NABOKV-L post 0017452, Sat, 13 Dec 2008 11:10:56 -0200

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[NABOKOV-L] Duels, Darwin, Mirages
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Dear List,

It's unnecessary to enter into famous descriptions of duels (Véra's father's, VN's father's, Sebastian's father's...Pushkin's own) unless there were anything new to add. And yet, when in V&V Nabokov described Lermontov, in his introduction ("The Lermontov Mirage"), I couldn't avoid remembering Turgêniev's 1846 short-story, written five years after Lermontov's death in a duel, describing a provocative character, Lútchkov.
My recollection must have led me astray. I checked my collection of stories on duels ( foreword by Claudio Figueiredo), and found no reference to Turgêniev's possible recreation of Lermontov in it (represented as Lútchkov and as his rival Kister as well!).

When he introduced another poet, Koltsov, VN compared him to Housman (p.266) - & not any minute wink to Whitman's "prostor" mood - but he returns to Housman in a more specific vein when quotes Lermontov's own "magic brush", which presented the "pigments of definite landscapes", "both irrational and founded on concrete sensual experience". The European romantic longing for distant lands is placed in relation to "an unofficial English rose" (mentioned also in TRLSK by an elaborate reversion of perspective) and "... 'the spires and farms' seen from a hilltop in Shrophshire..." .

Alexey Sklyarenko has already published the links bt. Lermontov's and Ada's "triple dream." [ Cf. VN-Archives (AS to C.Nicol,Aug.18,2008) "You must be thinking of Lermontov's poem "The Dream" ("In a noon's heat, in a dale of Dagestan..." 1841). It was translated by VN and included in "Three Russian Poets" (1945) and later in the Foreword to VN's translation (1958), in collaboration with DN, of Lermontov's "A Hero of Our Time" (1841), where it is analysed as a "triple dream" (a dream within a dream within a dream). Let me add that in my article "Ada as a Triple Dream" (The Nabokovian # 53) I cite this poem and argue that Nabokov's novel is also a triple dream. In another article, "Fathers and Children in Ada" (The Nabokovian # 54), I argue that Ada was in part inspired by Pushkin's famous poem "Na kholmakh Gruzii lezhit nochnaya mgla..." ("The night murk lies on the hills of Georgia; / The Aragva thunders before me..." 1829).

Wrote Nabokov on M.L:"You must imagine him as a sturdy, shortish, rather shabby-looking Russian army officer with [...] velvety eyes that "seemed to absorb light instead of emitting it," [...] took pleasure in offending people, but there can hardly be any doubt that the bully in him was the shell and not the core[...] Finally, a quarrel with a fellow-officer, whom he had most methodically annoyed, but a stop to his not very happy life [...]somehow managed...to produce verse and prose of such virility, beauty, and tenderness that the following generation placed him higher than Pushkin [...]
"...what Darwin called 'struggle for existence' is really a struggle for perfection, and in that respect Nature's main and most admirable device is optical illusion" (p.274)... From Darwin to mirages in art and emotional paradoxes.

QUERY: Nabokov placed inside quotes... velvety eyes that "seemed to absorb light instead of emitting it". Who is he quoting, is it L's "Demon"?

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