Vladimir Nabokov

Number 32 (Spring 1994) The Nabokovian

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                                     THE NABOKOVIAN


  Number 32                                                                       Spring 1994





News                                                                                                   3
by Stephen Jan Parker

Nabokov Poetry in Occupied Russia: 1943                       17
by D. Barton Johnson

Nabokov in Letters: An Annotated Bibliography         20
by Roy Flannagan and Edward A. Malone

Annotations & Queries                                                             24
by Charles Nicol
Contributors: J. Morris, Robert Bowie,
Samuel Schuman

Annotations to Ada: 3. Part I, Chapter 3                          54
by Brian Boyd

Nabokov in Japan: 1985-1992                                              77
by Peter Evans

Jeanne Ewart, “Ardor or Anger? Ada's Silence"          85

John Lavagnino, “Pale Fire and the Amorality             86
of Eternity”

Antje Thole, “Modem and Postmodern Death in       88
Nabokov’s Pale Fire


Note on content:

This webpage contains the full content of the print version of Nabokovian Number 32, except for:

  • Brian Boyd’s “Annotations to Ada” (because superseded by, updated, hyperlinked and freely available on, his website AdaOnline).



by Stephen Jan Parker

Charles Nicol has served as editor of Annotations & Queries for each of our thirty-two issues. He took on the task at my request some sixteen years ago, and at each six-month interval since has punctually supplied text for publication. For the most part I saw only the finished product. But I know that the effort required to encourage and cajole, advise and work with contributors, and ultimately edit their submissions, as well as provide those of his own, was great and constant over more than one and one-half decades. As he now steps down from his editorship, I would simply like to say: Thank you, Charles, for your support, encouragement, and assistance these many years, and for making Annotations and Queries our most lively regular feature. SJP.


From D. Barton Johnson: The appearance of the inaugural number of Nabokov Studies has been delayed by several untoward events: Charles Schlacks, the publisher, moved his offices from the University of Utah to USC in Los Angeles only to be welcomed by January's L.A. quake which damaged both quarters and equipment. He now anticipates that the first number will appear in late spring 1994. Subscriptions are $20.75 for individuals; $30.75 for institutions, with an additional dollar for overseas mailings. Checks should be made out to Charles Schlacks, Publisher (with Nabokov Studies written on the bottom) and directed to his new address:


Charles Schlacks, Publisher
Nabokov Studies
734 West Adams Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90089-7724

Manuscripts (two paper copies plus diskette) should be sent to:

D. Barton Johnson, Editor 
Nabokov Studies
Dept of German, Slavic & Semitic Languages
University of California
Santa Barbara, CA 93106
Phone: 805 682-4618; Fax: 805 687-1825


The Table of Contents for the first issue is as follows:


Joel J. Brattin — “The Intersection of McEwen and Wheaton: A Nabokovian Locus Identified”
Julian Connolly —“Nabokov and Narrative Point of View: The Case of A Letter that Never Reached Russia'"
Jane Grayson — “Washington's Gift: Materials pertaining to Nabokov's Gift in the Library of Congress”
D. Barton Johnson — “The Nabokov-Sartre Controversy”
Stephanie Merkel — “Vladimir Nabokov's King, Queen, Knave and the Commedia Dell'Arte



An Album of Five Photographs by Gennady Barabtarlo A Poem: “Nabokov in Minnesota. November 1941” by Jonathan B. Sison.


Charles Nicol — “Necessary Introduction or Fatal Fatuity: Nabokov's Introductions and Bend Sinister


Maxim Shrayer — “'Cloud, Castle, Lake' and the Problem of Entering Nabokov's Otherworld” Jonathan B. Sisson — “Nabokov's Cosmic Synchronization and 'Something Else'”
Susan Elizabeth Sweeney — “Sinistral Details: Nabokov, Wilson, and Hamlet in Bend Sinister Leona Toker — “Liberal Ironists and the 'Gaudily Painted Savage’: On Richard Rorty's Reading of Vladimir Nabokov”



John Burt Foster. Nabokov's Art of Memory and European Modernism (Clarence Brown)
Nikolai Anastas’ev. Fenomen Nabokova (D. Barton Johnson)
Alfred Appel, Jr. The Art of Celebration: Twentieth Century Painting, Literature, Sculpture, Photography and Jazz
(Charles Nicol)
Tony Sharpe. Vladimir Nabokov (Samuel Schuman) 
Charles Nicol & Gennady Barabtarlo, eds, A Small Alpine Form: Studies in Nabokov's Short Fiction (Maxim Shrayer)
Julian Connolly. Nabokov's Early Fiction: Patterns of Self and Other (Leona Toker)
Magdalena Medaric. Od Masenjke do Lolite (Zoran Kuzmanovich)
Donald Harington. Ekaterina (Clarence Brown)


NABOKV-L, the Nabokov E-Mail list which now has 111 “subscribers,” will serve as the discussion forum for all articles appearing in Nabokov Studies and for other matters relating to Nabokov. Readers with E-Mail addresses may subscribe to the list by sending the message “Subscribe NABOKV-L (E-mail address] [First & last name]” to LISTSERV@UCSBVM.BITNET



by Gene Barabtarlo

There were two sessions on VN at the AAASS at Honolulu:

1.         Nabokov and the Question of Identity, chaired by Peter Barta, discussed by Vladimir Alexandrov and Alexander Dolinin. The papers read:

Julian Connolly, “Who's Who in Humberland: Creation of Identity in Lolita
David Larmour, “The Search for Heroic Identity in Glory
Galya Diment, “The Beautiful and the Doomed: Re-Capturing Past Loves in Nabokov's Mary and Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby

It was well attended and buoyantly argued on all sides.

2.         Nabokov As Reader: The Ethics of lntertextuality

Chairman: Nina Perlina. Discussant: Alexander Dolinin.

Andrew Drozd, “Nabokov and Chemyshevskii” 
Stephen Blackwell, “Modes of Reading: N. and the Russian Tradition”
Charles Byrd, “Dostoevskii, Lolita, and the Anxiety of Influence”


Then there were as usual three Nabokov sessions at the synchronous MLA—AATSEEL conventions in Toronto. The AATSEEL event was for some reason remarkably poorly attended: the panel outnumbered the audience for the first time in my memory, so that the Secretary (Maxim Shrayer) joined the public trying to relieve the amusing awkwardness of the situation. Alexander Dunkel was the chairman. The panel on Podvig/Glory was the first in the series of “monopractic” topics—all devoted to one work by Nabokov.

Charles Nicol, “Martin as Muse”
Guy Houk, “Becoming Quixotic”


The MLA sessions on Nabokov drew, on the contrary, a relatively large crowd, and that despite the extremely inconvenient time-slots that any society requesting two sessions is inevitably allotted.

The first one was an Open Topic Session (Chairman: John Burt Foster, Jr., the newly elected President of the Society), with the following papers read:

Christy Burns, “Not Chancing It: Paranoid Subjectivity and Its Metafictive Frame in Pnin
John Lavagnino, “Pale Fire and the Amorality of Eternity”
Antje Thole, “Modern and Postmodern Death in Pale Fire
Jeanne Ewert, “Ardor or Anger? Ada’s Silence”

The second, Nabokov and Religion, was chaired by me, in the absence of Galya Diment. Four papers were delivered:
Christine Rydel, “Semantic Hierarchies in Nabokov's God”
John Noble, “The Venerable Language of Rigid Religion in N’s Humbert's Lolita.”
Samuel Schuman, “N. As God—God as N.: The Artist As Impersonator of an Anthropomorphic Deity”
Robbi Nestor, Speak, Memory—Performing the Patterner”


As president of the Society, I tried to pursue Professor Sweeney's brilliant idea of pushing through the US Postal authorities a commemorative stamp timed to VN's centenary. Her early attempts had run into a stonewall, and so had my rather flaccid moves to shore up high-power lobbying support. At the end of my term as president I wrote a long letter to Clinton's Postmaster full of rather elaborate (I thought) ad hoc rhetoric. Here is the response I received. I think the


idea may yet take on its perforated edge and image, low-perched pince-nez and all.

"Thank you for your recent letter to Postmaster General Marvin Runyon expressing support for the issuance of a commemorative stamp honoring Vladimir Nabokov in 1999. Please be assured that the nomination of Mr. Nabokov will be placed before the Citizens” Stamp Advisory Committee. This Committee is responsible for reviewing stamp proposals and making subject recommendations to the Postmaster General. Signed, Azeezaly S. Jaffer. Manager, Stamp Services”


Mrs. Jacqueline Callier has provided the following list of VN works received in Montreux, November 1993 - February 1994:


Lolita, tr. Enrique Tejedor. Barcelona: Anagrama reprint.

Lolita, tr. Giulia Arborio Mella. Milan: Adelphi.


La transparence des choses [Transparent Things], tr. Donald Harper and Jean-Bernard Blandenier. Paris: Gallimard, Folio reprint.

Lolita, revised edition ed. Dieter Zimmer. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt.

February - Lolita, tr. Horia Popescu. Romania: Universal Dalsi.

Masjenka [Mary], tr. Jan Pieter van der Sterre. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij.


Lolita, tr. Rien Verhoef. Amsterdam: De Bezige Bij.

Oko [The Eye], tr. Anna Kolyszka. Gdansk, Poland: Atext Ltd.


New Publications

David Rampton. Vladimir Nabokov. New York: St. Martin's Press, Modem Novelists Series. 1993.

Michel Sartori, ed. Les Papillons de Nabokov. Lausanne: Musée cantonale de Zoologie. 1993. The volume was published on the occasion of an exhibit devoted to VN, the writer and entomologist. It has three parts: (1) in French, a catalog of the exhibit; (2) in English, an annotated multilingual checklist of all quotations referring to butterflies in VN’s writings, compiled by Dieter E. Zimmer; (3) in French, a complete catalog of the Nabokov collection (4,323 specimens) held by the Museum.

Dieter E. Zimmer, ed. The Collected Works of Vladimir Nabokov. Reinbeck bei Hamburg: Rowohlt. Twelve volumes have appeared to date in this excellently edited German language collected works.


Call for Papers: ‘The Program in Russian Language and Area Studies at Texas Tech University announces a conference on Discourse and Ideology in Nabokov's Prose to take place between 6-8 April 1995. We request three- to four-hundred-word abstracts for papers to be presented at the conference. Approaches reflecting recent critical theories are encouraged. Abstracts should reach the organizer, Professor David H.J. Larmour, no later than 1 December 1994. The conference will take place at the Texas Tech University campus in Lubbock. It is strongly hoped


that a volume of articles based on a selection of conference papers will be published. For more information please contact Professor Peter I. Barta until 15 July 1994 at (806) 742-3286 and Professor Larmour after 15 July at (806) 742-1554.


Andrew Field recently brought a libel suit against a British reviewer of Brian Boyd’s Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years , but dropped it after two days in court, the London Sunday Telegraph reported on January 23.

The libel action, against the Sunday Telegraph, its former editor Trevor Grove, and David Sexton, the paper’s associate literary editor, began on January 17 in the High Court in London.

Sexton’s review of Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years (Sunday Telegraph, 5 January 1992) had opened:

“The first biography, no matter what comes after, casts a certain shadow on the others.” So Vladimir Nabokov said to his own first biographer, Andrew Field.

It was a prescient remark—although Nabokov could hardly have foreseen the extent to which Field’s incompetence and malice would darken the last years of his life and assault his reputation after his death.

Field’s first sally, Nabokov: His Life in Part, was published—after three years of resistance by Nabokov’s lawyers—in 1977, a few years before Nabokov’s death.

At the beginning of their falling out. Field had threatened Nabokov that he could easily wait until Nabokov died and then publish anything he liked about him, for example, a book entitled He Called His Mum Lolita. In his second bash at a biography, VN: The Life and Art of Vladimir Nabokov, Field went ahead


and alleged that he had done just that, amid other shabby and infantile imputations.

With the completion of this scholarly two-part biography by Brian Boyd, Field’s publications are superseded and a shadow lifted.


Despite spending almost two years to secure a trial. Field dropped the case after less than an hour under cross-examination. In withdrawing his charges he also had to pay court costs of £25,000.

Because the tried ended so abruptly, none of the defense witnesses had to testify. Apart from Sexton, who had completed most of a Ph.D. dissertation on Nabokov at Cambridge before turning to literary journalism, they were Brian Boyd, whose witness statements related especially to incompetence, Paul Chipchase, of Cambridge, whose statement focussed on malice, and Dmitri Nabokov, who would have testified to the pain Field’s work caused his father.

