Vladimir Nabokov

Number 31 (Fall 1993) The Nabokovian

Download PDF of Number 31 (Fall 1993) The Nabokovian


                              THE NABOKOVIAN

   Number 31                                                       Fall 1993



News                                                                                              3
by Stephen Jan Parker

Annotations to Ada: 2. Part I, Chapter 2                        8
by Brian Boyd

Annotations & Queries                                                        41
by Charles Nicol Contributors: Gerard de Vries,
Earl Sampson, Galya Diment,

1992 Nabokov Bibliography                                              55
by Stephen Jan Parker


INDEX                                                                                        69

Compiled by Gennady Barabtarlo


Note on content:

This webpage contains the full content of the print version of Nabokovian Number 31, except for:

  • The annual bibliography (because in the near future the secondary Nabokov bibliography will be encompassed, superseded, and made more efficiently searchable in the bibliography of this Nabokovian website, and the primary bibliography has long been superseded by Michael Juliar’s comprehensive online bibliography).
  • Brian Boyd’s “Annotations to Ada” (because superseded by, updated, hyperlinked and freely available on, his website AdaOnline).

In some but not all cases the downloadable pdf version of the print Nabokovian will have the annual bibliography and the “Annotations to Ada.”

  • Gennady Bar​​abtarlo's Index to Numbers 1-30. The search function on the website allows an almost instantaneous search. Type in a search term; if too many results show, go to Advanced Search and tick Protected Pages before running the search again.



by Stephen Jan Parker

Featured in this issue is a fifteen-year index of The Nabokovian. Gene Barabtarlo once again volunteered to compile the information, as he had previously done for the ten-year index. His compilation should prove informative and useful. He noted some interesting statistics as a result of his work. TNAB has published in the past five years almost twice as many original works by VN as in the previous ten years (10 vs. 6). 141 authors have published in TNAB a total of 337 items; 216 in the first ten years, 121 in the next five. Gene suggests that these numbers can serve as a gauge of Nabokov scholarly activity in the past years. He notes, for example, that over the past five years, quantitatively, studies of Ada and Lolita have dropped 46% and 43% respectively, whereas Pale Fire and The Gift have gained as much (34% and 50%). Nonetheless, the Russian novels, including The Gift, lag very far behind the the English ones as objects of scholarly attention (with the exception of LATH and Transparent Things, which are almost ignored). For example, in the past five years there is not a single new contribution on Despair, Mary, or King, Queen, Knave.

Along with the Index, this largest ever issue of The Nabokovian carries our regular features -- News, Annotations, Annual Bibliography — and the second installment of Brian Boyd's annotations of ADA with a forenote and afternote. Other items which were submitted for publication will appear in the spring issue.



From the Curator of the Berg Collection:

When the Berg Collection acquired Vladimir Nabokov's papers it was estimated that it would take at least two years to catalog them. In the succeeding two years the Berg cataloger has processed a major portion of the archive—all the literary manuscripts—and we are happy to announce that this part of the archive is now available to researchers. The correspondence, proofs, and lepidoptera remain to be cataloged.

Inquiries about the available material may be addressed to the Curator, Berg Collection, New York Public Library, Fifth Avenue & 42nd Street, New York, N.Y. 10018. The hours of opening of the Berg Collection are: Tuesdays and Wednesdays, 11 a.m.-5:45 p.m.; Thursdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m.-5:45 p.m.; closed Sundays, Mondays and holidays. Entrance to the Berg Collection is by a card of admission obtained in the Library's Special Collections Office, Room 316, which is open the same

hours as the Berg Collection.



The International Nabokov Society will again hold its annual meetings in conjunction with the AATSEEL and MLA conventions, this year in Toronto. At AATSEEL, on December 28, the topic will be "Podvig/ Glory chaired by Alexander Dunkel (Arizona) and Maxim Shrayer (Yale). Papers will be read by Galina DeRoeck (Arizona), Charles Nicol (Indiana State), and Guy Houk (Stetson). In two other sessions, papers on Nabokov will be delivered by Olga Meerson (Columbia) and Yana Hashamova (Illinois).

