Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026786, Sun, 10 Jan 2016 11:39:34 -0200

Spring in Fialta: queries
An informal discussion related to "Spring in Fialta" seems to be taking
shape. Perhaps this can be an opportunity to ask about certain words and
expressions that make no sense to me.

For example, what does "deep snow had performed the amputation of an arctic"
mean? [I only managed to collect etymological data about the word arctic
itself: late 14c., artik, from Old French artique, from Medieval Latin
articus, from Latin arcticus, from Greek arktikos "of the north," literally
"of the (constellation) Bear," from arktos "bear; Ursa Major; the region of
the north," the Bear being a northerly constellation].

A .Sklyarenko mentions, in his last posting that "In VN's story Nina is
associated with Eurydice (Orpheus' wife)." He also states: "In VN's story
the narrator asks Ferdinand (False Orpheus) if he has read a recent bit of
criticism about himself." Did he obtain these data from the Russian
original? It makes no sense to me. It would be interesting to compare his
interpretation about Orpheus and Eurydice with another Greek myth, the one
related to Proserpina/Persephone, who spends one part of the year in the
underworld and represents the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Proserpina,
however, is associated to chastity and fertility (not Nina's virtues). Why
then associate either Eurydice or even Proserpina to her? Nina never seems
to consider moral values, social costumes, civil law ("citizenship"). What
does she/it represent in VN's pantheon?

Concerning seasonal changes, what could have been the point of the author's
modification from Xmas to Easter in Nina's postal message to Victor? He
received it long before their last encounter in Fialta when the season was
not simply "Spring" but a period in the Christian liturgical calendar
related to the forty days before Easter. According to the narrator: "there
is something in the very somnolence of its humid Lent that especially
anoints one's soul." The couple first met during Winter (My introductory
scene with Nina had been laid in Russia quite a long time ago, around 1917 I
should say, judging by certain left-wing theater rumblings backstage. It was
at some birthday party at my aunt's on her country estate, near Luga, in the
deepest folds of winter (how well I remember the first sign of nearing the
place: a red barn in a white wilderness).
Despite the constant indication of Christian festivities, a "pagan" feeling
prevails. The narrator's vision of a setting similar to Christ's Last Supper
(also pointing to Lenten days) arises from a sacrilegious distortion: ".I
saw the composite table.at which, with his back to the plush wall, Ferdinand
was presiding; and for a moment his whole attitude, the position of his
parted hands, and the faces of his table companions all turned toward him
reminded me in a grotesque, nightmarish way of something I did not quite
grasp, but when I did so in retrospect, the suggested comparison struck me
as hardly less sacrilegious than the nature of his art itself."

The change of focus in the narrative in "Spring in Fialta" from the past
(Winter) to the present (Spring) reminds me of Charles Kinbote's oscillation
between Winter and Summer. Maybe, in "Pale Fire" the determinant has to do
with birthdates: V.N's own, which at times must have coincided with Easter
(and Spring) and Saint George's day (I included the Saint because of "Mount
Saint George" as a landmark in Fialta), being substituted for
Shade/Kinbote's in July 5 (Saint Anthony's day, Summer).

Any ideas?

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