Field’s own evidence often counted against him. Objecting to the chronology prepared for the lawyers for the defense, he prepared a chronology of his own which misdated major events in Nabokov’s life (the chronology has Nabokov leaving Tenishev in 1916, finishing Cambridge in 1923) and major publications (he asserted, in contrast to the dates provided for Priglashenie na kazn’ and Dar by the defense, that these books began to be serialized in 1932 and 1935, respectively, rather than in 1935 and 1937).

Brian Boyd comments: In my TLS review of Field’s 1986 VN: The Life and Art of Vladimir Nabokov, I had pointed out Field’s confusion of the real date of Nabokov’s leaving America after Lolita—September 29, 1959—with the date of his first arrival in the US, May 28, 1940. Field conflated these to offer May 28, 1959, despite Nabokov’s having painstakingly provided all the evidence in his introduction to Lolita: A Screenplay. In his statement to the court. Field


explained that he had indeed not consulted the information in the Lolita screenplay, because he had a low opinion of Nabokov as a dramatist. In his second day in court, however, he produced photocopies of some of the index cards on which he had based his biographies. Among them was a series of cards transcribing the Nabokovs’ own detailed account to him of their doings in 1959, including the date of September 29 for their departure. Even when personally given the correct information, even when he recorded it correctly. Field could not avoid error.


Odds and Ends

—        The Nabokovian received an announcement and invitation to a four-day program of events planned for April 20-24, 1994 in St. Petersburg to correspond with VN's birthday. The announcement lists a series of papers to be read on VN's life and works, an exhibition of Nabokoviana, excursions to VN-related sites, musical and theatrical productions, and conversations with writers. If the event did take place, we should be able to report on it in the next issue. The Nabokovskiy Fond, under the direction of Vadim Stark, is reported to be quite active, and is said to be already planning ahead for the Nabokov centennial celebration in 1999.

—        A video cassette of “Metamorphosis: Nabokov on Kafka” is available from Filmic Archives, The Cinema Center, Botsford, CT 06404. The thirty-minute program is very loosely adapted from VN's Lectures on Literature, with Christopher Plummer appearing as VN.

—        A videobook of Anya v Strane Chudes, VN's translation of Alice in Wonderland is available on four cassettes from ExeLEARN VideoBOOKS, 2615 Columbia Pike, Arlington, VA 22204.


—        According to Susan Elizabeth Sweeney, a Nabokov line — bearing the Halsman portrait of VN eyeing the camera with cheek propped on fist — is available for sweatshirts, short- and long-sleeved t-shirts, and tote bags from Historical Products, P.O. Box 604, Barre VT 05641.

—        The journal, Lingua franca, in its May/June 1993 issue has a piece entitled, “Fanzine Follies,” which is devoted to single-author journals. Among the titles mentioned several times is The Nabokovian.

—        Earl Sampson sends along a copy of his letter-to-the-editor concerning butterflies, Nabokov, and Colorado. It reads in part: “An article in The Flip Side … tells of the campaign by the fourth graders of Wheeling Elementary School in Aurora to have the Colorado hairstreak butterfly named the Colorado State Insect, and provides a “Bug Ballot” for readers to indicate their choice. The hairstreak is no doubt a fine choice, but I would like to suggest a different butterfly, namely Nabokov's Blue (Lycaeides sublivens Nab., or Plebejus (Lycaeides) idas sublivens). Naming this creature the state insect would emphasize the relatively little known Colorado connections of the eminent novelist who made the first recorded capture of a female specimen, above Telluride, in 1951.” Professor Sampson then goes on to cite the various Colorado locales mentioned by VN in his writings.

—        J.E. Rivers sends along a newspaper story about the fourth annual best bad William Faulkner contest. “Astoundin' the Tourney,” a parody of The Sound and the Fury won first prize, a parody of “The Bear” came in second, and “As I Stay Drinking,” a parody of As I Lay Dying came in third. J.E. Rivers remarks that “it might be fun for The Nabokovian to launch a similar contest” for VN. If readers express interest, we'll give it a try.


—        Roy Flannagan (Southern Illinois University) brings to our attention the advertisement by the Quality Paperback Book Club of a new series of VN novels in “four special QPB editions,” complete with inaccurate blurbs (describing Pale Fire as an “epic poem, by the reclusive genius John Shade, about a deposed Balkan king living in America”) and late Matisse-style cover designs.

—        Dr. Felicia Londré (Univ. of Missouri at Kansas City), via Peter Evans, sends in a series of Bill Griffith's “Zippy” comic strips that ran in the Kansas City Star and elsewhere in mid-August. Griffy, a self-styled sensitive New Age guy, admits to an appetite for the writings of dead white European males, notably Nabokov.

—        A number of readers brought to our attention William Safire's remarks in his New York Times Magazine column of 20 March 1994 in which he notes the etymological find that the term “politically correct” was used in VN’s Bend Sinister in 1947, thus predating the earlier presumed source in Chairman Mao's little red book of the 1960s.


From Gene Barabtarlo: The Moscow daily Izvestia published, in the issue of July 23, 1993, one of the most bizarre pieces of contemporary Nabokoviana that I have ever come upon. The reporter (“Chernov”), who had chanced upon Pale Fire, was seized by the rum idea that King Charles’s family treasures were to be found in the underground passage leading from the Vyra house to a ravine AND in the "immured” secret room in the Morskaia mansion. In the latter cache they (Chernov and some obscure niagarins from the ‘Nabokovskii fond” and the municipality) expected to find not only the family treasures but possibly the documents of the Kadets and protocols of the Provisional government that VDN might have hid after the coup d’état. The material, entitled Taina


Tainika, is filled with most peculiar readings of Pale Fire which the author takes apart for direct clues and spoors “addressed to us”, for instance: Queen Yaruga and her lover Hodyna (borrowed from the Slovo o polku Igoreve) secretly point out both the location of the cache and the means of getting there, for their names mean, respectively, “ovrag” (ravine) and “khodit’” (go). As concerns Vyra, they found, with the aid of a local enthusiast, what looked like an “underground arch crammed with earth” which could be part of the foundation or—’’the beginning of a secret passage leading to a huge pit. ... And if in that unexpected nook of Zembla,” writes Chernov, “something had indeed been hidden, then the Griazna (local creek] had long dragged its prize to the Oredezh.” So the team transferred its efforts to the city house. The six-column essay ends abruptly on a cliff-hanger: the workers had already lifted 3 layers of the floor (linoleum, sheet-rock, and plywood) and hit the parquet. Even as Chernov wrote his report, they were inching up towards the “immured room”—but the sensational details are to “follow tomorrow.”

The next day there followed a very brief and modest report under the grand title “Ancient Trapdoor Discovered in Nabokov’s House”. The first to enter the room (which turned out to be a small anteroom of VDN’s bathroom) was a 13-year old schoolboy “Sasha Chernov,” presumably the reporter’s son. He discovered heaps of construction rubbish and a foodstamp dated May 1942. The rubbish remains to be sifted through, says Chemov-Sr, but they did find a plug on a chain from an “ancient tub.” Next they found hand-written shreds of paper that turned out to be “minutes of the war-time party meetings that read, in part, ‘Splotivshis vokrug partii Stalina’—[flocking around the party of Stalin...]; a batch of score-sheets with Beethoven’s “Theme with Variations”, crumpled, used apparently to wipe off “some dirty surface” and to light a butt; an empty bottle, a faceted glass, a pack of cigarettes “Zenith” anno 1942; an “ancient” ink-vial, a modem gas-mask, and an easel.


The room, says Chernov, appears to have been bricked in after WWII. The treasure, he says, matches the epoch, “trashy and trashnyi”—musornyi and horrible. They patched up the breach but plan to tear up the floor in another place. The crestfallen report ends thus: “The expedition initiated by the Izvestia and the Nabokov Foundation continues. The discoveries are yet to come.”


PLEASE NOTE: In recognition of our higher costs and in anticipation of the recently announced increase in postal rates, the Nabokovian must raise, modestly, its own rates for 1995 —our first subscription increase in four years. The new rates are:

Individuals: $ 11 per year 
Institutions: $14 per year

surface postage outside the USA     $4.00
airmail postage to Europe                $8.00
airmail postage to Australia,
New Zealand, India, Israel, Japan    $9.00

Back issues:
Individuals: $7 each; except for #31 with 15-year Index @ $9
Institutions: $9 each; except for #31 with 15-year Index @  $11 airmail postage $4.50


Our thanks, as always, to Ms. Paula Malone for her essential assistance in the preparation of this issue.


by D. Barton Johnson

Three early Nabokov poems shared a strange fate that probably remained unknown to their author. Nor is their publications listed in Michael Juliar’s Nabokov Bibliography. The trio of Nabokov poems were published in German-occupied northern Russia or, perhaps more accurately, in the then former Baltic Republics in 1943. The German forces that occupied northern Russia in World War II attempted to enlist local support against the Communist enemy. To this end they supported the establishment of Russian-language newspaper. One of these, Za Rodinu (“For the Motherland” [1942-1944]), was a daily, nominally published in the northern Russian city of Pskov, but actually in Riga, the capital of Latvia. The newspaper apparently retreated with the Germans since the last reference to a paper of that name bears the address [Germany?], Feldpost 28264 in 1945 and is described as the Military Organ of the Committee for the Liberated Nationalities. The staff was mostly Russian and included one B. Filippov-Filistinskii, who, without his “-philistinic” cognomen, would become a well-known figure in émigré literature, and a professor at American University in Washington where he edited the suppressed poetry of Ahkmatova and Mandelstam for publication in the West (and covert circulation in the USSR). The tentative identification of B. Filippov-Filistinskii as B. A. Fillipov finds support in the fact that B.A. Fillipov's first book of poems was published in German-occupied Riga in 1943.

The Nabokov poems were: “Zima” (“Na opushke lesa eli nebol'shie...) [“Winter—”On the forest fringe the little firs...”]—Issue #21, 1943; “Son” (“Igraiut kamni


aloi kraskoi...” [The Dream”—"Stones of crimsom hue play...”]—Issue #23, 1943; and “Nasha zvezda” (“Kak polnoch' prob'et, otodvin' zanaveski” (“Our Star”— "When midnight strikes, move back the curtains”]— Issue #84, 1943. The only prior appearance of the poems was in the rarest of all of Nabokov's books, the 1916 Stikhi (“Poetry”), which was privately published in an edition of 500 numbered copies in Saint Petersburg.

This youthful volume was the product of Nabokov’s affair with Valentina Shulgina (“Tamar”). While the first poem, “Winter,” is a lyrical invocation of snowy Vyra, the latter two are love lyrics. ‘The Dream” offers an image of seaside lovers bathed in a molten twilight glow while the girl is enwreathed in roses. “Our Star” depicts separated lovers joined by their common view of a distant star. The poems are, frankly, trite, and Nabokov did not include any of them in his retrospective 1979 Ardis Stikhi.

Although more copies of the 1916 Nabokov Stikhi undoubtedly existed in 1943 than the ten that Juliar counted in the nineteen-eighties, one cannot but ponder how the poems came into the possession of a staff member of Za Rodinu. It is, of course, sheer speculation, but Boris Filippov was a student in Leningrad during the twenties, only a decade after Nabokov's Stikhi was published there. As a young poet himself, he might well have acquired a copy. Later sentenced to a camp and released, he was in Novgorod when the Germans occupied it and later accompanied their retreat. Filippov died in 1991 and so the question of his role in the Nabokov publication of 1943 may never be answered with certainty. If he, indeed, was the source of the Nabokov material, his part in the affair oddly presaged his post-war role in returning Russian literature to its homeland. His own return (in print) came only shortly after Nabokov's. Three of his stories appeared in the last Novyi Mir of 1991.

Given the context of the 1943 re-publication of the Nabokov poems, it is surprising such apolitical ones were chosen. Nabokov, had, after all, written a


number of strongly patriotic, anti-Soviet poems, which would have better served the purposes of Za rodinu, but these were probably unknown to the editors. There is yet another curiosity in the whole affair. Nabokov's name was no more acceptable to the German occupiers (and their minions) than it was to the Soviets. Not only was he vigorously anti-Nazi, but Sergei Taboritsky, one of the murderers of Nabokov's father, served as second-in-command in Hitler's department for Russian émigré affairs. Apparently, neither the Germans, nor the Russians connected with Za Rodinu knew who Nabokov was.



by Roy Flannagan and Edward A. Malone

This bibliography locates references to Nabokov in the published correspondences of American and English writers. It documents the delight that these writers so often took in Nabokov's work, as well as their varied reactions to the controversy over and success of Lolita. While Raymond Chandler, E. B. White, Lawrence Durrell, Graham Greene, and Flannery O'Connor all had words of praise for Nabokov's work, Evelyn Waugh only remembered the “smut” in Lolita, Henry Miller disliked Lolita's style, and Victoria Sackville-West was “horrified and appalled by the thought” of the British publication of Lolita. Probably the best epistolary references to Nabokov are in volumes yet to be published--the collected letters of John Updike, for instance. Edmund Wilson's letters were not included in this bibliography because they have already received much attention from Nabokovians.