There will be two Society sessions at the MLA. The first (December 29,) will be a General Session chaired by John Burt Foster, Jr. (George Mason). Papers will be read by Christy Bums (William & Mary), John Lavignino (Brandeis), Antje Thole (Rice), and Jeanne


Ewert (Pennsylvania). The second session, "Nabokov and Religion?," on December 30, will be chaired by Galya Diment (Washington). Papers will be read by Christine Rydel (Grand Valley State), John Noble (California Baptist College), Samuel Schuman (North Carolina, Asheville) and Robbi Nester (UCAL, Irvine). A full report on these sessions and the annual Society business meeting will appear in the spring issue of The Nabokovian.


Elections for the office of Vice-President of the International Nabokov Society were conducted by Gennady Barabtarlo, President of the Society, and held in October and November by electronic and regular mail. Christine Rydel and D. Barton Johnson were the candidates. D. Barton Johnson was elected to a two-year term, 1994-1995, and presumably will then replace John Burt Foster, Jr. as President for the 1996-97 term. About one-half of all American members took part, with a few votes coming (by e-mail) from other continents (Europe, Asia, and Oceania).


Ellen Pifer (Univ. of Delaware) has been working with Susan Elizabeth Sweeney and John Burt Foster, Jr. on establishing the International Vladimir Nabokov Society's (IVNS) affiliation with the American Literature Association (ALA). To that end, an IVNS session was part of the annual meeting of ALA this past May. The topic was "Art and Knowledge in Nabokov's World: From Childhood to the Campus," chaired by Melvin Friedman (Wisconsin, Milwaukee). Papers read were "Nabokov on Campus: The Novel, The Intellectual, and the American University," Jim English (Pennsylvania): "Innocence and Experience Replayed," Ellen Pifer; and "Lolita in the Freshman English Class," Andrew Kaufman (John Jay College). The IVNS is now formally affiliated with ALA. Please note the following call for papers: any topic related to Nabokov and American Literature/Culture, for a session at the annual conference of the American Literature Association, to be held June 2-5, 1994, in


San Diego, California. Send 1-2 page abstracts (for 20-min. papers) to Ellen Pifer, English Dept., 204 Memorial Hall, University of Delaware, Newark, DE 19716.


Two sessions on Nabokov were held at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies (AAASS) in Honolulu, November 20-21, 1993. "Nabokov and the Question of Identity" was chaired by Peter Barta, with Vladimir Alexandrov and Alexander Dolinin as discussants. Papers read were Julian Connolly, "Who's Who in Humberland: Creation of Identity in Lolita"; David Larmour, "The Search for Heroic Identity in Glory"; Galya Diment, "The Ulysses Lectures: Was Nabokov an Apt Reader of Joyce?". The session "Nabokov as Reader: The Ethics of Intertextuality" was chaired by Nina Perlina, with Alexander Dolinin as discussant. Papers read were Andrew Drozd, "Nabokov and Chernyshevskii"'; Stephen Blackwell, "Modes of Reading: Nabokov and the Russian Tradition"; Charles Byrd, "Dostoevskii, Lolita, and the Anxiety of Influence." At another session, Gavriel Shapiro read the paper, "The Monogram 'Which However Had Not Quite Come Off in VN."


The first issue of Nabokov Studies, edited by D. Barton Johnson, was scheduled to appear in late November/early December. Subscriptions are $20.75 individuals and $30.75 institutions, and may be obtained from Charles Schlacks, Publisher, Dept, of Langs. 7 Lits., 153 Orson Spencer Hall, Univ. of Utah, Salt Lake City, Utah 84112. The Nabokov Electronic Forum (NABOKV-L at listserv@ucsbvm.bitnet) will serve as a forum for the discussion of material that appears in the journal--as well as for any other matters related to Nabokov.


New Publications

Gennady Barabtarlo. Aerial View: Essays on Nabokov's Art and Metaphysics. New York: Peter Lang.

Maurice Couturier, ed. Nabokov: Autobiography, Biography and Fiction. Special issue of Cycnos (Nice, France: Université de Nice) 10, no. 1.

Maurice Couturier. Nabokov ou la tyrannie de Vauteur. Paris: Seuil, collection Poétique.

