NABOKV-L post 0006188, Sat, 27 Oct 2001 14:48:04 -0700

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[Fwd: VN Bibliography: NABOKOV's BERLIN by D. Zimmer]
Date
Body
Dieter Zimmer. NABOKOV'S BERLIN. Berlin: Nicolai, 2001. ISBN
3-87584-095-x. pp. 155

Dieter Zimmer▓s contributions to Nabokov studies started in the Sixties.
His translations and editorship of the Rowohlt Vladimir Nabokov:
Gesammelte Werke-_ are the best known. The seventeen volumes that have
appeared since 1989 are accompanied by extensive annotations and
editorial commentary that make them essential to all serious
Nabokovians. His work on lepidoptery in VN▓s oeuvre is an invaluable
resource as is his critical bibliography that appears on ZEMBLA. All
this by a man who spent forty years as an editor for _Der Zeit_ and
published innumerable translations and non-fiction books on topics
ranging from biology to the electronic media. One must add that he has
provided the most varied and detailed assistance to many Nabokov
scholars with a generosity that defies credulity.
Dieter Zimmer's _Nabokov▓s Berlin_ is an absolute delight. It a
collection of photo portraits of the city as it was during the
Twenties and Thirties. Each photograph is accompanied by appropriate
passages from VN▓s writings. The quality of the volume is remarkable
from beginning to end≈-a statement to be taken literally. The stiff
paper jacket pictures the 12-year-old Nabokov in skating costume
superimposed on a view of the Brandenburg Gate. Only by chance does the
reader discover that the underside of the jacket unfolds to reveal a
stunning 16 x 27 inch photo of the street and canal in front of the
Pergamon Museum. In the book itself this street scene is accompanied by
a passage from _King, Queen, Knave_ in which Franz, fresh from the
village and overawed by Berlin, views the same sight. And so it is with
almost all
of the pictures which are accompanied by captions and dates.

The very handsomely produced volume opens with a short essay by Zimmer
describing Nabokov▓s attitude toward Berlin. A following section called
⌠Berlin √ Ein Stadtfuhrer■ provides scenes uncannily echoing those in
Nabokov▓s story ⌠A Guidebook to Berlin■: pipes, streetcars, public
works, a bicyclist-baker delivering his wares, a brewery wagon, a
mailman, a butcher shop, and an attendant feeding the Galopagos turtles
at the zoo. The pictures, themselves excellent, are superbly reproduced
on high-quality, glossy paper.

The book▓s longest section is ⌠Nabokov▓s Berlin■ beginning with scenes
from 1910-11 when Nabokov and Sergei, undergoing dental work, spent
three months in the city (as described in Speak, Memory): the Nord
Express, the Hotel Adlon, the Panopticum, the American Skating Rink
(where VN meets the ⌠Gala Girl■ ⌠Louise■), etc. The Twenties and
Thirties are the most richly depicted: the Graf Zeppelin over the city,
the Tiergarten, rainy nights with lights shimmering from the pavements,
the underground, street hawkers, clothing store models, the Criminal
Museum, a boxing match, stores (tobacco, apothecary, greengrocers),
taverns, moving vans (bearing pseudo-three-dimensional company names),
the Grunewaldsee. It is all here ≈ even to Hitler making a speech and a
document check of Jews on the street. Many of the photos are accompanied
by passages from several works, ranging from the stories and novels,
plays, correspondence, and so on.

The final, purely pictorial section ⌠Nabokov in Berlin■ is more general
and is devoted to the life of the city▓s Russian community. Although
many of the photos include Nabokov, others are of scenes and people
important in the Russian community. The Rul▓ offices, the Russian
Writers Club, scenes from Russian theater life, the Philharmonic
Auditorium where VN▓s father was killed, samples of Nabokov▓s crosswords
and chess problems, butterfly activities, the lake-side lot the Nabokovs
bought but used most famously as the site of Hermann▓s murder of Felix.
There is even an ad for that non-leaking fountain pen that pops up in
_The Defense_ (and in Leonhard Frank▓s _Bruder und Schwester_). Unlike
the preceding section, the texts here are supplied by the editor but
include quotes from Nabokov. A final section, ⌠Chronik,■ provides a map
marked with streets and places important in Nabokov▓s Berlin. A useful
chronology of VN▓s activities during the Berlin years from 1922-1937
also contains pictures of VN▓s residences, first-edition covers, and
other assorted images. The volume includes an excellent bibliography.

Zimmer▓s volume is beautifully designed and produced. Even those who
have no special interest in Nabokov will find it a treasure. For the
Nabokovian, however, having it at hand while reading Nabokov▓s novels
and stories will add a new dimension to the experience. The book is in
German (a mild handicap for those whose command of German is, like mine,
negligible), but the texts are almost entirely quotations from
well-known works and the pictures are self-explanatory.

The volume would make an ideal holiday gift, as well as "a must" for the
library of all Nabokovians.