Chandler, Raymond. “To Charles Morton.” 18 Dec. 1944. Selected Letters of Raymond Chandler. Ed. Frank MacShane. New York: Columbia UP, 1981. 35-40. [Chandler praises “Time and Ebb.”)

Durrell, Lawrence. [To Henry Miller.] Nov. 1960. The Durrell-Miller Letters, 1935-80. Ed. Ian S. MacNiven. London: Faber, 1988. 378. [Durrell criticizes publishers for not recognizing Nabokov's talent long before the publication of Lolita.]

Greene, Graham. “John Gordon.” Dec. 1955-1 Mar. 1957. Yours Etc.: Letters to the Press. Ed.


Christopher Hawtree. London: Reinhardt, 1989. 76-88. [In letters originally printed in the Spectator and the New Statesman, Greene discusses the John Gordon Society and the morality of Lolita.]

—. “Grigsoniana.” 30 May 1975. Yours Etc.: Letters to the Press. 177-178. [Greene mentions Nabokov's “sensitive ear” in a letter originally published in the Times Literary Supplement.]

Jarrell, Randall. “To Edmund Wilson.” Nov. 1942. Randall Jarrell's Letters: An Autobiographical and Literary Selection. Ed. Mary Jarrell. Boston: Houghton, 1985. 67-68. [Jarrell met Nabokov at Wilson's Wellfleet home and found him to be “just wonderful, an extremely charming person.”]

—. [To Michael di Capua.] Sept. 1964. Randall Jarrell's Letters: An Autobiographical and Literary Selection. 492. [Nabokov's translation of Eugene Onegin is “flat, tame, literal,” and “pathetic.”]

Miller, Henry. “H. M. to Lawrence Durrell.” 19 Nov. 1958. A Private Correspondence. Ed. George Wickes. New York: Faber, 1963. 352-53. [Miller started to read Lolita but could not finish it because he disliked the style.]

Nicolson, Harold. “H. N. to N[igel] N[icolson].” 17 Jan. 1959. Harold Nicolson: The Later Years, 1945-1962. Ed. Nigel Nicolson. New York: Atheneum, 1968. 363. Vol. 3 of Diaries and Letters. 3 vols. [Since reading Lolita, Harold Nicolson has been afraid to pat little girls on the head. He opposes his son's decision to publish the novel in England.]

—. “H. N. to V[ictoria] S[ackville]-W[est].” 3 Nov. 1959. Harold Nicolson: The Later Years, 1945-1962. 370-71. [Nabokov had to struggle to resist the stylistic influence of Harold Nicolson’s Some People.]


Nicolson, Nigel. “N. N. to V. S-W.” 31 Dec. 1958. Harold Nicolson: The Later Years 1945-1962. 357-58. [Nigel Nicolson defends Lolita against Victoria Sackville-West's charges of obscenity.]

O'Connor, Flannery. ‘To “A.'“ 28 Feb. 1959. The Habit of Being: Letters. Ed. Sally Fitzgerald. New York: Farrar, 1979. 321. [O'Connor expresses aversion for “all these moralists who condemn Lolita.”]

—. To A.'“ 11 July 1959. The Habit of Being: Letters. 339-40. [O'Connor recommends The Real Life of Sebastian Knight and Pnin.]

—. “To Ashley Brown.” 26 May 1958. The Habit of Being: Letters. 285. [While staying with friends, O'Connor read and liked Pnin.]

—. To John Hawkes.” 26 July 1959. The Habit of Being: Letters. 343-44. [O'Connor admits that she was “possibly influenced” by Bend Sinister.]

O'Hara, John. “To Finis Farr.” 19 Nov. 1966. Selected Letters of John O'Hara. Ed. Matthew J. Bruccoli. New York: Random, 1978. 486-88. [Nabokov, O’Hara, and Porter were nominated for the Gold Medal for Fiction. John Cheever wrote Nabokov's nomination.]

—. To Richardson Dilworth.” 17 Jan. 1967. Selected Letters of John O'Hara. 489. [O'Hara lost the Gold Medal for Fiction to Nabokov and Porter.]

—. To William Hogan.” 10 Mar. 1960. Selected Letters of John O'Hara. 325-26. [O'Hara regrets Nabokov's decision not to join the National Institute of Arts and Letters.]

Sackville-West, V[ictoria]. “V. S-W. to N[igel] N[icolson].” 29 Dec. 1958. Harold Nicolson: The


Later Years 1945-62. 356-57. [Sackville-West attacks Lolita as obscene.]

Schwartz, Delmore. “To James Laughlin.” 20 Sept. 1942. Letters of Delmore Schwartz. Ed. Robert Phillips. Princeton: Ontario Review, 1984. 128-29. [Noting that Nabokov received a similar sum for a book, Schwartz demands a three-hundred dollar advance for A Child's Universal History.]

Waugh, Evelyn. “To Ann Fleming.” 16 June 1962. The Letters of Evelyn Waugh. Ed. Mark Amory. London: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 1980. 586. [Waugh describes Pale Fire as a “stunt—but a clever one.”]

—. “To John Donaldson.” 18 Nov. 1958. The Letters of Evelyn Waugh. 516. [Suspecting that the “highbrow allusions” are peculiar to the American edition of Lolita, Waugh asks to see a copy of the Paris edition.]

—. “To Nancy Mitford.” 29 June 1959. The Letters of Evelyn Waugh. 522-23. [Waugh admits that he was titillated by the “smut” in Lolita.]

White, E[lwyn] B[rooks]. “To Richard L. Lindell II.” 20 Dec. 1968. Letters of E. B. White. Ed. Dorothy Lobrano Guth. New York: Harper, 1976. 572-73. [If White were teaching a college course in American literature, Speak, Memory “would be required reading.”]


by Charles Nicol

[Beginning next issue, material for this section should be sent to Gene Barabtarlo, Germanic & Slavic Studies, 451 General Classroom Building, University of Missouri, Colombia, MO 65211; e-mail is GRABG@MIZZOUl.MISSOURl.EDU; FAX is 314-882-3404. New deadlines for submission are October 1 for the Fall issue, April 1 for the Spring. Unless specifically stated otherwise, references to Nabokov's works will be to the most recent hardcover U.S. editions.]



Was Vladimir Nabokov successful in resisting major editorial changes to his stories by the New Yorker magazine? Such is the impression Brian Boyd creates in his biography. But the evidence argues otherwise. Let us consider an example.

VN's “Signs and Symbols”—Boyd rightfully calls it “one of the greatest short stories ever written” (2:117)— was first published in the 15 May 1948 issue of the New Yorker. From Boyd we learn that VN was often at odds with its editors over their attempts to homogenize his style. “Signs and Symbols” was no exception; VN wrote to Katherine White, “Frankly, I would prefer you not to publish the story at all if it is to be so carefully mutilated. In fact I am completely against the whole idea of my stories being edited. Among the alterations inflicted on this story there is not a single really necessary one and many are murderous” (13 March 1948; cited in Boyd 2:126-27). Boyd goes on to say, unequivocally, “fortunately his rights as author


prevailed,” leaving the impression that VN successfully resisted “the whole idea” of editing the story. This impression is supported by a quoted statement from a letter by Edmund Wilson to White: “I have read the Nabokov stories ['Signs and Symbols' and 'My English Education’], and I think they are both perfect. Not a word should be changed” (my italics; Boyd 2:124). Boyd says nothing of White's reaction, and the matter is dropped, again with the obvious implication that VN had his way.

But did he? A comparison of the New Yorker version of “one of the greatest short stories ever written” with the text eventually included in Nabokov's Dozen (Doubleday, 1958) reveals at least three startling discrepancies, along with dozens of minor but dismaying word-shufflings, abridgements, and paraphrases. The cumulative result is a major transformation for the worse. This makes “Signs and Symbols” of particular interest as a test case for Boyd’s more general implication that VN always rejected editing on this level from the New Yorker (see Boyd 2:86, 121, 147).

To begin with, the title itself is altered. “Signs and Symbols” appeared in the New Yorker as “Symbols and Signs.” It is hard to imagine the point of this inversion but it does not, at any rate, offend.

Then we find that two of the most memorable descriptions in the Doubleday version—both of them dear to Nabokov admirers, I believe, and presumably to Nabokov himself—are missing from the magazine version. “He kept clearing his throat in a special resonant way he had when he was upset” appears in the New Yorker simply as “He kept clearing his throat, as he always did when he was upset.” And “he removed his new hopelessly uncomfortable dental plate and severed the long tusks of saliva connecting him to it” is truncated into “he removed his new, hopelessly uncomfortable dental plate.”


These are the most startling and misguided changes, but no paragraph escapes emendation. The general tenor of the New Yorker's editing can be suggested by the following typical comparison.

Book version:

The telephone rang. It was an unusual hour for their telephone to ring. His left slipper had come off and he groped for it with his heel and toe as he stood in the middle of the room, and childishly, toothlessly, gaped at his wife. Having more English than he did, it was she who attended to calls. (73)

Magazine version:

The telephone rang. It was an unusual hour for it to ring. He stood in the middle of the room, groping with his foot for one slipper that had come off, and childishly, toothlessly, gaped at his wife. Since she knew more English than he, she always attended to the calls. (33)

What has been lost? Nabokovian precision, obviously. It was the left slipper, and he groped with his heel and toe, but the New Yorker won't allow us to know this. Likewise, having more English is more accurate, more pertinent: she might know a great deal of English, but one needs to have it at one's disposal to answer a phone call. Also gone is the nice pairing of groped and gaped.

What has been gained, if anything? A closer approximation to the New Yorker guru E.B. White's Elements of Style, with its monomaniacal emphasis on “economy,” “simplicity,” and other alleged features of “good writing.” and, to be fair, the slight redundancy removed by substituting it for the second telephone is perhaps felicitous. But the overall score is very bad indeed, not only here but in virtually every line of the story.


What to make of all this? The endless and usually deleterious tinkering, the title change, the removal of those two marvelous descriptions? Allowing for disagreement over whether this is bad editing—clearly, I believe it is—there can be no doubt that it is heavy editing; editing aimed not at clarifying the author's style but at altering it. Surely, then, the evidence just examined argues against Boyd's claim that VN was able to veto major changes in his stories by the New Yorker. More probably, he was forced to compromise. In this case one can only speculate about the “mutilations” VN must have refused, while agreeing to those that remain. That he was willing to compromise with the New Yorker is apparent from the Selected Letters. A 1955 note to White finds him “cheerfully” agreeing “to accept some thirty minor alterations” in an excerpt from Pnin, though he goes on to object to several others which “it would be agony to even contemplate replacing [with] mere inorganic links when I have taken such pains with the inner linkage and balance” (156-57). Also apparent from the Selected Letters is the reason for VN's tractability: an overall feeling of deep gratitude and admiration for the New Yorker, which he frequently praises for its generosity and excellent content.

It is of course possible that VN compromised not at all on “Signs and Symbols,” and that the Doubleday version is a revised and improved story, reworked by VN ten years after its New Yorker publication. But given the New Yorker's penchant for the very sort of editorial homogeneity displayed in the variances under discussion, and given the cited instance of VN’s “cheerful" (one wonders) agreement to “minor” (one wonders) alterations, it seems more likely that the New Yorker's “Symbols and Signs” is a Whitened version of the story, which VN restored to its original form for Nabokov’s Dozen.

I think, in closing, that this little investigation helps us better understand VN's situation in the 1940s: an émigré author quite unknown in America,


financially strapped, delighted to have found a home in the New Yorker, and willing (to a degree unacknowledged by Boyd) to accept even the miserable editing he was offered in “Signs and Symbols.”

—J. Morris, Arlington, VA



The original author of The Elements of Style was Will Strunk, E.B. White's teacher at Cornell in 1919. White got involved with revising a new edition of the little book after writing an essay on Strunk for the New Yorker datelined 15 July 1957. White's immediate impulse to write about Strunk was the arrival in the mail of “a gift from a friend in Ithaca," a copy of the original “forty-three-page summation of the case for cleanliness, accuracy, and brevity in the use of English.” It would be curious indeed if that friend were Nabokov, but then, it has some of his handmarks: “The Cornell University Library has one copy. It had two, but my friend pried one loose and mailed it to me.”