John Burt Foster, Jr. Nabokov's Art of Memory and European Modernism. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Charles Nicol and Gennady Barabtarlo, eds. A Small Alpine Form: Studies in Nabokov's Short Fiction. New York: Garland.

Vladimir Nabokov et l’émigration. Special issue of Cahiers de l’émigration russe, 2, Paris: Institut d'Etudes Slaves.


Our thanks to Ms. Paula Malone and Mr. Jason Merrill for their invaluable aid in the preparation of this issue.


PLEASE NOTE: Subscription renewals are now due for 1994. Rates have not changed: check the inside cover of this issue. PLEASE, help us avoid the additional postage cost of renewal reminders by sending in your renewals now.


2. Part 1, Chapter 2 by Brian Boyd

For original annotations, see PDF of  Number 31 (Fall 1993) The Nabokovian

and for updates version, see Ada Online


by Charles Nicol

[Material for this section should be sent to Charles Nicol, English Department, Indiana State University, Terre Haute, IN 47809. Deadlines for submission are March 1 for the Spring issue and September 1 for the Fall. Unless specifically stated otherwise, references to Nabokov's works will be to the most recent hardcover U.S. editions.]


In the first chapter of Speak, Memory Nabokov compares the cosmos with human consciousness: "how small the cosmos ... how paltry and puny in comparison to human consciousness, to a single individual recollection, and its expression in words!" As an example of such a recollection he mentions the view he had from a train, riding through the night, of "a handful of fabulous lights that beckoned to me." The train calls subsequently at chapters 3, 4, 5, 7, 10 and 12 before reaching its philosophical destination in the final chapter, where Nabokov meditates on "the phylogenetic aspects of the passion male children have for things on wheels, particularly railway trains." The rotation of wheels leads to onward movement, producing "the miraculous paradox of smooth round objects conquering space." As Nabokov uses the word "space" instead of "distance," one might suppose that the "fabulous lights," although apparently belonging to an almost hidden village, are not to be discriminated from stars.

Attempts to pass into or to join the universe are often encountered in Nabokov's work. He compares his novels written under the Sirin pseudonym to "windows giving upon a contiguous world ... a rolling corollary, the shadow of a train of thought" in Speak,


Memory (288), where—immediately after the paradox of wheels conquering space—he conceives of the dimension beyond human thought as "a special Space":

... if, in the spiral unwinding of things, space warps into something akin to time, and time, in its turn, warps into something akin to thought, then, surely, another dimension follows—a special Space maybe, not the old one, we trust, unless spirals become vicious circles again. (301)

The old one, however, can serve as an approximation of the new one, and offer a palpable way to take cognizance of it. "Our solar system emerged from a spiral nebula," Nabokov says, and he—or his circular creation Krug—ridicules the Dutch astronomer and cosmologist De Sitter (1872-1934), who made an estimation of its size and mass, thus assuming that the universe is finite (Bend Sinister 156). Several of Nabokov's protagonists try to enter the cosmos by simply stepping out of those windows into the continguous world. When Luzhin "got through the window" at the end of The Defense and let go, "he saw exactly what kind of eternity was obligingly and inexorably spread out for him." In Invitation to a Beheading (eighth chapter, eighth day of confinement), Cincinnatus recalls the schoolday on which he "had learned how to make letters," when he "stepped straight from the window sill on to the elastic air" and saw himself "standing transfixed in mid-air ... three aerial paces" from the window he had left (97). Even more aspiring is the son in "Signs and Symbols" who, according to an envious fellow patient, had learned to fly. In Speak, Memory Nabokov discusses this urge to fly away: "innermost in man is the spiritual pleasure derivable from the possibility of outtugging and outrunning gravity, of overwhelming or re-enacting the earth's pull" (301—immediately before the paradox of wheels and space). "To escape its gravity," he writes in "Lance," "means to transcend the grave." The image of flying away is often found in poetry, dating back at


least to one of Horace's Odes: "Earth shall not keep me from the skies, / I’ll pierce the smoke of towns, / And, soaring far aloft, despise / Their envy and their frowns" (quoted by E.C. Everard Owen, ed. of Lord Byron's Childe Harold [London: Edward Arnold, 1897], 187, in a note to a parallel passage). Nabokov's poetry shows two instances: in "The Paris Poem" [Poems and Problems) and in "The Ski Jump" (see Brian Boyd, The Russian Years 254).

