Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0017424, Sun, 7 Dec 2008 12:50:44 -0200

[NABOKOV-L] Query on Alps, Bera range, Algonquin...Birches
I retrieved from the VN List-Archives (May,5 2008) information about TOOL and Dmitri's indignant response to Cynthia Ozick.
Here is C. Ozick's description - for what it's worth:
'all Nabokovites had to sustain them were such Laura notes as "Inspiration. Radiant insomnia. The flavour and snows of beloved alpine slopes. A novel without an I, without a he, but with the narrator, a gliding eye, being implied throughout." '

I once read that one could know a Russian writer by his reference to sparkling snow and birch-trees. In my collection of Poems of Exile ( in Russian and Spanish: Poemas desde el exilio), I only found one reference to a birch-tree (it was made twice in the same poem)*. I tried to check it in "Poems and Problems" but their selection of poems is distinct and, until now, no birches! In the Spanish they are found in poem XXIX, "Visión" ( written in 1924).

VN once compared New Hampshire and Vermont to his familiar landscapes in Russia, but more often he settled for the "beloved alpine slopes" and a Swiss scenery. He stresses the similarity bt. the landscape in Montreux and his childhood recollections.
Nevertheless the mountains in NH and Vermont (or in New Wye...despite "Mont Blon") must be very different from the ragged Alps ( and Zembla?).
Was VN emphasizing the kind of vegetation (firs and birches) or its butterflies, instead of the massive weight of stone, to inspire and stimulate his recollections? Cf. VN's poem 9, written in Feldberg,1925: "I like that mountain in its black pelisse of fir forests - because in the gloom of a strange mountain country I am closer to home..."
From H.S years I remember a comparison bt. America's ancient mountain ranges bordering the Atlantic and those in South America (minus the snow), always set in contrast with the Pacific Rockies and Andes. My geography must be wrong...

Concerning the "gliding eye", I was reminded of VN's short-story "Terror", his "posthumous-game" in "The Eye" and "TT" ... but the chief suggestive link, for me, lies in a poem, written by VN in Paris,1939, titled "Oculus", from where I'll copy its last verses:"Gone, in fact, is the break between matter/ and eternity; and who can care/ for a world of omnipotent vision,/if nothing is monogrammed there?"
Pale Fire's promises are comforting by their offer of preserved personal memory under IPH...


Birches ( a quick survey):
ADA: Blinking in the green sunshine under a birch tree, Ada explained to her passionate fortuneteller..[...]They were now about to enter Gamlet, the little Russian village, from which a birch-lined road led quickly to Ardis.
Lolita: when I saw Lo next, in the late afternoon, balancing on her bike, pressing the palm of her hand to the damp bark of a young birch tree on the edge of our lawn [...]for an instant I believed all our troubles gone
TRLSK: "A last change: a V-shaped flight of migrating cranes; their tender moan melting in a turquoise-blue sky high above a tawny birch-grove. Sebastian,
still not alone, is seated on the white-and-cinder-grey trunk of a felled tree. His bicycle rests[...]'Is this the end? "
The Defense: He sat opposite them [...] and looked aside at the thick birch trunks spinning past along a ditch that was full of their leaves.
A Forgotten Poet: His clothes and a half-eaten apple were found lying under a birch tree, but the body was never recovered.
The Wood-Sprite: I enjoyed the Cinderella-like dream-transformation of a clock[...] Later, when he ( probably) woke up "a wondrously subtle scent in the room, of birch, of humid moss..." lingered on.
Natasha: Beyond the lake was the same dark pine forest, but here and there one could glimpse a white trunk and the mist of yellow leaves of a birch[...] Natasha suddenly recalled Levitan's landscapes. She had the impression that they were in Russia, that you could only be in Russia when such torrid happiness constricts your throat...
Tamara: "I discovered her standing quite still (only her eyes were moving) in a birch grove, she seemed to have been spontaneously generated there, among
those watchful trees, with the silent completeness of a mythological manifestation."...

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