Note: references to Shakespeare plays are given by act, scene, line in The Complete Signet Classic Shakespeare, ed. Sylvan Barnet (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972). FVH is my abbreviation for the Variorum Edition of Hamlet, ed. H.H. Furness, 2 vols. (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1877) [rprnt by Dover— CN].

32: follow the perttaunt jouncing ‘neath the rack with her pale skeins-mate.


“A pseudo-quotation made up of obscure Shakespeareanisms,” says Nabokov in his introduction (x). He relates this passage to the acrobatic performance (61). It is typical of the linguistic nightmare of BS that these lines, Ember's favorite lines from Shakespeare’s greatest play, do not exist in Shakespeare.

32: perttaunt: a non-existent word. Concordances do not show it appearing anywhere in Shakespeare, nor is it listed in any dictionary I have consulted. Under taunt in Webster's New International, 2nd ed., the first meaning (now obsolete) is given as follows: “Haughty; also pert.” Therefore, pert and taunt could be read as synonymous. In Twelfth Night (3.2.43) we find the passage, “Taunt him with the license of ink.” In using the word perttaunt, Nabokov may be taunting his reader “with the license of ink.”

32: jauncing: used only twice in Shakespeare, in Richard II (5.5.94) and Romeo and Juliet, where Juliet's nurse worries about catching “my death with jauncing up and down” (2.5.53). She also complains, “Fie, how my bones ache! What a jaunce have I!” (2.5.26). Jaunce is glossed as “jaunt” or “fatiguing walk.”

32: rack: this word occurs in the meaning of the torture instrument several times in Shakespeare, but in Hamlet (2.2.491) it is used in the meaning of “clouds” or “cloud formation.”

32: skeins-mate: spelled “skainsmate,” the word is used only once in Shakespeare. In Romeo and Juliet (2.4.159-60) the nurse, after having been insulted by Mercutio, says, “Scurvy knave! I am none of his flirtgills; I am none of his skainsmates!” The word is defined in the Barnet note as “harlots (?) daggers' mates (i.e., outlaws' mates).” Various other meanings have been suggested for this obscure term; see Furness Variorum Edition of R&J (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1871) 136, note 138.

This pseudo-quotation foreshadows the appearance of Frau Bachofen and her “skainsmate” (dagger mate) Hustav who come to arrest Ember in ch. 7. It suggests the image of these two secret police agents frolicking about beneath the rack upon which one of


their victims is tortured. The phrase “pale skeins-mate” may also be related to imagery of the moon, the skainsmate (harlot) whose meretricious glow is taken from the sun. On Hamlet references to the moon, see note to 112 below.

105: a blue-veined violet: violets are connected with several of Ophelia's appearances in Hamlet (e.g., 1.3.7, 4.5.184, 5.1.240). In Shakespeare's England violets were symbolic of faithfulness. Various other flower leitmotifs in BS also recall Hamlet; for example, the primrose reminds one of Ophelia's admonishment to Laertes not to tread “the primrose path of dalliance” (1.3.50). Note also the passage translated into Russian (118), in which the various flowers used by Ophelia to weave her garlands are named.

105: sequence of three engravings: these engravings are part of Sir Edwin Durning-Lawrence's evidence “proving" that the real author of Shakespeare's works was Francis Bacon. See Durning-Lawrence, Bacon is Shake-Speare (New York, 1910) and L.L. Lee, Vladimir Nabokov (Boston: Twayne, 1976) 109. Durning-Lawrence reproduces the title page of a work on cryptographies published in 1624 by Gustavus Selenus (the “man in the moon”); on the basis of the pictures on this page, he makes a series of wild premises that purport to show how Shakespeare received his literary works (or stole them) from Bacon, 114-33. The first two engravings described in BS come from this source. Both spears in engraving Number One are held at an angle suggesting the line of the “bend sinister” on a coat of arms.

105: Note the sinistral detail: Durning-Lawrence also emphasizes sinistral details in the engravings, because they ostensibly hint at the idea that the plays were issued “left-handedly,” that is, “under the name of a mean actor, the actor Shakespeare” (Durning-Lawrence 133). In this connection he purports to prove that the famous Droeshout portrait on the title page of the First Folio is really no portrait at all, but “a cryptographic picture, shewing two left arms and a mask.” The back of the left arm “does duty for the


right arm.” The portrait reveals “the true facts, that the real author is writing left-handedly, that means secretly, in shadow, with his face hidden behind a mask or pseudonym” (23, 29). Especially applicable to Nabokov's art is the quote from Durning-Lawrence about left-handedness. Sinistral details in relation to the artistic imagination appear throughout Nabokov's works, largely in connection with the theme of artist as eccentric or semi-madman. In Pale Fire John Shade remarks that the word loony should not be applied to the mad Kinbote: “One should not apply it to a person who deliberately peels off a drab and unhappy past and replaces it with a brilliant invention. That's merely turning a new leaf with the left hand” (238, my italics). In Nabokov the sinistral as well as the illegitimate (bastardy) often point to the non-rational artistic imagination or to artistic deceit.

105: “that is the question," as Monsieur Homais once remarked, quoting le journal dhier: Flaubert’s comic pharmacist in Madame Bovary knows his newspaper far better than he knows his Hamlet.

105: “Ink, a Drug”: this alludes to the art theme, predominant in Ch. 7. Drug is Russian for “friend.” Ink is both drug and friend to the literary artist, and in this chapter the narrator gets intoxicated on ink, indulging in unrestrained word play.

105: Somebody's idle pencil. . . has numbered the letters so as to spell Grudinka which means “bacon” in several Slavic languages: e.g., in Ukrainian kopchena grudinka means “bacon.” Durning-Lawrence and other Baconists have made much of cryptographies, anagrams and acrostics to support their points. Since Nabokov is fond of these devices, and of literary fraud in general, he is interested in the controversy, although he considers many of the “facts” to be nonsense (Krug and Ember later in this chapter show how anagrams can be twisted to prove just about any wild theory).

105: shapska: not an English word. The extra s in the Russian word shapka (cap) may demonstrate the theme of letters out of control. In BS words that should be spelled with double consonants frequently


appear with only one of these consonants, and vice versa. This letter game is played extensively with sibilants in Nabokov's Nikolai Gogol, perhaps as a demonstration of his assertion that the difference between the comic side of things and their cosmic side depends on one sibilant; in that book as in BS, Nabokov may also be playing with s as an oblique allusion to the issue of the “interpolated 's' in Shakespeare”—see Furness Variorum ed. Othello (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1886), 12, note 31. The removal of the cap recalls the man taking the crown from the head of the sleeping king before poisoning him in the play within a play in Hamlet (3.2).

105: "Ham-let, or Homelette au Lard": Hamlet is equated to an omelette made with bacon, i.e., Francis Bacon; lard means “bacon” in French.

105: “To High Wycombe”: this third engraving is probably invented, based on the traveller who appears on foot in the background of the first engraving. One biographer describes Shakespeare as leaving his wife in Stratford about 1586-87 and “trudging thither [to London] on foot by way of Oxford and High Wycombe.”

106: His name is protean: references on this page seem to be describing Shakespeare as the quintessential writer. Nabokov emphasizes the trickster-conjuror in Shakespeare since he sees all true artists in this image.

106: His penmanship is unconsciously faked by lawyers: allusion to Durning-Lawrence's assertions that all of Shakespeare's ostensible signatures were made by lawyers (see esp. his discussion and plates 161-67). Many of the Baconists were/are also lawyers, and critics have commented on Shakespeare's extensive knowledge of legal matters.

106: wet morning of November 27, 1582: date of marriage license issued to “William Shaxpere and Anne Wateley, of Temple Grafton.” On the following day a license was issued to “William Shagspere and Anne Hathway, of Stratford-on-Avon.” See J.P. Baxter, The Greatest of Literary Problems (Boston: 1917) 46-49.


106: William X, cunningly composed of two left arms and a mask: beginning with “cunningly,” a direct quotation from Bacon is Shake-Speare 23.

106: The person who said (not for the first time) that the glory of god is to hide a thing, and the glory of man is to find it: Baxter quotes Bacon as follows: “The Glory of God is to conceal a thing—as if the Divine Majesty took delight to hide his works” (unnumbered page at front of The Greatest of Literary Problems). Durning-Lawrence cites the following maxim from Bacon's Promus of Formularies and Elegancies: ‘The glory of God is to conceale a thing and the glory of man is to fynd owt a thing” (207). But Bacon also was surely not the first to use this ancient aphorism.

106: on the strength of an applejohn and a pale primrose: applejohn (obsolete English), a kind of apple, the flavor of which is improved by drying: primrose, any plant or flower of the genus Primula, esp. of the common English species P. veris (the cowslip). This phrase combines the apple and rose leitmotifs that run throughout BS. I have not found how an applejohn and pale primrose supposedly prove that “the Warwickshire fellow” really wrote the plays. (I have always assumed the applejohn and the primrose were references to Falstaff and Ophelia: creation of unique characters then, would apparently be beyond Bacon's abilities—CN]

106: ruelle: (1) (archaic) the space between a bed and a wall: (2) a morning reception held in their bedrooms by fashionable French ladies of the 17th and 18th centuries.

106-07: Describe the bedroom. Allude to Ember's bright brown eyes. .. Ask about David. ... Last chance of describing the bedroom: allusions to a film in the process of being made abound in BS. Here perhaps the director is speaking to either a screen writer or to an actor or actors. The instructions also relate to Ember himself, who is embarrassed in the presence of Krug because he does not know how to express his condolences over Olga's death.

106: David is also laid up with a cold [ist auk beterkeltet]: The parenthetical glosses in this


paragraph demonstrate that Ember and Krug are conversing in the vernacular, a language made up of Germanic and Slavic roots. There are frequent hints throughout BS that the book is being translated into English.

107: The two best Hamlets . . . now said to be fiercely intriguing in Paris: a subtle allusion to Russian émigrés and their squabbles in Paris in the twenties and thirties.

107: the full habit of body: on the basis of statements in the play Hamlet is sometimes considered to be plump; e.g., the queen says during the fined duel scene, “He's fat and out of breath” (5.2.289). But the word fat has sometimes been glossed as “out of shape” or “sweating.”

107: Kronberg's translation: see note to 118 (“the real thing”).

107: Wern, who is weak and prefers ideas to words: Wern is based on the German critic H.A. Werner (see FVH 2:342); some of his sociological criticism is quoted verbatim (without attribution) on 108.

108: the late Professor Hamm's extraordinary work “The Real Plot of Hamlet”: a parody of wildly imaginative literary criticism and esp. of social interpretations of literature. Hamm's pronouncements are tinged with a Nazi exaltation of Nordic strength and with anti-Semitism. His emphasis on collectivism and the sovereignty of the masses links him to both Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. In inventing the opus of Hamm, Nabokov uses commentary from a number of critics (esp. German critics) in FVH, often reworking certain of their ideas into his own fantasy.

108: iron and ice:?

108: Fortinbras (Ironside): See the discussion of the name in FVH 1:14, note 82, Latham's assertion that Fortinbras “is a corrupt French form, equivalent to Fierumbras or Fierabras, which is a derivative from ferri brachium; by translating brachium, side, we have Ironside. . .”

108: Kyd: Thomas Kyd, playwright who produced an early version of the Hamlet tale in the 1580's; Kyd's


play is considered the immediate source for Shakespeare's.

108: created the tragedy of the masses .. . founded the sovereignty of society over the individual: two direct quotations from Werner, FVH 2:342.

108: a blooming young knight, beautiful and sound to the core: quotation from Franz Horn, FVH 2:282; Nabokov has substituted the word knight for Horn's hero.

108: a plethora of words: quotation from Horn, FVH 2:283.

109: verbum sine ornatu: (Lat.) words without ornamentation.

109: go softly on: Hamlet, 4.4.8.

110: innerliche Unruhe: (Ger.) inner uneasiness, anxiety.

110: groundlings: spectators who stood in the yard to watch a play in Shakespeare's time, i.e., the lowest class of spectator. The word is used by Hamlet in 3.2.10.

110: “judgments,” “slaughters”: see Hamlet, 5.2.384: “Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters.”

110: Horatio the Recorder: allusion to Horatio's role in the play, that of recording and reporting events. As he is dying Hamlet asks Horatio to remain alive so as to “report me and my cause aright” (5.2.341).

