Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020835, Tue, 5 Oct 2010 18:02:54 -0600

Re: Botkin]
This is an old post that I never got around to sending. I hope there's
still some interest, and I hope to reply--maybe only a month from now--to
the many fascinating comments people are making on related subjects.

Thanks to Matt Roth for identifying the Orphic deity. Finally!

Thanks to Anthony Stadlen for his knowledge of psychology, particularly that
Kinbote's occasional awareness of Botkin is not all that strange.

> JM:In my opinion, we run the risk of deviating into another set of tracks
> when we plan to investigate psychological facts and "realities" following
> Nabokov's inventiveness and satirical turn of mind.
> What could be the answer for what's "psychologically strange" in Kinbote's
> reference to Botkin, outside of the boundaries of Nabokov's novel? The Index
> entry that introduces Botkin and the text from CK's note n.247 ( am I
> mistaken to assume that Botkin has only made another appearance -
> extra-textually?)

There's another time, in the note to line 894 (again), where Professor
Pardon says (according to Kinbote) that he'd thought "Kinbote" was an
anagram of "Botkin or Botkine".

> is necessary to the novelist himself. It serves him to add a fundamental
> information, but it leaves a mark that is similar to a navel, no longer
> functional but revelatory and non-deletable.

I quite agree.

dp: I completely agree with Jansy that it is reductive to try to fit VN's
> creation into a single (controversial, at that) diagnosis of Multiple
> Personality Disorder.

I hope, though, that it's not reductive to wonder what's strange and what

> The novel must make sense, but it needn't make *that particular kind *of
> sense. I agree, too, that it is important not to lose sight of the *
> satirical *dimension of the novel. (Was it a flaw in *Gulliver's Travels* that
> Lilliputians don't really exist?)

I'm limiting my rant (which you couldn't have expected to provoke) to saying
that to my taste any flaws in *Gulliver's Travels* are in the satire, not
the fantasy.

But I'm not sure Nabokov would have been happy with your use of "satirical",
considering that he said, "Satire is a lesson, parody is a game." If
anything in the novel is didactic, I don't think it's the mocking elements.

> Of course Kinbote/Botkin's character must maintain a certain kind of
> consistency, even if only to make the conceit successful. That said, isn't
> it clear that Botkin imagines he is Kinbote, and at the same believes that
> *Botkin* is the fake (his "beard," his disguise), created so that he won't
> be tracked down and assassinated? (Recall how only the president (or is it
> the dean?) knows his secret identity.)

"two trustees and the president of the college".

I'm afraid I don't follow. As far as I can tell, we don't know whether
Botkin had a beard (assuming his transformation into Kinbote was
irreversible). I can see that whatever-we-call-him believes that Kinbote is
a fake created to hide from the assassins. He thinks he's really the King
and we think he's really Botkin.

> I don't see any contradiction in this at all. In fact, this sort of
> reversal of "reality" and "fantasy" seems quite typical for Nabokov, even as
> early as *Mashen'ka*, although Ganin is able to return from his soujourn
> into the remembered past. Luzhin, of course, is a classic example. Even
> HH's solipsism can be seen as another variation on this theme. Or perhaps I
> missed something in this thread that undermines such an interpretation?

We could also mention some of the more "Kafkaesque" and "Borgesian" short
stories (that's my way of saying I don't remember enough details), and
probably *Solus Rex*, and others.

On Mon, Sep 6, 2010 at 1:47 PM, Steve Norquist <stevenorquist@gmail.com>wrote:

> ...Despite Botvinnik's bona fides as a grandmaster, allegations have been
> raised (and not conclusively answered) that great pressure was brought to
> bear on the Estonian Paul Keres to lose his 4 games with Botvinnik in the
> 1948 World Championship Tournament; the same sort of allegations exist about
> Botvinnik's defeat of the Jewish Grandmaster David Bronstein in the 1951
> World Championship match


However, Mikhail Moiseyevich Botvinnik was a Jew too. I've seen allegations
that the Soviets preferred him because Bronstein was often critical of them,
and that the Soviets forced other top players to lose or draw games for
other reasons, such as preventing Americans from winning tournaments. But I
don't know anything for sure.

Jerry Friedman

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