In modem times airplanes do empower men to fly, if only to a certain extent, as Kinbote's father, King Alfin, experienced when he failed to make a "vertical loop." The plane seen by Shade in line 528 is far more successful, having reached Hesperus, as the ancient Greeks called the evening star Venus. In "Time and Ebb" it is said that the late Professor Alexander Ivanchenko had detected animal life, "hesperozoa," in the humid valley of the planet Venus—viable presumably only at sunset, as the name Hesperides would suggest (Robert Graves, The Greek Myths, I [London: Penguin, 1960], 129). (In that story a Dr. de Sutton warns against playing with kites or toy balloons; his name resembles De Sitter as well as Sutton, the father of Mrs. Shirr, president of Sybil Shade's club. The danger de Sutton sees in reconnoitering the universe by means of simple toys is probably aroused by a misapprehension comparable to De Sitter's assessment of the cosmos.) "Time and Ebb" ends in a panegyric of planes: "great flying machines" are compared with a flock of swans "of a species never determined by science" which passes "from the unknown into the unknown."

It is far easier to communicate with the cosmos by exposing oneself to the signals which radiate from it, such as moonbeams and sunrays. In this respect the passage in which Fyodor visits the Grunewald "forest" is interesting. The passage ends when he arrives, after a fortnight of swimming, "on the other shore" [Gift 348). All kinds of birds, insects, animals are mentioned as being part of this "primeval paradise" as


are flowers, trees, grasses and stone. Among the very few man-made things Fyodor notices are a high-flying plane and a bicycle. The scene, however, is dominated by the sun, the presence of which is mentioned no less than twenty times. Fyodor describes how he himself felt contingent on the sun, how he "was translated into the sun." It seems probable that this experience is the source of "the sense of oneness with sun and stone" related in Speak, Memory (139). The cosmos and its heavenly bodies seem to be significant substitutes for the "special Space," the dimension of eternal life.

Equally seminal is the figure eight, which when turned on its side becomes the symbol for infinity, or eternity. The occurrence of "eights" has been noticed frequently (Pekka Tammi, Problems of Nabokov's Poetics 211-12; Priscilla Meyer, Find What the Sailor Has Hidden 203). The infinity-sign pattern of the puddle in Bend Sinister is noted by Brian Boyd in The American Years (105); see also D. Barton Johnson, Worlds in Regression 194-96, and Vladimir Alexandrov, Nabokov’s Otherworld 110-12, 122-25. In addition, the number eight is associated with the rainbow, itself a symbol of transcendence in Nabokov. Thus Pale Fire introduces the minor character Iris Acht: iris is Greek for rainbow; acht is German and Dutch for eight—neatly echoing Krug's speculations in Bend Sinister: "we     shall imagine then a prism or prison where rainbows are but octaves of ethereal vibrations" (171). The figure eight, consisting of two connected circles, also resembles a bicycle, a frequent vehicle in Nabokov's novels. In The Gift (329) as well as in Invitation to a Beheading (99) a tricycle is mentioned, which raises the question whether there are monocycles as well. (A cosmological tricycle is present in Pale Fire on the dramatic evening of 21 July, the day the moon was at syzygy.) The unicycle, being used only in circuses, is not a real candidate, but Nabokov allotted much consequence to wheelbarrows. In the low sun, a wheelbarrow and its shadow also produce a figure eight, a fact unmentioned at Fyodor and Zina's moment of liberation when in "the low sun"


"a porter's long shadow" is seen "pushing the shadow of a barrow" [Gift 371). This same shadow is implied by the "empty barrow" trundling up the lane in the last line of Shade's poem, as a butterfly "wheels in the low sun" five lines earlier. Invigorated by the sun, the wheel becomes an immortal eight, in accordance with the phylogeny Nabokov surmised in "things on wheels." In Pale Fire the shadow does for the circle what Shade's art does for Kinbote, it tenders a claim to immortality. This is prefigured in the comment to line 143: Shade showed Kinbote a clockwork toy, "all bent and broken," made up of a wheelbarrow and a boy "consisting of two more or less fused profiles." As I argue in "Fanning the Poet's Fire" (RLT 24: 239-67), uniting of the characters is an important theme of Pale Fire, and it is most likely that the fusing of the profiles is all that is needed to make Kinbote think that "the rustic clockwork shall work again."