110: this quarry cries on havoc (meaning: the foxes have devoured one another): the meaning of this phrase (5.2.366) is usually given as “this heap of dead announces indiscriminate slaughter.” See FVH 1:455, note 351, for other interpretations, none of which has anything to do with foxes devouring each other.

110: the old mole: compare Hamlet's jocular “Well said, old mole!” (1.5.162) as the ghost of his father thunders beneath the earth.

110: runs away with a shell on his head: see Hamlet, 5.2.189. As Osric departs (apparently putting on his hat, which he has doffed in Hamlet's presence), Horatio remarks, “This lapwing runs away with the shell on his head.” The lapwing was thought to run around with half its shell on its head right after being hatched.


110: the yolk of one b«» become the hone (os) of the other: the OED lists “yo” as an obsolete word associated with "yoak(e),” “oak,” “yoke,” and “yolk.” In dropping the “-ric-” from the names Osric and Yorick, one is left with “Os” and “Yok.” Despite Prof. Hamm's negative image, the word play he engages in here recalls word play by Krug and Ember and relates to the theme of words and letters running amuck that is so salient in Ch. 7. The Humbert or Kinbote type who describes his proposed film of Hamlet to Krug also indulges in paronomasia: “King Hamlet smiting with a pole axe the Polacks”; “a lass, a salix” (113).

110: mixing as he does the language of the shop and the ship: see John Dover Wilson, ed., Hamlet, 2nd ed. (Cambridge UP, 1954—originally published 1934) 245, note 114: “he [Osric] deserts the language of the shop for that of the ship.”

110: winged doublet: the fashion of Shakespeare's time was to have projections (“wings”) from the shoulders. Osric is described as wearing a winged doublet in stage directions given at the time of his entrance. See Wilson 126; 243, note 80.

111: padock (paddock): on the missing d see note to 105 (“shapska”). This word, meaning “toad,” is used by Hamlet in reference to Claudius (3.4.191). See also 3.2.288, where the word pajock (glossed by some commentators as “paddock,” by other as “peacock,” another creature considered repulsive by the Elizabethans) also refers to Claudius. Both words have obvious sound affinities with the name of the dictator of BS, Paduk. The word paddock is used in the first scene (witches' scene) of Macbeth.

111: bref, le personae en question: in a letter to Edmund Wilson (7 April 1947) Nabokov mentions what was to be his Speak, Memory under the provisional title The Person in Question. Nabokov seems fond of the words person and French personne because of their connections with the idea of “no one” or “one who wears a mask.” The hero of Transparent Things, e.g., is Hugh Person.

111: The priest mistook a blear-eyed old man belonging to Viola's party for the widower: this man


appears earlier as “a vague old man whom Krug had never met before” (84). He may be Polonius in the role of a mourner since Nabokov has several characters from Hamlet appearing in distorted images or cameo roles throughout BS. See, e.g., Polonius in his role of Chamberlain at Paduk's headquarters in Ch. 11, where the “dapper, heel-clicking aide-de-camp” (139) may be Osric. And several characters have Shakespearian names, such as Olga's sister Viola (heroine of Twelfth Night) and Krug's servant Claudina (from Claudius or Claudio in Hamlet or a variety of other Claudios in Shakespeare).

111:                     Ghostly apes swathed in sheets
               haunting the shuddering Roman streets.
               And the mobled moon ...


Compare Hamlet, 1.1.115-16: “The graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead/Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets.” Mobled (obsolete English): wrapped or muffled as in a hood. In Hamlet (2.2.509-11) the word is used in the repetitive phrase “the mobled queen.”

112: the green star of a glowworm: “The glowworm shows the matin to be near/And gins to pale his uneffectual fire” (Hamlet, 1.5.89-90). It seems to me that “glowworm” in the Hamlet passage refers metaphorically to the moon although it is not glossed as such. The words in the second line anticipate the title of a later Nabokov novel. Pale Fire, which actually draws its title from Timon of Athens: “The moon's an arrant thief, /And her pale fire she snatches from the sun” (4.3.438-39). In Hamlet see also “moons with borrowed sheen” (3.2.160). Critics have related this metaphor of “cosmic thievery” to Nabokov's art theme, the idea that one artist creates his own world on the basis of what he has learned or “stolen” from other artists. Cosmic thievery leads to genuine new creativity. See, e.g., D.E. Morton, Vladimir Nabokov (New York: Ungar, 1974) 125-27.

The glowworm as worm is one of the wingless females or larvae of beetles of the family Lampyridae, which emit light from some of the abdominal


segments. It, like the moon, apparently was considered a parasite. FVH 2:239 quotes Lord Burleigh as follows: "shake off those glowworms, I mean parasites and sycophants, who will feed and fawn upon thee in the summer of prosperitie.”

112: Hamlet's first soliloquy is delivered in an unweeded garden that has gone to seed: see Hamlet's famous reference to the world as “an unweeded garden/That grows to seed” (1.2.136-36).

112: A toad breathes and blinks: allusion to Claudius; see note to 111 (“padock”).

112: canescent: growing white or whitish (with a quibble on “cannon”; in effect, used here as an adjective for “cannon”).

112: Hamlet at Wittenberg . . . missing G. Bruno's lectures: see note to 115 (“Tschischwitz”).

112: pauldron, taces: terms for pieces of armor. The pauldron covers the shoulder where the body piece and arm piece join; the tace is one of a series of steel splints forming a short skirt.

112: Ratman: Polonius; when Hamlet hears Polonius cry out from behind the arras, he says, “How now? A rat?” then stabs him through the arras (3.4.25).

112: Switzers: Swiss guards employed by the Danish king; mentioned in Hamlet 4.5.97. [Specifically, there they guard the door; in modern (i.e., Chekhovian) Russian, such doormen are shveitsars, the Swiss having performed this role long enough to have become generic—CN.]

112: Hamlet's sea-gowned figure: see Hamlet's description of his voyage (5.2.13): “My sea-gown scarfed about me . . .”

112: Rosenstern and Guildenkranz, those gentle interchangeable twins: this passage, plus other parodies of Hamlet in Ch. 7, may have inspired Stoppard's play, Rosencranz and Guildenstern Are Dead. Nabokov is especially attracted to the image of dream doubles that these characters present.

112: “who came to heal and went away to die”: ?

112: a hawkfaced shabby man whose academic career had been suddenly brought to a close by an


awkwardly timed love affair: this man has much in common with Pale Fire's Kinbote because of the references to the killing of a king and to suicide in his proposed film of Hamlet, but his preoccupation with young girls (113) recalls Lolita's Humbert. [Alfred Appel has suggested that the hawkfaced shabby man is James Joyce—CN.]

113: R. following young L.”: Polonius instructs his servant Reynaldo to spy on Laertes in France and report to him on Laertes' behavior (2.1).

113: Polonius in his youth acting Caesar: see Hamlet, 3.2.103-04.

113: King Hamlet smiting with a poleaxe the Polacks skidding and sprawling on the ice: Hamlet, 1.1.63: “He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice.” Some editions of the play print “pollax” here and others have argued that the word should read “poleax.” Nabokov, in effect, combines two readings by using both “poleaxe” and “Polacks.”

113: Ophelia's death: in emphasizing the details of Ophelia s death, Nabokov continues a long tradition in Russian literature. Russian poets have been particularly drawn to the scene of the drowning and persistently associate certain details with Ophelia: “the weaving of a garland, flowers, and drowning while singing a song”—Eleanor Rowe, Hamlet. A Window on Russia (New York: New York UP, 1976) 29.

113: another rivermaid's father: possible allusion to the old miller, father of the unfortunate river maiden in Pushkin's Rusalka. See note to 114 (“Russalka letheana”). But in his introduction Nabokov says that this other rivermaid's father “is James Joyce, who wrote Winnipeg Lake" (xii). See note to 114 (“Winnepeg Lake”).

113: salix: a large genus of shrubs and trees (the willows, osiers, and sallows).

113: sliver: branch, the word is taken from the Queen's description of Ophelia's death (4.7.173).

113: Cottonwood Canyon: there is a Cottonwood Canyon on the west side of the northern Bighorn Mountains, sixteen miles east of Lovell, in northern Wyoming. Another is located in SW Utah, and there


are probably several others in various other western states.

113: Nova Avon: not identified. Possibly a fictitious river, based on Shakespeare's Avon of Stratford. [Fictitious river but real palindrome—CN.]

113: ectoplastic: ectoplasmic—in spiritualism ectoplasm is the emanation from a spiritualistic medium.

114: a liberal shepherd: “liberal” is used as the queen uses it in Hamlet (4.7.170) in the archaic meaning of “plain-spoken” or “foul-mouthed.” See note to 118 (“the real thing”).

114: Orchis mascula: the plant orchis (male orchis); from Gr. orchis, “testicle.” See note to 118 (“the real thing”).

114: her name can be derived from that of an amorous shepherd in Arcadia: see commentary by C. Elliot Browne in FVH 2:242: Shakespeare “probably adopted the name from the Arcadia of Sannazaro, where, in the form in which it appears in the first quarto edition, Ofelia, it is the name of one of the amorous shepherds of the ninth eclogue.”

114: an anagram of Alpheios, with the “S' lost in the damp grass: the lost s may have been picked up by “shapska” (see note to 105). Alpheios, also spelled Alpheus or Alpheuis (Gr. myth), is a god associated with the largest river of the Peloponnesus in Greece. He fell in love with the nymph Arethusa and pursued her under the sea to Sicily, where she was transformed into the fountain Arethusa; there he united his waters with hers. Arethusa is also the name of a North American plant of the orchis family (Arethusa bulbosa.).

114: Winnepeg Lake, ripple 585, Vico Press edition: allusion to Joyce's Finnegans Wake, first published by Viking Press in 1939. On 585 there is a long involuted description of copulation, with references to water, liquidity, etc. The sacred river Alph of Coleridge's “Kubla Khan” may be derived from the Alpheus River (previous note) mentioned here. Joyce begins Finnegans Wake with a quotation from “Kubla Khan.” Nabokov's original title for BS, The Person from


Porlock, was taken from an incident involving Coleridge's being interrupted by a man from Porlock while writing down his dream vision of “Kubla Khan,” resulting in the fragmentary quality of the poem. See N/W Letters 86 and Carl Proffer, Keys to “Lolita” (Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1968) 12-13. The phrase “suited his liquidity to a tee,” immediately preceding the Winnepeg Lake allusion, is a take-off on Joyce's word play with the song “Tea for Two,” Finnegans Wake 584. [For further material on “Winnepeg Lake,” see my article on the Introduction to Bend Sinister in the first issue of Nabokov Studies—CN]

It is debatable to what extent Nabokov bases his word-play with Shakespearian themes on Joyce. Surely he was addicted to word-play long before he had read Joyce, but esp. in regard to Shakespeare, Joyce seems to have been something of a model. Finnegans Wake is full of allusions to Hamlet, Ophelia, Claudius, etc. Francis Bacon also plays a role in FW as a leading pretender to the authorship of Shakespeare's works. “King Hamlaugh,” “camelot, prince of dinmurk” (FW, 79, 84, 143), and many other puns certainly would appeal to Nabokov. But in his interviews he has expressed disdain for FW (“nothing but a formless and dull mass of phony folklore, a cold pudding of a book, a persistent snore in the next room”), and has asserted that he studied Ulysses seriously only in the fifties (after BS had been published). See Strong Opinions 71. Nabokov does admit that FW has “infrequent snatches of heavenly intonations” (ibid.). Anyone indefatigable enough to wade through FW for possible influences on BS or any other Nabokov works could utilize A. Glasheen's A Second Census of “Finnegans Wake” (Evanston: Northwestern UP, 1963), which contains detailed references to the Shakespeare allusions in FW.

114: Vico Press edition: Viking Press, but also an allusion to Giambattista Vico (1668-1744), author of La Scienza Nuova (1725). The Italian philosopher Vico influenced Joyce in FW (as did G. Bruno—see note to 115). Vico's cyclical theory of history (“according to which there are various stages of growth and decay in a


society’s life that are intrinsically connected with one another”) is relevant to the themes of BS. Also of relevance to Nabokov is the fact that Vico's writings convinced Goethe “that the evolution of humanity should be represented not by a continually ascending line but by a spiral.” Quotations from Ency. Brittanica, 15th ed., Macropaedia, 19:103-05. On Vico in BS see also S.F. Schaeffer, “Bend Sinister and the Novelist as Anthropomorphic Deity,” Centennial Review 17 (Spring 1973): 139-40.

