Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026693, Wed, 9 Dec 2015 20:37:36 -0200

diarrhea in Pale Fire & in The Gift; Netochka in Pale Fire
A.Sklyarenko informs, about Pale Fire : Upon arriving in New Wye, Gradus suffers an attack of acute diarrhea: During the ride he suddenly became aware of such urgent qualms that he was forced to visit the washroom as soon as he got to the solidly booked hotel. There his misery resolved itself in a scalding torrent of indigestion. Hardly had he refastened his trousers and checked the bulge of his hip pocket than a renewal of stabs and queaks caused him to strip his thighs again which he did with such awkward precipitation that his small Browning was all but sent flying into the depth of the toilet. (Kinbote’s note to Line 949) and adds: In “The Life of Chernyshevski” (Chapter Four of VN’s novel “The Gift,” 1937) Fyodor mentions Chernyshevski’s dyspepsia[ ] and associates: Like Belinski (another radical critic), Chernyshevski did not think highly of Gogol [ ] and Dostoevski’s first novel (written in the epistolary form). It was followed by Dvoynik (“The Double,” 1846), a much more perfect work in the Gogol tradition. The killer Gradus seems to be Kinbote’s double [ ]. He also reminds the reader once again that …The “real” name of Shade, Kinbote and Gradus seems to be Vsevolod Botkin. An American scholar of Russian descent, Professor Botkin went mad after the suicide of his daughter Nadezhda and offers a wealth of information about Ivanov, Dostoevski, Gogol and many other important associations.

Jansy Mello: I recently re-appreciated M. Epstein’s “Good-bye to objects” [Cf. Mikhail Epstein in A Small Alpine Form: Studies in Nabokov’s Short Fiction, ed. by Gene Barabtarlo and Charles Nicol, New York: Garland Publishers (Garland Reference Library of the Humanities, Vol. 1580), 1993, pp. 217-224.)], because a lot of what he finds in VN bears a general (metahistorical?) similarity with the way I read Nabokov: bliss and nostalgia, or the workings of memory/imagination in the transformation of a permanent sense of loss. A. Sklyarenko’s inroads into the oeuvre of VN is quite different from what I find in Epstein because AS emphasizes the pre-revolutionary Russian world of literature and poetry of which V.N had been a significant part, while he also updates us to more actual literary names, links and transmutations. Nadezhda is a very poetic choice for understanding Shade’s story of Hazel ( should he be a split off part of scholar V. Botkin), something no common American-speaking reader would ever dream of interpreting. Quite fascinating.

A.S’s quotes about the indigestion suffered by not only by Gradus but also by Chernyshevski and Gogol reminded me of Nabokov’s extensive and detailed report about his own stomach problems to Edmund Wilson, in their exchange of letters (DBDV, 146-149), perhaps intended as a scatological anecdote, perhaps not: “Suddenly, as I say, my stomach rose with an awful whoop. I managed somehow to reach the outside steps of the museum, but before attaining the grass plot which was my pathetic goal, I threw up, or rather down, right on the steps, such sundry items as[…] I have a hazy recollection: of undressing, in between monstrous distal and proximal discharges; of lying on the floor of my room[…] Never in my whole life have I experienced such impossible and humiliating pains […]” (June, 1044) I don’t know if it is in PF or in TT that a whirling soup is described with dancing vegetables, whose external inspiration was identified by D.B. Johnson (with images!). Anyway, while I looked up the letter in my UCP edition, I came across long forgotten discussions between “Bunny”and “Volodya” about various Russian and American poets and prose writers which, as I now see, I have to read again from scratch after A.S highlighted names that I ignorantly skipped over.

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