—Gerard de Vries, Voorschoten, The Netherlands



In Chapter Six of Pnin, as part of the description of the house Pnin has just rented, at the beginning of what is to be his last semester at Waindell, we read: "And a tall deciduous tree, which Pnin, a birch-lime-willow-aspen-poplar-oak man, was unable to identify, cast its large, heart-shaped, rust-colored leaves and Indian-summer shadows upon the wooden steps ... (145). In his commentary to this passage, Gennadi Barabtarlo tentatively identifies the tree as a mulberry, and, apparently in support of this surmise, cites a passage in Ada. "The tree is most probably one of the genus Moms. Cf. Ada: ... a princely paulownia ("mulberry tree!" snorted Ada) . . . was shedding generously its heart-shaped dark green leaves . . .' (522)" (Phantom of Fact: A Guide to Nabokov's Pnin 229). The mulberry, to be sure, has heart-shaped leaves that can be described as large (in comparison to, say, a locust or elm), but the problem with adducing the Ada passage is


that the tree that is shedding heart-shaped leaves there, the paulownia, is not of the genus Morus, but of the genus Paulownia. This particular tree is probably the most familiar species of the genus, the Royal Paulownia (Paulownia tomentosa or imperialis, also sometimes called Princess or Empress tree), which was named in honor of the tsarevna Anna "Paulowna" (1795-1865), daughter of Paul I and sister of Alexander I (and, by virtue of her 1816 marriage to William II, Queen of the Netherlands—hence, apparently, the strange spelling of her patronymic), as Ada had pedantically explained to Van twenty-one years earlier (43). Nabokov's choice epithet, "princely," not only characterizes this handsome tree but alludes both to the common names and to the tree’s namesake (the more precise "princessly" would be too precious, and "regal" would relinquish the alliteration). A somewhat fuller citation from Ada reads as follows: "A boxwood-lined path, presided over by a nostalgic-looking sempervirent sequoia (which American visitors mistook for a 'Lebanese cedar'—if they remarked it at all) took them to the absurdly misnamed rue du Mûrier, where a princely paulownia ('mulberry tree!' snorted Ada), [etc.]." Ada, we will recall, is a knowledgeable amateur botanist, and being scient also in insects, would be particularly familiar with mulberries. So her "snort" is aimed not at the innocent tree, as might be assumed by the reader not aware (as I Was not before pursuing the issue—perhaps this is what Barabtarlo intended his reader to do?) that a paulownia is not a mulberry, but at whoever misnamed this street in "Mont Roux."

In any case, I believe that Pnin's tree is neither a mulberry nor a paulownia, but still another tree with heart-shaped leaves, the catalpa. As mentioned above, the leaf of the mulberry is not small, but the much larger leaves of the paulownia and catalpa are among their most striking features. Most tree guides comment on the similarity between these two trees, and the Paulownia genus "has been placed” (Thomas S. Elias, The Complete Trees of North America) in the


same family (Bignonia) as catalpa, though Elias himself, and all the other tree guides I consulted, place it in the closely related Figwort or Foxglove family (Scrophulariaceae). Elias gives up to 5.5 inches for the leaf of the black mulberry, which, however, is not a particularly tall tree, and moreover, apparently is not hardy in upstate New York (where Barabtarlo convincingly places Waindell: Phantom 60). The leaf of the taller American native red mulberry, whose range does reach this far north, is only 3-4 inches (Elias), while the paulownia leaf is up to 12 inches long, and that of the catalpa up to 10 (Southern Catalpa, Catalpa bignonioides) or 12 (Northern or Western Catalpa, speciosa) inches, or more. Going, then, by size of leaf as well as shape, the tree in question might be either catalpa or paulownia, but the paulownia, like the black mulberry, is not hardy in upstate New York.