114: Greek rendering of an old Danske serpent name: “Miss Yonge, in her book upon Christian Names, hazards the conjecture that the word is a Greek rendering of an old Danske serpent-name like Ormilda.”—Browne in FVH 2:242.

114: Russalka letheana: an imaginary Latin designation from the Russian word for a kind of water nymph (rusalka) and the river of forgetfulness in Hades, Lethe. On the superfluous s see note to 105 (“shapska”). Nabokov has in mind Pushkin's unfinished verse drama Rusalka, in which a miller’s daughter, pregnant and rejected by her lover-prince, throws herself into the Dnieper River (Dnepr— mentioned in BS 113) and, upon drowning, turns into a water nymph. Nabokov wrote a concluding scene for this drama (published in the Russian émigré Novyi zhurnal 2, 1942), in which the now despondent prince is lured to his death in the water by the little rusalka (his daughter, born after her mother’s transformation). The final stage direction has Pushkin shrugging his shoulders.

114: to match your long purples: allusion to the Orchis mascula, mentioned above by Krug, and to the Hamlet passage (4.7.169); see note to 118 (“the real thing”) and to 115 (“teasing her secret”).

114: She proved to be a kitchen wench too: ?

114: Ophelia, serviceableness: Ruskin interprets the name as meaning “serviceableness” in FVH 2: 241.

114: ophidian: Ophidia is the division of the reptiles consisting of snakes or serpents.

115: teasing her secret with the dead man's finger: in Hamlet the “long purples” (orchids) are given a


coarse name by "liberal shepherds” (see note to 114) but “our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them” (4.7.171). See note to 118 (“the real thing”).

115: I loved her like forty thousand brothers: see Hamlet, 5.1.269-70.

115: We were all Lamord's pupils: the name Lamord comes up briefly in Hamlet in reference to a marvelous French horseman who praises Laertes' skill with the rapier (4.7.92). The name varies in different quartos and editions (Lamond, Lamound, Lamont, Lamode). The reference to “Lamord's pupils” is unclear to me. [Possibly “we were all death's (la mort) pupils”—CN.] 115: undine: a water nymph, roughly equivalent to Russian rusalka.

115: l’aurore grelottant en robe rose et verte: (Fr.) the shivering dawn in a dress of pink and green. Recalls Horatio's famous line in Hamlet, “the morn in russet mantle clad/Walks o’er the dew of yon high eastward hill” (1.1.166-67).

115: “Telemachos,” . . . which means “fighting from afar”: a combining form, Gr. t  le-, t  l-, from t  le, meaning “far, far off,” used to denote “operating at a distance” (Webster's, 2nd. ed.); machos, Gr. mach, “fight, battle.”

115: Worte, worte, worte. Warts, warts, warts: Nabokov quotes a famous passage from Hamlet (2.2.193) in German and then mistranslates it back into English. Another illustration of how words can take on shapes, sometimes rather grotesque shapes, of their own when the disease of paronomasia runs rampant; note also the “madhouse of consonants” in Tschischwitz, next note.

115: My favourite commentator is Tschischwitz, a madhouse of consonants: Dr. Benno Tschischwitz “maintains that Shakespeare drew much of his philosophy in Hamlet from Giordano Bruno.” He would be one of Krug's (and Nabokov's) favorites since “according to Bruno’s atomic theory there is no such thing as death, but merely a separation and combination of atoms.” Nabokov also derives his idea of having Hamlet attend Bruno's lectures in Wittenberg (112) from Tschischwitz, who mentions that Bruno


delivered lectures at Wittenberg “during the very year Hamlet was a student there” (FVH 2:331-32).

In several other ways Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) is important to the themes of BS. His acceptance of the Copernican heliocentric system led to his being burned at the stake in Rome. This relates to the theme of the fearless individual thinker who is persecuted by the state or the communality. Much of his philosophy also seems amenable to that of Krug and Nabokov: (1) His idea of the unity of opposites and the identity of the minimum and maximum. (2) His pantheistic approach to nature (note the many instances of animism in BS; e.g., the room that speaks to Krug at the beginning of Ch. 6). (3) His idea that form and matter are intimately united to constitute the “one.” This monistic conception of the world implies “the basic unity of all substances and the coincidence of opposites in the infinite unity of Being” (Encycl. Brittanica, 15th ed., Macropaedia 3:346).

In its cyclical structure and ideology, BS seems more akin to the ideas of Bruno than to the ideas of linear progress, expounded by such men as Bacon and Pascal (who are also cited in BS). The whole novel is adamantly opposed to a progressivistic conception of history and the faith in infinite progress so common in Western philosophy from the seventeenth century on. See Mircea Eliade, The Myth of the Eternal Return (Princeton: Princeton UP, 1954), 145-56.

On the “mad consonant” issue, see also 226, where a Russian word of two letters has eight in its (apparently) German spelling: schtshchi (a Russian cabbage soup). See also note to 105 (“shapska”) and Nabokov's introduction (ix), where paronomasia is described as “a contagious sickness in the world of words.”

115: soupir de petit chien: (Fr.) sigh (whine) of a small dog

115: Elsinore is an anagram of Roseline: In Shakespeare a Rosaline appears (offstage) in Romeo and Juliet. Another Rosaline is heroine of Love's Labours Lost. Rosalind is heroine of As You Like It. The Rosalines are supposedly related to the “dark


lady” of Shakespeare's sonnets. The rose leitmotif runs throughout BS.

115: he returns to Ophelia: for the rest of this passage Ember is shown in the process of creating his own private Ophelia, based upon at least partially subconscious reminiscences of the “Esthonian housemaid” (116) of his childhood. What he calls “this authentic Ophelia” is really authentic only to him, demonstrating how creative art leads to creation anew, an individual creation in each perceiver or absorber of art.

116: “her whole being floats in sweet ripe passion”: quoted, as stated, from Goethe's interpretation of Ophelia; see FVH 2:273.

116: Polonius-Pantolonius: Pantoloon is a word used for a doddering and ridiculous old man in Shakespeare (e.g., in the “Seven Ages” passage of As You Like It, 2.7.157). The word comes from Pantalone (Pantaloon), a stock character prone to long tirades and to officious behavior in the Italian commedia dell'arte.

116: vaguely androgynous: perhaps Nabokov has in mind the fact that the wife of Polonius (mother of Ophelia and Laertes) never appears and hardly even seems to exist in Hamlet.

116: Metternich: Austrian statesman (1173-1859).

116: The World Waltzes: ? [Probably a mangled reference to Waltz Time (operetta film made 1932, remade 1945), including as a character the Empress of Austria and somewhat of a rip-off of Die Fledermaus— CN.]

117: a certain Claudio: see Hamlet, 4.7.40.

117: Bestrafter Brudermord: a German play on the Hamlet theme, called Der Bestrafte Brudermord, oder Prinz Hamlet aus Daennemark (Fratricide Punished, or Prince Hamlet of Denmark), was published in 1781 from an ms. dated 1710. See FVH 2:141-42.

117: Italian or Italianate jester: he may have made an appearance earlier in BS in the role of an “Italianate mendicant” (38).

117: your beer is sour: the so-called quibbles here seem completely fanciful. The word soar in the


meaning of “to pull, to twitch off' does not appear in any dictionary I have consulted or in Shakespeare. The phrase “Your beer is sour” is used in the First Quarto. See the passage quoted in J.D. Wilson 197 note.

118: Ubit' il’ ne ubit'? Vot est' oprosen: this is a take-off on the “To be or not to be” soliloquy (3.1) in a mixture of Russian and the vernacular. The first four words (which are Russian, quibbling on the Russian for “to be or not to be,” byt' ili ne byt') mean “to kill or not to kill” and suggest what Nabokov has called a common interpretation of the soliloquy: “Is my killing of the king to be or not to be?” See the letter in which he explains to Wilson the first sentence in the French translation that follows this page of BS: L'égorgerai-je ou non? (Should I slit his throat [slaughter him] or not?), N/W 185. Karlinsky's commentary to this letter (186) explains the German and Russian roots in Ember’s rendering of these four lines. Nabokov (or Ember) amuses himself by translating his four lines in the vernacular into French. See also a brief discussion of Hamlet in another N/W letter (159).

118: the real thing: for Nabokov, Russian, his native tongue, is the most “real” language in the confusion of tongues that is BS (see Antonina Filonov Gove, “Multilingualism and Ranges of Tone in Nabokov's Bend Sinister,” Slavic Review 32.1 (1973): 84-87). Here he presents his Russian translation of a passage from Hamlet (4.7.166-69) , the queen's description of Ophelia as she prepares to drown herself, and translates the Russian back into literal English. Shakespeare:

            There is a willow grows askant the brook.
That shows his hoar leaves in the glassy stream:
Therewith fantastic garlands did she make
Of crowflowers, nettles, daisies, and long purples.

Nabokov's Russian translation, which leaves out the long purples, ends here; the Shakespeare passage continues:


           That liberal shepherds give a grosser name,
But our cold maids do dead men's fingers call them.

The “grosser name” for the long purple, a species of orchid, is a phallic reference; according to Anthony Burgess, Shakespeare (New York: Knopf, 1970) 198, it is “bulls' pizzles.” See notes to 114 (“Orchis mascula" and “long purples”). On the orchid leitmotif in Nabokov's Ada, see Bobbie Ann Mason, Nabokov's Garden (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1974) 72-92.

In Pnin Nabokov also makes reference to this Hamlet passage and relates Ophelia's mad behavior to pagan Russian spring rituals:

During a festive week in May—the so-called Green Week which graded into Whitsuntide—peasant maidens would make wreaths of buttercups and frog orchises: then, singing snatches of ancient love chants, they hung these garlands on riverside willows; and on Whitsunday the wreaths were shaken down into the river, where, unwinding, they floated like so many serpents while the maidens floated and chanted among them. (77)

Nabokov attributes this passage to “Kostromskoy’s voluminous work (Moscow, 1855), on Russian myths.” Kostromskoy and his voluminous work are probably mythical, a parody of Frazer's Golden Bough. The name could be based on Kostroma, one of the mythical figures of the Russian spring or midsummer rituals described by Frazer; see abridged ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1922 [Collier/Macmillan pbk 1985—CN]) 369-70. In his invented passage Nabokov alludes to Ophelia by inserting telling details such as “frog orchises” and “riverside willows.” In Russian spring and midsummer rituals the most common sacred tree was the birch, not the willow. [See Gennadi Barabtarlo, Phantom of Fact (Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1989) 137-38 for Russian sources for the Kostroma rituals— CN.)

Tim Pnin also reinforces the idea of Russian as “the real thing,” the genuine language, since for him


Hamlet is more real “in good old Andrey Kroneberg's Russian translation, 1844” (79) than in Shakespeare's English. The translator A.I. Kroneberg (18147-1855) is mentioned as “Kronberg” on BS 107, a name also given to a snow-capped mountain in Pale Fire.

119: Ne dumaete-li vy, sudar’: Russian translation of Hamlet's comment on 3.2.279-82. After Claudius has stormed out of the play within a play, Hamlet recites a song:

Why, let the strucken deer go weep,
The hart ungallèd play:
For some must watch, while some must sleep:
Thus runs the world away.

Then comes the passage quoted in the Russian of BS: “Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers—if the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me—with two Provincial roses on my razed shoes, get me a fellowship in a cry of players, sir?”

To turn Turk means “to betray” or “to mistreat” and alludes to “the Turk” (Turok) who supposedly helps people flee the country (92, 178, 181) and to the betrayal of Krug by Quist (181-85) when he later makes efforts to flee. The song about the wounded deer recalls the auto accident involving Olga (see 31, 221, 226).

119: It was as if someone, having seen a certain oak tree: for the rest of this paragraph Nabokov ponders the possibilities and impossibilities of literary translation. The translation motif (see also 32) is used to question the possibilities of art itself. The question is: to what extent can art, “by means of ingenious combinations of parts, light effects, breeze-engendering engines . . . cast a shadow exactly similar to” the shadow cast by the “real” transcendental world that is out there somewhere beyond the boundaries of mundane life? Or is art simply a poor translation of “reality” just as the workaday world is a poor translation of the masterpiece that is the real world? Is art (including the art of this book) simply “an exaggerated and spiritualized replica of Paduk's writing machine”?


120: I do not like the colour of dawn's coat: the Hamlet passage alluded to is “the dawn in russet mantle clad,” etc. (1.1.166-67). In a French paraphrase the color is “rose et verte” (see note to 115). Commentators have described “russet” as ranging from reddish-brown to gray. In having Krug see russet “in a less leathery, less proletarian way” Nabokov may be alluding to (and objecting to) J.D. Wilson's interpretation: “The word ‘russet,' used to describe the indeterminate reddish-brown or grey of the sky at daybreak, recalls the coarse homespun cloth, which is its original sense, and so gives birth to the image of Dawn as a labourer mounting the hill to his work of the day, his mantle thrown across his shoulder” (xxxvi).

