NABOKV-L post 0005991, Mon, 28 May 2001 10:15:40 -0700

Chess analogies in The real Life of Sebastian Knight
EDITOR's NOTE. See end.

Arthur Glass wrote:

> This message was originally submitted by goliard@WORLDNET.ATT.NET to the
> NABOKV-L list
> Has anyone ever explored the significance of the multiple chess references
> in _The Real Life of Sebastian Knight_? There are two 'knights,' Sebastian
> and Virginia. Sebastian uses a knight as the 'signature' to his youthful
> poems,. There are two 'bishops,' Clare, whose maiden name is Bishop and who
> marries a Bishop. As Brian Boyd has suggested ( _The Russian Years_, p. 497)
> Sebastian makes 'knight-moves of thought.' Also, Sebastian dies and is
> buried in St Damier, and _damier_ is French for 'chessboard. The related
> verb _damer_ means 'queen' in the sense that a pawn that reaches the eighth
> rank can be exchanged for a queen---or any other piece. But the only other
> piece would be a knight, since the queen incorporates the moves of a rook
> and a bishop. In a rare but conceivable endgame situation, the knight might
> be able to deliver mate by controlling a square the queen could not.
> If the narrator V. is a pawn, on his 'last move' in the novel he is
> converted into a knight. 'I am Sebastian, or Sebastian is I.'

EDITOR's NOTE. This is an extremely intriguing idea. Although VN in a letter to
Wilson denied chess hankpanky in RLSKn, I suspect something is going on. There have
been several commentator's the question. Check out the NABOKV-L search archive at