested (for ""Anglo Saxon sympathies");
he was a harmless, indolent, pathetic person who spent his life vaguely shuttling between the Quarter Latin and a castle in Austria which he shared with a friend." Mr. Eyezenboorg's fat eyebrows may have gone up at the words following that colon. Though two sentences could hardly contain a lifetime's worth of sentiment, certainly it seemed reasonable that he might interpret the attitude of the above as somewhat contemptuous. There's pity there as well, of course, but I'm not so sure those feelings are mutually exclusive. As to just how foreign Sergei Nabokov's "unfortunate condition" was to Mr. Nabokov in real life I couldn't say; all I know is how much "gayness" fringes just about everyone of his books.
--- On Tue, 10/6/09, NABOKV-L <NABOKV-L@HOLYCROSS.EDU> wrote:

Date: Tuesday, October 6, 2009, 8:40 PM

[Dmitri Nabokov sends this comment.  SES]
With regard to Joseph Aisenbug's assertion, to call my father's attitude toward his brother "contempt" is a gross overstatement. Homosexuality was indeed quite foreign to Nabokov, but he did feel affection for Sergei and pity his unfortunate condition.


On Sun, Oct 4, 2009 at 12:13 AM, jansymello <> wrote:

Joseph Aisenberg: "...For Nabokov's strained relationship to him you should read Boyd's Vladimir Nabokov, The Russian Years...The lines you quote, which have been called a tribute, of course aren't really much of a tribute. Nabokov is saying that he had always, correctly had a feeling of contempt for his brother (because Nabokov disdained homosexuality)...This sentence ["It is one of those lives that hopelessly claim a belated something... ] I've always thought, was rather unsettling and ugly, as were the words written to Wilson you quote. Nabokov simply could not transcend his bigoted feelings about his brother's sexuality and so his tributes are cutting and condescending at the same time as they try to express regret..."

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