120: laderod kappe: (vernacular): russet mantle (?)

121: two organ-grinders in the back yard at the same time . . . something familiar about the whole thing: the organ-grinders (police spies) are an example of Paduk's obsession with collectivism; Krug says that in a situation that illustrates “the very emblem of oneness . . . we have an absurd duality.” The twin organ-grinders may conjure up a subconscious association with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the twin spies of Hamlet (see Julia Bader, Crystal Land [Berkeley: U of California P, 1972] 116).

The line of thought which Krug “cannot quite disentangle” may also be related to his ontological state. He is not entirely independent, but is an image of another being (the author), who merges with him periodically throughout BS to abolish the “absurd duality” or who uses agents within Krug’s own psyche to spy upon him—note mention of his “inner spy” (sogliadatai), 225. The doubling theme here (and throughout Nabokov's works) may also be connected with the question of the divided nature of the human spirit as manifested by the dual human brain (see Carl Sagan, The Dragons of Eden [New York: Ballantine, 1977] 180). Nabokov's interest in “disassociation” experiences is especially manifest in The Eye (Sogliadatai) and Despair. In BS a small part of Krug dispassionately observes him even in moments of


deepest emotion, as during sexual intercourse or when grieving. See, e.g., “the stranger quietly watching the torrents of local grief from an abstract bank” (7).

122: sound of the doorbell: this marks the end of the orgy of paronomasia and signals the intrusion of dull “reality” into the private fantasies of Krug and Ember.

123: Gott weiss was . . . Und so weiter: (Ger.) God know what. . . And so forth.

124: your little sister: Mariette, who later turns out to be the sister of this Frau Bachofen, has not yet appeared in the novel. Hustav and Frau Bachofen (Linda) have been foreshadowed by the man and woman on the bridge in Ch. 2 (13, 20). The third Bachofen sister appears on 224.

125: “This idiot here has come to arrest you,” said Krug in English: this is, oddly enough, one of the few statements actually made in English in a book that is narrated primarily in English.

125: Heraus, Mensch, marsch: (Ger.) Get out, man, move. A similar Russian command is used on 201: Marsh vniz.

126: (How if I answer “no”?): Hamlet's reply to Osric when the latter presents him with the king's invitation to engage in a fencing match with Laertes (5.2.172).

126: if you have slipped a little porcelain owl— which I do not see—into your bag: later it turns out that Frau Bachofen could not have stolen the owl from Ember since Olga had bought it for him but never given it to him (137; see also 202).

126-27: exciting words beginning with M and V: apparently the most obscene words in the vernacular begin with these letters.

127: Et voilà . . . et me voici . . .: (Fr.) And so ... so it's me too . . . Un pauvre bonhomme qu'on traine en prison. A poor fellow who's being hauled off to jail. Je suis souffrant, je suis en détresse. I'm sick; I'm in misery.

127: Sit down ... A moment of silence: ironic observation of the Russian custom of sitting in silence for a moment before leaving on a journey.


127: Poetry and philosophy must brood, while beauty and strength—: an echo of some of the German critics mocked previously by Nabokov in the “Prof. Hamm” books (108-10), the critics who decry Hamlet’s brooding inactivity and extol Fortinbras as the genuine hero and man of action.

127: Il est saoul:(Fr.) He’s drunk.

182: cette petite Phryné qui se croit Ophélie: (Fr.) that little Phryne who thinks she’s Ophelia. Phryne: Greek courtesan of the 4th Cent. B.C. Phryne, meaning “toad,” was her nickname; her real name was Mnesarete. Bader (116) considers Quist, the antique dealer and police informer whose words are quoted here, to be a distorted image of Laertes.

204: Anything, anything, anything, anything, anything: allusion to a famous line in King Lear (5.3), “Never, never, never, never, never.” In speaking of the former President, who was caught fleeing the country, Yanovsky says, “We are all alone. Like King Lear” (44). Late in the novel Krug himself is often described in a way suggesting Lear. See David I. Scheidlower, “Reading Between the Lines and the Squares,” Modem Fiction Studies 25.3 (1979): 416.

236: Olga and the boy taking part in some silly theatricals, she getting drowned: in Krug's insane mind he confuses Olga's death with that of Ophelia.

Other brief references to Shakespeare: 63: the dream of Ch. 5 is compared to the churchyard scene of Hamlet (5.1); 76: assuming that everyone is made equal after death, Shakespeare would still smile patronizingly “on seeing a former scribbler of hopelessly bad plays blossom anew as the Poet Laureate of heaven”; 83: Krug and Ember “discuss the possibility of their having invented in toto the works of William Shakespeare, spending millions and millions on the hoax.”

—Robert Bowie, Miami University of Ohio




In Speak, Memory, Chapter Two, section 4, Nabokov discusses the memories carried into exile by his mother. Speaking of her “pitiable lodgings” in Prague after 1923, he notes that she kept near her a cluster of “dim little photographs,” but that she does not really need them, since “nothing had been lost.” He elaborates:

As a company of traveling players carry with them everywhere, while they still remember their lines, a windy heath, a misty castle, an enchanted island, so she had with her all that her soul had stored.

Those “traveling players” probably strike most of us as having wandered out of Hamlet and into a figure of speech in the autobiography. Indeed, Hamlet was by far Nabokov's favorite Shakespeare play, and the greatest source of Bardic allusions in his works; Lear, The Tempest, and Macbeth (along, perhaps, with Romeo and Juliet and Pale Fire's Timon of Athens) are also very commonly cited. In this case, the settings locked in the players' minds with their scripts seem rather familiar Shakespearean locales.

I would nominate King Lear for the first scene. In Nabokov's favorite (Oxford) edition of Shakespeare, the stage direction and beginning of Act III, scene ii is “Another Part of the Heath. Storm still. Enter Lear and Fool. Lear. Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks!'" There Eire some pretty windy heaths in Macbeth, too.

The “misty castle” might well be the one at Elsinore where, in Hamlet I, i, on the ramparts, nobody can quite make out who anybody else is.

And the “enchanted island” can only be The Tempest's strange and magical Caribbean venue somehow located between Tunis and Italy where Prospero guards his books and his daughter and weaves his spells. As it happens, this is a set Nabokov and his readers have visited before:


In fact, I would have the reader see “nine” and “fourteen” as the boundaries—the mirrory beaches and rosy rocks—of an enchanted island haunted by those nymphets of mine and surrounded by a vast misty sea. (Lolita 18)

—Samuel Schuman, The University of North Carolina at Asheville


3. Part 1, Chapter 3 by Brian Boyd

For original annotations, see PDF of  Number 32 (Spring 1994) The Nabokovian  and for updated version, see Ada Online


by Peter Evans

Most of the items listed below have not appeared in the annual Nabokov bibliographies. All of the authors are either English-speakers (Americans, British, etc.) or Japanese. I use Japanese order (surname first) for all Japanese people—the reverse of normal US journalistic practice. Many of the Japanese-language articles also have English titles. I add these in parentheses. English titles in brackets are my own translations.

Many of the journals have two titles, one in Japanese script, another (perhaps mostly for show, and typically in English) in roman letters. Most of these journals will be unobtainable outside Japan, and many libraries in Japan do not bother to catalogue them under their alternative titles. Therefore it seems a good idea to give the Japanese title, even for non-Japanese consumption. I present the two as: Japanese-Script Title / Roman-Letter Title.

A number of the journals are in fact annuals, and these tend to be published toward the end of the academic year (April-March). Thus the 1988 issue of a periodical may well have come out in March of 1989. I have made some effort to look for clearer signs of when such periodicals were published. Also, commercially published magazines typically come out toward the end of the month before the month before (sic!) that on the cover: October may mean the end of August.

I have used the Hepburn romanization system (by far the commonest), except that (i) to indicate long vowels, I have added letters rather than use macrons (horizontal lines over the letters, which are fiendishly difficult to create with most software), (ii) I have used


the familiar forms of place names (thus Tokyo rather than the correct Toukyou).

Japanese universities publish dozens of journals, and there are numerous overlaps among their unmemorable titles. All the university libraries here that I am familiar with file university periodicals under the name of the university. I have added the place of publication for journals with as much detail as I think might be useful.

Unless otherwise noted, my source for anything not seen is Zassaku, the standard online Japanese bibliography of academic journal articles. I have found it extremely reliable so far.

Primary, in English

Lolita. Kyoto: Rinsen Book Co., 1990.

Photographic reprint of the 1955 Putnam’s edition. This book came out as one of a very expensive (but excellently produced) series marketed for libraries. The books are unavailable separately.

Primary, Japanese translations

Miwakusha Translation by Izubuchi Hiroshi of The Enchanter. Tokyo: Kawade Shobou Shinsha, 1991.

Nabokofu no ichidaasu. Translation by Nakanishi Hideo of Nabokov’s Dozen. Tokyo: Chikuma Shobou, 1991. A reprint, but from a new publisher.

Nabokofu no Don Kihoote kougi. Translation by Namekata Akio and Kawashima Hiromi of Lectures on Don Quixote. Tokyo: Shoubunsha, 1992.

Tamamono. Extensively revised version of the translation by Ootsu Eiichirou of The Gift. 2 vols. Tokyo: Fukutake Shoten, 1991.


Yuriika / Eureka Special Issue The larger part (pp. 41-193) of the October 1991 issue (vol. 21, no. 11) of Yuriika / Eureka (Tokyo) is devoted to Nabokov. This issue is entitled Nabokofu—Aruiwa boumei no nijisseiki translatable as Nabokov; or, The Twentieth Century of Exile.


Kanpeki. Translation by Numano Mitsuyoshi of “Perfection.” 49-60.

Ongaku. Translation by Fujikawa Yoshiyuki of “Music.” 42-48.

Nabokofu shokan—Roriita o megutte [Nabokov’s correspondence: About Lolita]. Translated by Miyake Akiyoshi and Eda Takaomi. 158-72. A note at the end says that a translation of a book of correspondence (presumably Selected Letters) is forthcoming from the publisher Misuzu Shobou.

(With Robert Robinson.)—'Nabokofu rasuto intavyuu. Translation by Yasuno Rei of  'The Last Interview. 70-77.

Secondary: Articles

Izubuchi Hiroshi. “Kodoku na shojo yuuwakusha no musou—Nabokofu Miwakusha ni tsuite” [“The vision of a solitary seducer of girls: On Nabokov’s The Enchanter.”] 89-95.

Kaizawa Hajime. “Nabokofu no Roshia” [Nabokov’s Russia]. 173-183.

Numano Mitsuyoshi. “Nabokofu wa dorekurai 'Roshia no sakka’ ka?” [How Russian a Writer is Nabokov?] 100-107.

Yachida Hiromasa. “Fushigi no kuni no Roriita” [Lolita in Wonderland.] 78-88.

Secondary: Notes, Biographical, Miscellaneous

Arakawa Youji. Aidoru [Idol]. 68-9.

Poem about Margot (of Laughter in the Dark).

Fujikawa Yoshiyuki. Peetaa to Nabokofu— Oboegaki fuu ni [Pater and Nabokov: A note]. 96-9.

Imamura Tateo. Nabokofu no Amerika taiken Nabokofu shouden—Amerika ijuu no ato ni [Nabokov’s experience of America: A short biography of Nabokov: After his emigration to America]. 144-57.


Isahaya Yuichi. Boumei-sakka no tanjou—Nabokofu shouden—Amerika ijuu [The birth of a novelist of exile: A short biography of Nabokov: To his emigration to America]. 128-43.

Matoba Izumi. Nabokofu toshokan [The Nabokov library.] 184-193. Brief descriptions of a number of books by Nabokov.

Sugiura Etsuko. Kaisou no Nabokofu [The Nabokov of recollections]. 108-27.

Secondary, in English


Maruyama Michiyo. “Narrative Strategy and Its Failure in a Dramatized Confession: On the Former Section of Nabokov’s Lolita.” Amerika Bungaku Kenkyuu / Studies in American Literature (Tokyo), no. 25(1988), 119-35. Not seen.

Petersen, Mark. “The Vision of America in Lolita.” Meiji Daigakh Kyouyou Ronshuu / The Bulletin of Arts and Sciences, Meiji University (Tokyo), no. 206 (March 1988)j 147-55.

