NABOKV-L post 0005995, Mon, 28 May 2001 16:21:27 -0700

Re: Chess analogies in The real Life of Sebastian Knight]
EDITOR'S Note. Michael Maar responds to Arthur Glass. For both gentlemen
I would
pose the question as to whether Mr. Glass' proposal could be formulated
as a chess PROBLEM rather than a GAME. Also some years ago, I offered
the suggestion that the plot of the DEFENSE was a novelization of
Anderson-Kieseritsky game in which K., for the second time in his
career, fell for a proffered double rook sacrifice--thus providing a
prototype for Luzhin's duplicated, disasterous life pattern.

-------- Original Message --------
Subject: Re: Chess analogies in The real Life of Sebastian Knight
Date: Mon, 28 May 2001 20:16:32 +0200
From: "Michael Maar" <>
Dear Mr. Glass,

I think you are completely right: these analogies are quite obvious,
even if Nabokov denied them. What in German language is called
might indeed be the most important structural and symbolic element of
not only
"Sebastian Knight". No incident, by the way, that one of the Bishops
must die: you would always try to destroy a pair of Bishops before the
endgame; they are too strong, if they survive. You will find more
chess-references in my essay on "Sebastian Knight" in: "Zwei Springer
auf einem Pferd", SCHREIBHEFT, Zeitschrift fur Literatur, vol. 50,
November 1997, p.

All the best,
Michael Maar

-----Ursprьngliche Nachricht-----

Datum: Montag, 28. Mai 2001 19:27
Betreff: 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 hanky-panky in RLSKn, I suspect something
is going
on. There have been several commentators on the question. Daniel
Edelman's essay "Cooks, Forks and Waiters: Chess Problems and Vladimir
Nabokov's *The Defense*", American Chess Journal *3*, 44-58. It contains
a bibliography. Also check out the
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