NABOKV-L post 0004682, Wed, 12 Jan 2000 10:57:21 -0800

Firbank-Nabokov Equation (fwd)
Subject: Firbank-Nabokov Equation

Ronald Firbank fills his novels with characters who just delightfully hint
at their perversions; fantastic royal courts in strange lands with fey
names,and decadent rituals performed in gorgeous robes with rich perfumes
wafting in the air. Firbank gives us the effete Krazy Kweers in the Krazy
Kourts of Europe. World War I wiped away most of that hothouse culture, but
for many the memories survived.

I came to "Pale Fire" rather late, in my forties. But as soon as I read about
Zembla through the voice of Charles Kinbote, the Firbankian echoes began to
sound in my head. And when I bumped into Zembla's "Gulf of Surprise" I knew I
wasn't in Kansas anymore, but back in Firbank' s Krazy Kourts and Krazy

We sometimes forget that Nabokov spent his youth in a Russia still permeated
by the Russian Court. Many of his relatives were associated with the
aristocratic and royal members of that court and they must have told stories
of the strange goings on there.(The intermarriages among the European courts
to keep the hothouse even hotter, is a fantastic story in itself.) Nabokov
certainly remembered those stories since they were as bizarre as a Firbankian
novel.hen that world vanished completely and Nabokov began his long exile.
But the memories always remained.

So how to resurrect the memories of a long-gone, half-mad royal court, an
anachronism in our modern world? Why, through the voice of a madman like
Charles Kinbote, himself the perverse product of that decadent world
transported to the bright new and modern USA.

Nabokov gave us his tenderest memories of his youth in "Speak Memory". In
the Zembla sections of "Pale Fire" he is satirizing the life in the hothouse
culture of old Russia and using Firbank's model.

Any other thoughts on this?

Phillip Iannarelli
Cleveland, Ohio