Quinn, Brian T. “Aspects of Nabokov’s Transition to English Prose in The Real Life of Sebastian Knight. ” Eigo-Eibungaku Ronsou / Studies in English Language and Literature (Fukuoka: Kyushu University), no. 40 (February 1990), 81-101.

Quinn, Brian T. “Memory as Reality in Nabokov’s World.” Kyushu American Literature / Kyuushuu Amerika Bungaku (Fukuoka: Kyushu University), no. 30 (December 1989), 1-9.

Quinn, Brian T. “The Occurence [sic] of French Idiomatic Phrases in Nabokov’s Lolita. ” Eigo-Eibungaku Ronsou / Studies in English Language and Literature (Fukuoka: Kyushu University), no. 39 (February 1989), 85-111.


Notes, Citations

Evans, Peter. Tiny Curlicues: Nicholson Baker’s Room Temperature. Housei Daigaku Bungakubu Kiyou / Bulletin of Faculty of Letters, Hōsei University (Tokyo), no. 37 (1991), 1-24.


Secondary, in Japanese


Fujikawa Yoshiyuki. Bungaku to kioku—Waazuwasu, Puruusuto, Nabokofu [Literature and memory: Wordsworth, Proust, Nabokov], Gengo Seikatsu (Tokyo), no. 412 (issue on memory, March 1986), 46-54. Already listed, in The Nabokovian no. 19—but the writer’s name has been inverted (and misspelt).

Isahaya Yuuichi. “Denki no houhou o motomete— Ruujin no bougyo o megutte.” (The pursuit of the method of biography: On Nabokov’s Defense.) Jinbun-Kagaku Ronshuu / Studies in Humanities (Matsumoto: Shinshu University), no. 20 (March

1986), 79-88. Already listed, in The Nabokovian no. 19—but the writer’s name has been inverted.

Isahaya Yuuichi. Geijutsuka no kyoufu—Nabokofu no shouki tanpen no sekai kara. (Terror of an Artist— From Nabokov’s Early Short Stories.) Jinbun-Kagaku Ronshuu / Studies in Humanities (Matsumoto: Shinshu University), no. 21 (March 1987), 95-104.

Isahaya Yuuichi. Tousou toshite no janru—Bafuchin, Nabokofu, Shosutakouvichi [Genres as conflict: Bakhtin, Nabokov, Shostakovich]. Gendai Shisou / Revue de la pensée d’aujourd’hui, vol. 18, no. 2 (Bakhtin issue, February 1990), 120-32.

Matoba Izumi. “Nabokofu no shousetsu ni mirareru shojo-zou no hensen.” (The Development of Young Girls in Nabokov’s Novels.) Eibeibungaku Hyouron / Essays and Studies in British and American Literature (Tokyo Women’s Christian University), no. 37 (1991), 97-112. Perhaps actually published in 1992.


Morohashi Shigetoshi. Boruhesu to Nabokofu—Futari no tagengo-sakka ni tsuite. (Borges and Nabokov.) Eibungaku / English Literature (Tokyo: Waseda University), no. 60 (1984), 110-118. Perhaps actually published in 1985.

Nakai Yoshiyuki. “Urajimiiru Nabokofu botsugo juunen.” (Vladimir Nabokov: Ten Years after His Death.) Seikei Daigaku Bungakubu Kiyou / Bulletin of the Faculty of Humanities, Seikei University (Musashino, Tokyo), no. 22 (1986), 75-85. Includes “Oregon de kaita shiku, Nakai's translation of Lines Written in Oregon.” Perhaps actually published in 1987.

Nakao Hidehiro. ‘“Nostalgia in reverse’—Nabokofu no Maashenka ni tsuite.” ( Nostalgia in reverse’: On Nabokov’s Mary.) Toukyou Shousen Daigaku Kenkyuu Houkoku: Jinbun-Kagaku / Journal of the Tokyo University of Mercantile Marine (Humanities and Social Sciences), no. 36 (December 1985), 21-8. Includes abstract in English.

Nakao Hidehiro. ‘Shifuku’ to "senritsu’ to "serufumeeto’—Nabokofu no Bougyo. (Bliss, Horror, and Self-Mate: Nabokov’s The Defense.) Meiji Daigaku Kyouyou Ronshuu / The Bulletin of Arts and Sciences, Meiji University (Tokyo), no. 206 (March 1988), 45-62.

Sugimoto Kazunao. “Sousaku suru katarite—V. Nabokofu no 'Bahhaman’ o megutte.” (The Creative Narrators in Some Works by Vladimir Nabokov.) Roshiyago Roshiyabungaku Kenkyuu (Tokyo), no. 22 (October 1990), 85-101. With an abstract in English.

Suzuki Akira. Janru no yuuwaku—Nabokofu to juuhasseiki eibungaku. (The Seduction of Genre: Vladimir Nabokov and the [sic] Eighteenth-Century English Literature.) Gakushuuin Daigaku Bungakubu Kenkyuu Nenpou / The Annual Collection of Essays


and Studies, Faculty of Letters (Tokyo: Gakushuin University), no. 37 (1990, March 1991), 109-27.

Wakashima Tadashi. “Lolita o yomu—1—Who is Quilty/guilty?” (Who is Quilty/guilty: Readings of Lolita (1).) Eibungaku Hyouron / Review of English Literature (Kyoto: Kyoto University), no. 62 (October 1991), 97-110. Half of the Japanese title is in English.

Wakashima Tadashi. “Lolita o yomu—2—Charlotte no bourei” [Charlotte’s ghost: Reading Lolita (2)]. The Albion (Kyoto: Kyoto University), n.s., no. 37 (October 1991), 97-110. The journal has only an English title.

Wakashima Tadashi. “Nabokofu no toumei na sekai” [Nabokov’s transparent world]. Kobe Miscellany (Kobe: Kobe University), no. 12 (1985), 53-66. The journal has only an English title. Perhaps actually published in 1986.

Wakashima Tadashi. “Nabokofu no yume no heya— 'Terra Incognita’ o iriguchi toshite.” (Nabokovian Dream Room—Entered through Terra Incognita’.) Eibungaku Hyouron / Review of English Literature (Kyoto: Kyoto University), no. 56 (October 1988), 51-66.

Wakashima Tadashi. “Nabokofu to tsume-chesu.” (Nabokov and Chess Problems.) Kobe Daigaku Kyouyoubu Ronshuu / The Ronshu (Kobe: Kobe University), no. 36 (October 1985), 33-48.

Reviews, Review-Essays
Ikeuchi Osamu. Roriita to Don Kihoote: V. Nabokofu-cho Namekata Akio, Kawashima Hiromi-yaku Nabokofu no Don Kihoote kougi [Lolita and Don Quixote: Namekata Akio and Kawashima Hiromi’s translation of Nabokov’s Lectures on Don Quixote], Bungakukai (Tokyo), vol. 49, no. 9 (September 1992), 267-70.

Matoba Izumi. Arata na kokoromi toshite no Nabokofu-den [A new attempt at a biography of


Nabokov], Eigo Seinen / The Rising Generation (Tokyo), vol. 138, no. 3 (June 1992), 121-3. A review-essay on the two volumes of Boyd’s biography. (Both this piece and Wakashima’s are about the biography in the original English: no Japanese translation has appeared.)

Wakashima Tadashi. Untitled review of Boyd’s The Russian Years. Eibungaku Kenkyuu / Studies in English Literature (Tokyo), vol. 69, no. 1 (September 1992), 195-200.


by Jeanne Ewart

(Abstract of a paper delivered at the Annual MLA Convention, Toronto, December 1993)

Nabokov’s Ada or Ardor. A Family Chronicle has often been treated as a joint narrative, with Van and Ada both participating in the telling of their story. With the exception of a few brief passages, however, Ada’s contributions are relegated—literally—to the novel’s margins, and disappear altogether after Part Two. This paper examines the role of Ada’s voice in her family chronicle, and suggests some reasons for her silence in the later portions of the narrative.

Ada’s forty-odd interventions in the first two parts of the novel serve to correct some of the excesses of Van’s style, gently reproving his overuse of pastiche, and chiding his pretentiousness. Ada also requests that portions of the story which show her in a particularly unfavorable light be removed, and she attempts to deflect criticism of Lucette's behavior. These editorial attempts do her little good: her protests on her own account are ignored, her stylistic suggestions disdained, her brief moments as an invited and acknowledged narrator tempered by Van’s impatient interruptions, and her final impassioned protest on behalf of her dead sister met with indifference.

I argue that Ada’s withdrawal from the text after Part Two is a response to her growing frustration with Van’s insistent domination of the narrative. Finding her textual voice ineffectual, she chooses silence, leaving Van to his solipsistic and narcissistic account. Ada’s abandonment of the memoir means that the reader can no longer rely on her commentary to balance Van’s self-important excesses, and further diminishes what sympathy the reader may have felt for him. This, I think, is precisely Nabokov’s intention. Brian Boyd argues persuasively in


Nabokov’s Ada that Nabokov passes covert moral judgment on Van for his treatment of Lucette and other women, and rightly points out that Lucette, who is not even named in Van’s family synopsis, is at the moral center of the novel. I would add that Ada’s withdrawal from Van’s record of their lives points the reader towards that position, and that, denied authorship, she still effectively communicates to the reader— through silence—the message that Van refuses to hear in her commentary.

In the final portions of the novel Van remains time-locked in Ardis with his remembered Ada, while Ada herself grows up, and leaves the childhood Eden behind to assume responsibility for those whose lives she affects. Hence her refusal to abandon her slowly dying husband, her regret for her role in Lucette’s suicide, and her objection to the indifference of Van’s record. In the novel’s final pages only Ada confronts their mutual guilt (‘we teased her to death!”), while Van concentrates on his own physical discomfort. The reader understands that Ada can serve as a representative of Nabokov’s own position because she is no longer Van’s spiritual twin, if still his intellectual companion.


by John Lavagnino

(Abstract of a paper delivered at the Annual MLA Convention, Toronto, December 1993)

The Gift confidently imagines an eternal realm with an orientation towards human concerns: we will meet the dead again there, and its agents of fate intervene benevolently in this world. But Nabokov’s thinking


about eternity seems to shift not long afterwards: in "Ultima Thule" the character who makes contact with the eternal realm, Falter, becomes radically alienated from human concerns, and may merely be a fraud. This concept of an eternity that is distant from worldly moral concerns, and is unstable as a source of truth, is developed most completely in Pale Fire.

John Shade's poem asserts that eternity never serves worldly ends. Instead, the influence of eternity creates patterns by the manipulation of accident, as in the incident of the misprint: by its influence on apparently random events, the eternal realm breaks patterns of worldly significance in unexpected ways, and creates patterns with significance on the eternal plane alone. The paradigmatic example of such influence is Shade's murder. From the worldly point of view, this incident undermines Shade's views: he said he was as sure of them as of waking up the next morning, and he never does wake up the next morning because he gets killed first. But this is just how Shade said eternity works: it goes against worldly expectations, and it does that through sheer accident.

This system of belief offers us little consolation, however: though it promises survival after death, it suggests that this world will retain an ineluctable element of random tragedy. The treatment of Hazel Shade's death makes this clear: Shade does not attempt to represent it as part of a pattern originating in eternity, and he finds little consolation for it. Shade's insistence on the enduring importance of worldly existence, no matter what the nature of eternity is, suggests that eternity is actually peripheral to the deepest concerns of the later Nabokov.


by Antje Thole

(Abstract of a paper delivered at the Annual MLA Convention, Toronto, December 1993)

Nabokov’s treatment of death in Pale Fire situates him—as most recent criticism has done—as a modernist on the brink of postmodernism. Nabokov’s most death-obsessed novel is deeply concerned with the fundamental uncertainty about the transcendental shared by modernism and postmodernism alike. Where the two literary periods diverge in their attitude towards death, Pale Fire incorporates them both—by undermining its own modernism by postmodern, deconstructive moves which manifest a radical uncertainty about life and death: Thus, John Shade’s profoundly modernist discovery of a meaningful pattern behind the fragmented evidence he finds for an afterlife is radically questioned by his own sudden death. And while John Shade’s assassination is initially neatly aligned with the end of his narrative poem “Pale Fire,” this traditional linkage of narrative silence with death is disrupted by Charles Kinbote’s problematic ‘continuation’ of Pale Fire beyond Shade’s death. Ultimately, Kinbote’s own anticipated suicide, which does coincide with the end of his commentary, seems to reaffirm Nabokov’s modernist and even premodernist association of death with narrative endings. However, this association is completely dissolved in the late Transparent Things, a novel which emphasizes the postmodern element in Nabokov’s treatment of death and the afterlife.