NABOKV-L post 0015787, Thu, 6 Dec 2007 13:32:25 EST

Re: darker thoughts on Disa in PF

Prompted by Jerry's post to take another look at Wikipedia's account of
Disa, I noticed that not only did Disa save the lives of the sick and old, but in
the version recounted the solution was not to send only the human refuse off
to die in Norrland, but to draw lots for those fated to depart. Thus a group
of genuine pioneers was created from the vigorous, as well as the young and
old, who went off to create a New World. It is perfectly possible to survive
in Norrland, if you've got a bit of the pioneering spirit.

If VN picked his pseudonym Sirin from the Owl Edition, it would mean that he
was already aware of the Nordisk familjebok early in his Berlin exile.
Possible, one supposes, but there aren't many hints that his Swedish would have
been good enough then, or at any time, to benefit from its content. Still,
there was presumably a general educated interest in things Swedish in St
Petersburg. The city was built on Swedish slave labour.


In a message dated 06/12/2007 17:10:43 GMT Standard Time,
jerry3@ADELPHIA.NET writes:

Thank you for the fascinating comments about Kinbote’s Disa and the
Wikipedia reference to Disa “the heroine of a Swedish legendary saga…believed to be
from the Middle Ages….” At the bottom of that web page I found a link to
Uggleupplagan (what a wonderful Zemblan-sounding word!), “The Owl Edition,”
the second edition (published 1904-1926 in 38 vols.), of the “Nordic Family
Book,” known in Swedish as Nordisk familjebok. I was struck by the “bok” in the
title of this popular encyclopedia, about which Nabokov could have known.
Following the link leads to the logo of The Owl Edition. Please have a look—
could the logo be something like a sirin, the owl from which Nabokov took his
nom de plume when starting out as a Russian writer in Berlin? In Nabokov’s
favorite Russian dictionary, that of Vladimir Dal’, “sirin” is described as a “
filin” or eagle owl, and further as “a long-tailed owl similar to a hawk—
flies day and night.”
Could “Disa” be another instance of Nabokov transitorily, Alfred
Hitchcock-like, peeking out from within PF and winking at the reader to say “I’m
really behind Shade’s poem and Kinbote’s commentary”?
Jerry Katsell

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