Besides the botanical arguments, there is also, it seems to me, a literary reason for preferring the catalpa identification, namely, that it fits better with one of the novel's main themes, that of Pnin's status as exile. The catalpa is a tree closely associated with America, while the various species of mulberry are much more widely spread around the world; thus the catalpa is the more appropriate tree to be unfamiliar to Pnin the immigrant, with his exile's psychology of living in his past and to a great extent in isolation from his present physical environment. Pnin is not especially observant, as Barabtarlo emphasizes (Phantom 119, 207), and recognizes only the flora he knew during his Russian youth, such as the six trees listed in the passage under discussion, or the ubiquitous pines of Chapter Five, or the lilacs that also grow by his new abode ("Lilacs—those Russian garden graces, to whose springtime splendor ...my poor Pnin greatly looked forward—crowded ... along one wall of the house" [145]). I intend to develop this topic further, along with some other aspects of the tree motif, in an article in progress.


—Earl Sampson, University of Colorado



1. The Protagonist's Name.

The protagonist's name, which is, indeed, quite uncommon, has been interpreted to mean various things: anything from Russian pen' ("stump"), because "many American characters in the book stumble over it" (Barabtarlo, Phantom of Fact 57) to English pain ("It is no accident that the book's risible name ... almost spells 'pain'" (Boyd, The American Years 272).

Most critics agree, however, that Pnin probably owes his name to the late eighteenth-century Russian publicist and minor poet Ivan Petrovich Pnin, an illegitimate son of Price P.N. Repnin (it was a common practice for illegitimate children to inherit only a part of their fathers' last names). Interestingly enough, while Nabokov himself never suggested that a connection exists between the protagonist of his novel and Ivan Pnin, Nabokov's sister did. Soon after one of the chapters of Pnin was published in the New Yorker in 1955 ("Pnin's Day," 23 April), Elena Sikorskaia wrote to her brother: "la vstretilas' s milym, ocharovatel'nym Pninym tol'ko na milutu i teper' i mechtaiu о novoi vstreche s nim. Kstati: Ivan Petrovich Pnin (1773-1805) byl, kazhetsia, horoshim poetom” (Perepiska s sestroi 82) ("I met with sweet and charming Pnin only for a minute and now I cannot wait to meet with him again. By the way: Ivan Petrovich Pnin [1773-1805] was, apparently, a good poet").

But while critics generally agree on the origins of Timofey Pnin's name, they often differ as to Nabokov's reasons for such a linkage. Julian Connolly, for example, suggested that Nabokov may have wanted to emphasize that Timofey Pnin, not unlike his real-life namesake, is both dispossessed (in this case not of his


father but of his fatherland) and noble (if not in origin then in spirit) ("A Note on the Name 'Pnin,'" VNRN 6 [Spring 1981]: 32-33). Andrew Field drew a connection between Ivan and Timofey in a different way by linking the title of Ivan Pnin's most famous work, The Wail of Innocence (Vopl’ nevinnosti, otvergaemoi zakonami, 1801) to Timofey Pnin's innocent nature and penchant for wailing [Nabokov: His Life in Art 139). Gennadi Barabtarlo, on the other hand, doubts that themes of illegitimacy, innocence, dispossession or nobility have anything to do with the nameborrowing, since he believes that Nabokov often used real names merely to provide, in Nabokov's own words, "a definite, specific historical frame" [Phantom of Fact 204).

Barabtarlo also goes on to suggest that "since Ivan Pnin is the only known bearer of that name and does not seem to have been married, Timofey Pnin's origin is doubly fictitious" (56). However, this statement is factually inaccurate: Ivan Pnin did, in fact, marry and procreate. His son, Petr Ivanovich Pnin, was bom in 1803, became a minor artist, spent several years studying in Italy, and is said to have died of cholera in Naples in 1837. This information can be found in a 1950 book published in Russia which, as I am going to show presently, may have played an important role in the creation of Nabokov's novel and can possibly even shed some light on why Ivan and Timofey Pnin came to be related through the means of Nabokov's fiction.

