NABOKV-L post 0020644, Wed, 1 Sep 2010 09:16:22 -0300

Re: [Fwd: Re: Botkin]
M.Roth to JF ["Kinbote's sporadic awareness that he's somehow connected to Botkin may be psychologically strange, but I think it's fine for fiction."]
Jerry's observation (the psychological strangeness of Botkin's condition) has been too rarely acknowledged. The Index, written by Kinbote, seems to reveal not only that Kinbote actually is Botkin, but that Kinbote knows that he actually is Botkin. While a lot of critical ink has been spilled investigating the first revelation, it seem to me that the latter revelation is the more complex and interesting one. Unfortunately, I think it does some damage to the novel. If Kinbote knows that he is a delusion--knows it to the extent that he can reveal the truth in his Index--then he is not a delusion at all. Instead, he is nothing but a brilliant indulgence, a daydream of V. Botkin, who may be strange, but is not insane...I just thought of one other option: Kinbote believes that he is real and Botkin is his daydream. That is, in New Wye Kinbote sometimes goes around calling himself V. Botkin. But this possibility goes against VN's own comment that Botkin stands behind Kinbote, rather than vice-versa.

JM: Let's stick to "facts". I'll repeat what I sent in the former posting, with the VN quotes. There is no escaping from the realization that Kinbote knows he is V.Botkin.

Here it is: "Whoever wrote the Commentary also wrote the Index. The entry on Botkin is: Botkin,V., American scholar of Russian descent, 894:king-bot, maggot of extinct fly that once bred in mammoths and is thought to have hastened their phylogenetic end, 247*: bottekin-maker, 71:bot, plop, and boteliy, big-bellied (Russ.);botkin or bodkin, a Danish stilletto. Whoever wrote the Index was as mad as the commentator, and as imprecise...
*- On line 247: "when alluding to me in public she used to call me 'an elephantine tick; a king-sized botfly; a macaco worm; the monstrous parasite of a genius." (confirming the link bt. Kinbote, who writes in the first person about his being called "a king-sized botfly" and the Index entry on Botkin,V as the same "king-sized" parasite) "

Kinbote, or perhaps Shade, has warned the readers that he's substituted the real names of the people he mentions in writing. This is why we may surmise that "Kinbote" is a recreated name, probably V.Botkin's.
Nevertheless, it's still quite "crazy" for Botkin cannot avoid informing that he is the novel's Kinbote. He also attributes a great importance to names and surnames, but how can we readers profit from that if only he has the key for the alterations?
Right now I'm unable to affirm that Kinbote, not only Shade, altered the names he set down.However, by adhering to Shade's choices in the poem, Kinbote is following the poet's lead anyway, at least in connection to the substitutions made in the poem (including New Wye, no?)

I've grown attached to my hypothesis, that it was Jack Grey who impersonated Botkin after all. It follows a Nabokovian playful logic. But he couldn't fake the identity of a true scholar, unless he'd worked at the University and took his time in prision to polish his studies... Pity that it's too far-fetched.

It would be a marvellous twist should we end up by concluding that Shade's killer ( fictional Gradus/ "real" Jack Grey, according to CK) is a double-edged character (Botkin/Kinbote) who was conjured up by a mad prisoner called Jack Grey, who mysteriously also committed suicide in his cell? Now that I put this idea down it doesn't seem as absurd as it did a few minutes before...The strong argument against this humorous twist, typical of Sebastian Knight's satirical novels, is that Jack Grey would hardly be a scholar, like Kinbote, in order to invent him! What do we know of Jack Grey?

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