NABOKV-L post 0017657, Wed, 4 Feb 2009 14:59:19 -0200

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[NABOKOV-L] Pnin and missed time-lines: how old was Victor..?
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Dear List

I wonder if there is a time-line for Pnin, like the one by J.Friedmann for PF.
Could anyone in the List give me an indication?

I wanted to trace Pnin onto Wordsmith in Pale Fire but, although I tried to follow, informally, VN's various indications about birthdays, exile and travels, I'm as confused as Pnin with his train charts or, as in VN's twinkling garbled warning "... and this was Tuesday, O Careless Reader! *.."
My initial doubts are trivial enough:
If Victor was born in 1940/41, in 1952 he would be, at most, twelve: is it possible for him to have been enrolled at St. Barth's at that age?
His valuable & sophisticated blue gift to Pnin, just before the professor leaves Waindell, when was it bought? Was Victor a mere 13 at that time?

Btw: now that VN's translations in "Verses and Versions" is published, we can take particular delight in a tale Pnin had to tell his 1952 (?) class of eight: "That line in the absurd Russian grammar, 'Brozhu li ya vdol' ulits shumnïh (Whether I wander along noisy streets),' was really the opening of a famous poem[...] he took every opportunity to guide his students on literary and historical tours."[...] "And where will fate send me", imperfective future, "death",' declaimed inspired Pnin [...]"in fight, in travel, or in waves? Or will the neighbouring dale" - dolina, same word, "valley" we would now say - "accept my refrigerated ashes", poussière, "cold dust" perhaps more correct."



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* -"... 'I have no classes in afternun on Tuesday. Today is Tuesday.') // Tuesday - true; but what day of the month, we wonder. Pnin's birthday for instance fell on February 3, by the Julian calendar into which he had been born in St Petersburg in 1898[...], after his departure from Russia, it sidled by in a Gregorian disguise (thirteen - no, twelve days late) [...] On the chalk-clouded blackboard, which he wittily called the greyboard, he now wrote a date..." |(Ch.3)



We know that Nabokov began writing Pnin in 1953 and finished it in the Spring of 1955. Four chapters were published independently in The New Yorker ( 1-3-4-6) while ch 2 and ch5 were rejected. The entire novel was published in October 1956 when VN set to work on Pale Fire.
The first chapter in "Pnin" probably takes place in 1950, when we learn about his class at Waindell (or Vandal) that consisted of five students. On chapter 2 we learn about his encounter with Liza ( first met in 1925, Paris, later married but lost in 1938) and how pregnant Liza travelled with Pnin and Eric Wind to America, in 1940. Pnin spent his first five years in New York (1940-1945). He moved in with Laurence and Joan Clements (Waindell) in 1952/53. In 1951 Pnin received "recent" news about Liza Wind and, in 1952, ( when he bought a brown suit with the money he'd earned, two years before, for his Cremona lecture???) - like a heartless squirrel - she appears for a visit to ask him for money to keep her son, Victor Wind, at St.Barth's.

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