The book is Vladimir Orlov's Russkie prosvetiteli 1790-1800-kh godov (Russian Enlighteners, 1790s-1800s), and it focuses on several minor men of letters of the post-Radishchev era. In a chapter devoted to Ivan Pnin (63-177), Orlov provides a rather detailed biographical sketch of Pnin and discusses, among other things, Pnin's illegitimate birth and the practice of truncating last names when given to children born out of wedlock. The year it came out, the book was purchased by many American university libraries, among them Harvard, where Nabokov was doing his


research while on leave from Cornell during the winter and spring of 1953 (Cornell apparently did not purchase Orlov's book either in 1950 or in 1953, when a second edition carne out). While I can only speculate about Nabokov's discovery of Orlov's book at Harvard--Widener's records are apparently both incomplete and, as of last year, confidential—there are several reasons why the possibility seems very likely.

To begin with, it was a highly logical book for Nabokov to consult. He was at the time working on his commentary to Evgenii Onegin. While at Harvard, where he went with the specific purpose of further research for his commentary, he looked at a great number of books connected with the period immediately preceding Pushkin and with the authors (Radishchev among them) who could have affected Pushkin's body of knowledge and his political sensibilities. Nabokov's extensive research at Harvard is confirmed by a number of letters he sent to his friends, among them a letter to Henry Allen Мое written in March of 1953: "I have devoted two months to research at the Widener Library for my 'Eugene Onegin', and have found more fascinating material than I expected" (Selected Letters 135).

The chronology of Nabokov's library research and the first appearance of Nabokov's famous protagonist is extremely suggestive. Several days after he finished his work at Widener, Nabokov left for Arizona and Oregon where, between catching butterflies, he wrote a short story about a Russian Professor by the name of Pnin (see Boyd 225). He sent the story to the New Yorker at the end of July and it was published in the issue of November 28.

If Orlov's book did make its way to Nabokov at Harvard, as I strongly suspect it did, it was probably instrumental in furnishing Nabokov not only with a name for his character but also with the relevant information about the real-life Pnin. Thus he could learn (if he did not know before) that Ivan was an illegitimate son of Prince Repnin (that Nabokov was


familiar with the link between the two names becomes quite obvious when one encounters "Dr. Olga Repnin" in Look at the Harlequins!) and that he, in turn, had a son. The latter may have indeed been of some importance. Barabtarlo is quite right when he alludes to Nabokov's craving for a "definite, specific historical frame," and Ivan's son could in many ways provide this "frame" since he could have children (Orlov does not specify whether he did or did not), grandchildren and great-grandchildren all the way up to Timofey's father. Dr. Pavel Pnin, "an eye specialist of considerable repute [who] had once had the honor of treating Leo Tolstoy for a case of conjunctivitis" [Pnin 21).

But even more important is the book's title — Russkie prosvetiteli (Russian Enlighteners) - -insofar as it may actually suggest one of the reasons for why Nabokov's protagonist is linked to the other Pnin. If we characterize Ivan Pnin not as a minor publicist or a minor poet but as a minor "Russian Enlightener," then his relationship to Timofey Pnin becomes quite straightforward, for what is Pnin if not a minor russkii prosvetitel' of American students? And how truly Nabokovian to parody not only existent people but also existent titles!

On a lighter and even more speculative note, Nabokov's experience at Widener may have affected not only the name of his protagonist but also the name of the college where Pnin teaches. While Cremona, where Timofey gives a lecture at the beginning of the book, sounds somewhat recognizable since it evokes a name of at least one actual small college, Pomona, Pnin's Waindell bears an oddly uncharacteristic name, save for the suffix "ell" which the fictional college probably inherited from its real-life prototype, Nabokov's very own Cornell. But if we attach this Comellesque suffix to the stem of the name of the Harvard library we get Widen-ell, which is quite a close likeness to Waind-ell. This is, of course, pure speculation, but, knowing Nabokov's love for games of


this sort, one can easily assume that it would not be all that unlike Nabokov to try to immortalize the name of the library where he found his Pnin in the name of the college where the readers were destined to find theirs.

