NABOKV-L post 0026648, Sun, 22 Nov 2015 13:57:45 -0800

Re: RES: [NABOKV-L] RES: [NABOKV-L] lastochka & other birds in
Pale Fire
Dear Jansy,

What you are thinking of is the purple martin, which is a large swallow.
I believe the word martinet comes from a particularly odious military
man [" after General Jean Martinet (died 1672)"].

On Nov 20, 2015, at 3:52 AM, Jansy Mello wrote:

Fet, Victor to Carolyn's query: No, they are not synonyms. A swift
(Russ. strizh, стриж), Apodus, is a highly aerial bird that
belongs to family Apodidae (order Apodiformes). They are the fastest
fliers among birds (speed over 100 mph recorded) . They are
superficially similar to swallows (Hirundinidae), but are not closely
related. (Swifts are more closely related to hummingbirds.)[snip]

Jansy Mello: A little after I remembered that Prof. Pnin, in PF, was
described as a “regular martinet” and the casual association of the
word “martinet” to the bird named “swift,” I also recollected
(although too late to add it to the original posting) that there are a
few references in the novel “Pnin” that link him to bungled
ornithological issues. Pnin’s sense of humor (depreciated or absent
in PF) is alluded to when he puns with one of the “twins” (T.Wynns)
as a “Bachelor of Hearts”.

The narrator in “Pnin” quotes from a journal that has published
some of the squabbles between emigrés and he selects a sentence that
confuses two proverbs and also refers to “two birds”, almost
suggesting Pnin’s mixing up the “twins” (and the birds?): This
had provoked an acid Letter to the Editor from' An Old Optimist',
entitled 'Fir Trees and Inertia' and beginning: 'There is an old
American saying "He who lives in a glass house should not try to kill
two birds with one stone".' In the present issue, there was a two-
thousand-word feuilleton contributed by a representative of Faction C
and headed 'On Fir Trees, Glass Houses, and Optimism', and Pnin read
this with great interest and sympathy.].
Pnin collected postcards with images of mammals and birds to aid him
in his contacts with Victor [ He (Victor)therefore experienced
pleasure when Professor Pnin entered into a staid and decorous
correspondence with him; a first letter, couched in beautiful French
but very indifferently typed, was followed by a picture postcard
representing the Grey Squirrel. The card belonged to an educational
series depicting Our Mammals and Birds; Pnin had acquired the whole
series specially for the purpose of this correspondence.]

Here are some of the quotes related to the confusion between
Waindell’s ornithologist and anthropologist (to make proper
distinctions I’d have to reread the novel, now I’m just pasting a
few quotes, to add to the swallow/swift/martinet theme in Pale Fire):

1. “It should not be deemed surprising, therefore, that even
Pnin, not a very observant man in everyday life, could not help
becoming aware (sometime during his ninth year at Waindell) that a
lanky, bespectacled old fellow with scholarly strands of steel-grey
hair falling over the right side of his small but corrugated brow, and
with a deep furrow descending from each side of his sharp nose to each
corner of his long upper-lip — a person whom Pnin knew as Professor
Thomas Wynn, Head of the Ornithology Department, having once talked to
him at some party about gay golden orioles, melancholy cuckoos, and
other Russian countryside birds — was not always Professor Wynn. At
times he graded, as it were, into somebody else, whom Pnin did not
know by name but whom he classified, with a bright foreigner's
fondness for puns as 'Twynn' (or, in Pninian, 'Tvin').”

2. “When the new Fall Term (Pnin's tenth) began, the nuisance was
aggravated by the fact that Pnin's class hours had been changed, thus
abolishing certain trends on which he had been learning to rely in his
efforts to elude Wynn and Wynn's simulator. It seemed he would have to
endure it always. For recalling certain other duplications in the past
— disconcerting likenesses he alone had seen — bothered Pnin told
himself it would be useless to ask anybody's assistance in unravelling
the T. Wynns./ On the day of his party, as he was finishing a late
lunch in Frieze Hall, Wynn, or his double, neither of whom had ever
appeared there before, suddenly sat down beside him and said:
'I have long wanted to ask you something — you teach Russian, don't
you? Last summer I was reading a magazine article on birds — '
('Vin! This is Vin!' said Pnin to himself, and forthwith perceived a
decisive course of action).
'— well, the author of that article — I don't remember his name, I
think it was a Russian one — mentioned that in the Skoff region, I
hope I pronounce it right, a local cake is baked in the form of a
bird. Basically, of course, the symbol is phallic, but I was wondering
if you knew of such a custom?'
It was then that the brilliant idea flashed in Pnin's mind.
'Sir, I am at your service,' he said with a note of exultation
quivering in his throat — for he now saw his way to pin down
definitely the personality of at least the initial Wynn who liked
birds. 'Yes, sir. I know all about thosezhavoronki, those alouettes,
those — we must consult a dictionary for the English name. So I take
the opportunity to extend a cordial invitation to you to visit me this
evening. Half past eight, post meridiem. A little house-heating
soirée, nothing more. Bring also your spouse — or perhaps you are a
Bachelor of Hearts?' “

Google Search
the archive Contact
the Editors NOJ Zembla Nabokv-L
Policies Subscription options AdaOnline NSJ Ada Annotations L-Soft
Search the archive VN Bibliography Blog
All private editorial communications are read by both co-editors.

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Nabokv-L policies:
Nabokov Online Journal:"
AdaOnline: "
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada:
The VN Bibliography Blog:
Search the archive with L-Soft:

Manage subscription options :