Victor Fet: The first mention of “shtanga” I could find in VN’s Russian works is in Korol, dama, valet (Ch. 3), where Franz is riding Berlin subway, “gliadia na blestiashchie shtangi” (looking at shining poles); In Podvig (Ch 9), there is a “shtanga lampy”, a (ceiling) lamp pole, in the room Martyn shares with Chernosvitov in Athens. (This is a rather outdated usage now.); Also in Podvig (Ch 27), “shtanga” is used as a vertical football goalpost. Finally, in Lolita (Ch. 16, last sentence) HH climbs into Lolita’s “chaste bed” where, in Russian version, “emal’ soshla tam i siam s zheleznykh shtang izgolovya” (literally, “enamel had come off here and there from iron posts of the bedstead”);  in the English original, “The enamel had come off the bedstead, leaving black, more or less rounded, marks on the white”.
JM: In two instances stang indicates a firmly gripped rod on the verge of a momentous tragic decision. One of the words used in English for the Russian instances of "shtanga" has been "pole."
Retrieved from a posting sent to the List in October 9, 2009: "In one of his letters ( Nov.24,1942, No.55) Nabokov describes "a little man, with mild watery eyes" who was often "dismally silent." And yet, while showing VN the Lincoln Monument, he volubly and excitedly reacted to a flagpole. Nabokov ends his report with: " And next day I noticed him tingle for a moment when I happened to mention Poland and Poles.  Good case for the Viennese Wizard (who might also observe that "pol" means "sex" in Russian)." 
Would "stang" have been chosen at that time because it also kept the word "pole" and, in his mind Freud, at a safe distance?* 
B.Boyd: Jerry Friedman's "rare wall fern" offers a wonderful justification for Shade's diction here, and the overtones of "sting, pang" in the third sense of "stang" in Webster's Second...I am sure Nabokov was taking aim at T.S. Eliot's "Four Quartets" in writing "Pale Fire," ... pointing to the use of chthonic, sempiternal and grimpen...
JM: Shade also connects "grimpen" to Hazel and this word suggests a similar feeling of the uncanny and of defamiliarization (as indicated by A.B) to that which we hear in "stang," now reinforced by the image of stagnant waters and grim mires, independently of any authorial intention.
*- B.Boyd presented an interesting chronology:
"Stang" in The Gift would almost certainly have been Nabokov's change to translator Michael Scammell's more colloquial equivalent for the Russian "shtang" in the original, and the change would have been made after VN had used the word in "Pale Fire." Perhaps "shtang" in Dar did prompt "stang" in another suicide scene in "Pale Fire," and that in turn prompted the change from Scammell's word to "stang" in The Gift."
Search the archive Contact the Editors Visit "Nabokov Online Journal"
Visit Zembla View Nabokv-L Policies Manage subscription options

All private editorial communications, without exception, are read by both co-editors.