Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0013402, Sat, 30 Sep 2006 23:04:37 EDT

Re: DN replies to Anthony Stadlen re: end of Pale Fire

In a message dated 30/09/2006 23:50:25 GMT Standard Time,

Dear Anthony,

If it's no trouble, please do send a copy of your reply as well (I'd like to
check if I'm not the one who is disremembering, and see if I can glean
anything else of help).



Dear Dmitri,

No trouble: see below.

Best wishes,


[sent on 20 December 2005 to DN's private email and also to NABOKV-L]

Dear Dmitri,

1. Please forgive my stupidity, but in your email to Don I'm not sure just
what you mean by:

<< He also pointed out to me, very early on, the phantom "around-the-corner"
1000th line. >>.

Do you mean your father said line 1000 was "around-the-corner" in the sense
that it was identical with line 1, or in the sense that it was a mystery,

2. I hope you didn't think I was trying to deflate either the poem "Pale
Fire", which I revere, or your father's "extra-textual" information about it,
which is of great interest. I've had an exchange with Brian Boyd about it,
ooutside NABOKV-L, in which I said:

<< I suppose my feeling about the "extra-textual" does not really stand up
to examination, except in so far as those who don't happen to know about
Nabokov's letters, interviews, etc. are at a disadvantage. But then so are those
who don't recognise the countless literary allusions in the text, and those
who don't know English, etc....

My uncle, Peter Stadlen, gave the first performance of Webern's Piano
Variations Op. 27 in 1936, and was coached for weeks by Webern in the nuances of
rubato and expression that Webern wanted, none of which are in the text. The
performances by pianists who tried just to play what Webern wrote are flat and
meaningless. So, as my uncle argued, it is no argument against the legitimacy
of a work of art that it needs extra-textual information to make sense of it.

Also, of course, the Jewish tradition is that the written Torah requires the
oral Torah to interpret it.

However, having granted all that, I agree with you that Nabokov is generous,
and fair, to his readers, so that it should be possible to deduce from the
text such an important aspect as that line 1000 = line 1, if that is what he
really intended. Since the text is open in that respect, and since he did not
even, as far as we appear to know so far, say elsewhere that line 1000 = line
1, should we not ourselves make a point of keeping the question open? >>

With best regards,

Anthony Stadlen

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