NABOKV-L post 0027035, Thu, 2 Jun 2016 13:28:07 +0300

Subject
B in Zembla's bonnet; bee in Kinbote's bonnet
Date
Body
Nova Zembla + ya + nikto + yabloko + tail = Novaya Zemlya + Botkin + Nabokov
+ Lolita

Nova Zembla + nekto + yabloko + Italiya = Novaya Zemlya + Kinbote + Nabokov
+ Lolita

bonnet + king + sto + radius + nekto = sonnet + Kinbote + Gradus + nikto



ya \xa8C I (first person pronoun)

nikto \xa8C nobody

yabloko \xa8C apple

Botkin \xa8C an American scholar of Russian descent (Shade’s, Kinbote’s and
Gradus’ “real” name)

Lolita \xa8C a novel (1955) by VN

nekto \xa8C someone

Italiya \xa8C Italy in Russian spelling

sto - 100



“Nova Zembla, poor thing, with that B in her bonnet” (a line in VN’s poem
The Refrigerator Awakes) is a play on the idiom “have a bee in one’s
bonnet” (to keep talking about something again and again because one thinks
it is very important). In his Commentary Kinbote (who imagines that he is
the last self-exiled king of Zembla, Charles the Beloved) constantly speaks
of Zembla. He certainly has a bee in his bonnet.



B is the initial of Bulgarin, one of the editors of Severnaya pchela
(Northern Bee). Bulgarin’s coarse article in the Northern Bee provoked the
composition of Pushkin’s poem Moya Rodoslovnaya (“My Pedigree,” 1830). In
its Post Scriptum Pushkin mentions nasha zemlya (our land) and rul’ rodnogo
korablya (the rudder of the native ship):



Решил Фиглярин, сидя дома,
Что чёрный дед мой Ганнибал
Был куплен за бутылку рома
И в руки шкиперу попал.

Сей шкипер был тот шкипер славный,
Кем наша двигнулась земля,
Кто придал мощно бег державный
Рулю родного корабля.



Sitting at home, Figliarin decided

That my black grandfather Gannibal

Was purchased for a bottle of rum

And fell into the hands of a skipper.



This skipper was that renowned skipper

By whom our land was moved,

Who mightily imparted a powerful course

To the rudder of the native ship.



VN’s father, Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov (1870-1922), was the editor of
Rul’ (“The Rudder,” an émigré newspaper that came out in Berlin in
1920-31). In his coarse review of Sirin’s novels and stories in Chisla
(Numbers #1, 1930) G. Ivanov calls VN samozvanets, kukharkin syn, chyornaya
kost’, smerd (impostor, a female cook’s son, etc.).



Pushkin’s poem Rodoslovnaya moego geroya (“The Pedigree of my Hero,”
1832) is written in the Onegin stanza. In his poem On Translating “Eugene
Onegin” (1955) VN (the author of a thousand-page-long Commentary to his
translation of EO) says that he turned Pushkin’s stanza patterned on a
sonnet into his honest roadside prose:



What is translation? On a platter

A poets pale and glaring head,

A parrot's screech, a monkey's chatter,

And profanation of the dead.

The parasits you were so hard on

Are pardoned if I have your pardon,

O, Pushkin, for my stratagem:

I travelled down your secret stem,

And reached the root, and fed upon it;

Then, in a language newly learned,

I grew another stalk and turned

Your stanza patterned on a sonnet,

Into my honest roadside prose--

All thorn, but cousin to your rose.



According to G. Ivanov, when he asked Alexander Blok (the author of The
Twelve whose name begins with a B) if a sonnet needed a coda, Blok replied
that he did not know what a coda was. There is Blok in yabloko (apple). In
his poem Kak v Gretsiyu Bayron… (“Like Byron to Greece…” 1930) G. Ivanov
mentions blednyi ogon’ (pale fire). It seems to me that, to be completed,
Shade’s unfinished poem needs not one but two lines:



I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By its own double in the windowpane.



Line 1000 = Line 1, Line 1001 is the poem’s coda. But since in Italian
poetry the coda (which means “tail”) is often longer that the sonnet
itself (as pointed out by Gogol in his fragment Rome, 1841), Kinbote’s
entire Commentary (including his Foreword and Index) can be regarded as the
coda. Kinbote completes his work on Pale Fire and commits suicide on October
19, 1959 (the anniversary of Pushkin’s Lyceum). Shade, Kinbote and Gradus
turn into Botkin and (like Count Vorontsov, the Governor of Novorossiya,* a
target of Pushkin’s epigrams) become at last “full.”



*New Russia



Alexey Sklyarenko


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