EDNote: I agree with Brian T's point, below.  I'll go further and say that as Pale Fire is on one obvious level and at least a few less obvious ones a novel about disputed authorship, appropriated authorship, clandestine authorship and ghost writing, if nothing else it pays tribute to the creative potentials arising from the Shakespeare debates.  If someone successfully (and persuasively) argues that the entire text derives from Botkin's creativity, with no ghostly interference on his creativity, that could be seen as a sign of allegiance to Stratford's Shakespeare, since (in this case) Botkin connects his name to "bodkin" and Hamlet and Shakespeare directly in the text.  Personally, I'm skeptical that there is such a definitive final reading of Pale Fire.  ~SB

Re: [NABOKV-L] EDNote: Shakespeare debates and VN
Brian <pianissimo.nyc@gmail.com>
Sun, 8 Jul 2012 01:00:01 -0400
Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@listserv.ucsb.edu>

On Sat, Jul 7, 2012 at 1:20 PM, Mary H. Efremov <mbutterfly549@aol.com> wrote:
There was another famous debate about authorship that VN did sign in on, namely the Song of Igor's Campaign. He opted for calling it good literature, and withheld an opinion whether it was a clever forgery or the ' real thing".He also translated it,and that's all we need to know. The pieces can be judged as they stand. The iliad is a great story-poem even if we do not know Homer in detail or as a person.

While the Iliad is undoubtedly great no matter who its author or authors may have been, this hasn't stopped countless readers from (understandably) speculating on his--or to Samuel Butler and Robert Graves, her--identity and personality. As Aristotle said, "All men by nature desire to know." And the itch to know about the life of an artistic genius, and to pinpoint its connections with his art, is one of the most powerful. This healthy curiosity is one of the driving forces behind NABOKV-L, for instance, and the vast number of biographies that fill bookstores and libraries.

Were someone to tell one of the published Nabokovians here, "VN wrote the books he wrote, and that's all we need to know," he might be advised to duck.

Were the moderators of this list to enforce a ban on discussion of VN's life, as opposed to his works, how many insights into those works would be lost? Of course Lolita and Pale Fire are great no matter who wrote them, and of course they could still be appreciated by, say, a reader who thought a chimpanzee randomly typed them out. But knowing more about a book's author often adds another dimension to the reading experience. And the greater the work of art, the more we want to know about its creator. At its best this kind of inquiry can shed light on the work's composition and even meaning--and, if we're lucky, the mystery of the creative process itself.

In some cases (as in Shakespeare's--or so an Oxfordian like me believes), knowing the identity of the author can bring more of his oeuvre to light.

Whatever his views on the Bard's identity may have been, Nabokov seems not to have been immune to this universal itch. I imagine he did all he could to learn as much as he could about the writer he named first among those meriting the Russian word for genius: "[G]haynie is a term brimming with a sort of throaty awe and is used only in the case of a very small number of writers. Shakespeare, Milton, Pushkin, Tolstoy..."


Brian Tomba
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