Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026241, Sun, 21 Jun 2015 22:14:25 +0300

misprint of desire distorting meaning of love in The Enchanter
Like Humbert Humbert in Lolita, the protagonist of Volshebnik ("The
Enchanter," 1939) marries the mother of the little girl with whom he fell in
love. He loves his step-daughter, but opechatka zhelaniya (the misprint of
desire) distorts smysl lyubvi (the meaning of love):

Пусть в будущем свобода действий, свобода особого и его повторений, всё
осветит и согласует; пока, сейчас, сегодня, опечатка желания искажала смысл
любви; оно служило, это тёмное место, как бы помехой, которую надо было
как можно скорее раздавить, стереть, -- любым предлогом наслаждения, --
чтобы в награду получить возможность смеяться вместе с ребёнком, понявшим
наконец шутку, бескорыстно печься о нём, волну отцовства совмещать с


Smysl lyubvi ("The Meaning of Love," 1892-93) is a series of five articles
by Vladimir Solovyov. In the fifth article the author quotes four poems by
Afanasiy Fet: Alter ego (1879), Izmuchen zhizn'yu, kovarstvom nadezhdy:
("Tormented by life, by hope's deceit:" 1864), Naprasno ("In Vain," 1852)
and Poetam ("To Poets," 1890).

Zhelanie ("Desire," 1858) is a poem by Vyazemski. It has for epigraph the
opening line of Boratynski's (sic) poem Razuverenie ("Dissuasion," 1821): Ne
iskushay menya bez nuzhdy ("Don't tempt me without need:"). In the poem's
second stanza Vyazemski compares desire to Proteus and says that desire
volshebno (magically) assumed the shape of all enticements of beauty, all
dreams, all temptations:

Протей, всегда разнообразный,

Во все приманки красоты,

Во все мечты, во все соблазны

Волшебно облекалось ты.

Solovyov's last article was Po povodu poslednikh sobytiy ("Apropos of the
Latest Events," 1900). The characters of VN's play Sobytie ("The Event,"
1938) include Alfred Afanasievich Barboshin, the private detective whom the
portrait painter Troshcheykin hired to protect himself from Barbashin.
Barbashin and Barboshin seem to be two incarnations of one and the same
character: the devil (who is not as terrible, as he is he is painted). Like
Baratynski, their names begin with Bar-, and, like Shenshin (Afanasiy Fet's
"real" name), end in -shin.

Like "The Event," "The Enchanter" is a part of VN's hexaptych (that consists
of two plays and four stories).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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