2. The Narrator's Name

In his introduction to the English translation of Dar, Nabokov characteristically warned his readers against dangers of confusing real-life authors and their fictionalized second selves and narrators. "I am not," he wrote, "and never was, Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev .... I never wooed Zina Mertz, and never worried about the poet Koncheyev. ... He also, obviously, never consulted Pnin's father about his infected eye, never slept with Liza Bogolepov, and never was privy to Cockerell's Pnin impersonation.

And yet the narrator's identification with the author of Pnin is unusually close. We do learn, for example, that, like Nabokov himself, V.N. is Vladimir Vladimovich, that he was born in St. Petersburg in the spring of 1899, that he lived on Morskaya ulitsa and attended a liberal gymnasium. Further, Nabokov himself appeared to have encouraged the blurring of the lines between his authorial and fictionalized selves. "At the end of the novel," he explained in one letter to Pascal Covici, "I, V.N., arrive in person to Waindell College to lecture on Russian literature ....," an explanation repeated in a later letter: "It is an absolute necessity for me ... to introduce 'myself in Ch. 7" [Selected Letters 143, 178).

As a result, many critics tend to follow what they think is Nabokov's lead and to identify the narrator of Pnin simply as Nabokov. "Aristocratic, poised, successful in love and work," writes Boyd, "narrator Nabokov could not be less like poor awkward Pnin" (Boyd 277). Likewise, Charles Nicol, while acknowledging the existence of the so-called "purists" who may think otherwise, maintains that the narrator's name should be the same as the author's


("Pnin's History" in Roth, Critical Essays on Vladimir Nabokov 103).

Yet it was not accidental, it seems to me, that in a letter to the editor cited above Nabokov did put quotation marks around "myself." The narrator in Pnin is of course largely autobiographical—but so is Fyodor in Dar. "I was as arrogant as I was shy," the narrator says at one point, reminiscing about his past meetings with Timofey Pnin [Pnin 178). But what we get in the book is only the narrator's "arrogant" side, Nabokov's own superegotistic "public" image which was often created by those (mostly other émigrés) who, being accustomed to Pnin-like failures, mythologized his success.

Yet Nabokov himself probably knew better than that. Opposite as the figures of Pnin and the narrator appear in the novel, Nabokov is closer to Pnin than many critics are willing to admit. After all, Pnin's reflections on Russian literature—like his comments on Anna Karenina—and his attacks on Freudianism are often taken almost verbatim from Nabokov’s own lectures. "As a matter of fact," writes one of Nabokov's former students, "he was considered a kind of Pnin-figure" (Ross Wetzsteon, "Nabokov as Teacher" in Nabokov: Criticism, Reminiscences, Translations and Tributes, ed. Alfred Appel and Charles Newman 246). And Marc Szeftel, Nabokov's longtime colleague at Cornell who was in all likelihood the most immediate prototype for Nabokov's protagonist, found at least "some of Nabokov's own features in Pnin-like his total lack of natural teeth" (Szeftel, unpublished diaries).

In "The Double Pnin," Ambrose Gordon introduced what I consider a very useful paradigm for Pnin's character: Pnin as the Exile and Pnin as the Alien [Nabokov: The Man and His Work, ed. L. S. Dembo 144-56). "Funny Pnin" is the eternal Alien, a pathetic foreigner with faulty English and premature dentures whom Cockerells of this world crave to ridicule. "Sad


Pnin" is the eternal Exile, a Leopold Bloom-like figure, who can be poignant, dignified, and in the long run, superior to those who are on more familiar terms with the world around them.

Interestingly enough, as late as 1954 Nabokov still fully intended to close his novel with Pnin's demise. "Poor Pnin dies,” he explained to a potential publisher, "with everything unsettled and uncompleted, including the book Pnin had been writing all his life" (Selected Letters 143). As he was fleshing out his initial design, it was probably the discovery of this dignified "Exile" part in Pnin—and of the awkward "Alien" part of himself—that made him change the ending. And for that alone we run a risk of huge oversimplification when we choose to call the narrator Vladimir Nabokov.

—Galya Diment, University of Washington