NABOKV-L post 0002218, Thu, 3 Jul 1997 16:41:07 -0700

Different VNs in Russian & English? (fwd)
EDITOR's NOTE: Vitaly Kupisk responds to Mari Yamaguchi's query below (and
adds a query of his own. In reponse to his comment about the English vs
Russian alphabetic, yes--both are "synaesthetic." I have discussed the
question in the first chapter of my _Worlds in Regression: Some Novels of
From: Vitaly Kupisk <>

I have thought about this question, too. I think one of the clues to it
lies in the fact that during his "formative" years he wrote poetry in
Russian and made scientific notes in English.

Much later, he referred to his English prose as "scientific"
(in a reply to some synesthesia scholars, I believe, who suspected
the precision of his own "color alphabet" in "Speak Memory"). I wonder
if he would apply that adjective to his Russian prose. Some
artistic questions he continued to work on were, obviously, a
continuation of those in his Russian period; his personality also
was unwavering. But his tools were now different and, by his own
admission, his command of English was different from his magical
Russian (so that he had to create a different kind of magic in English).

To go much deeper, I believe, one would have to discuss "personalities"
of English vs. Russian, and of poetry vs. descriptive prose, which
questions, though not imponderable, I find delicate and difficult to treat

An unrelated question: in the short foreword to the Russian "Dar",
VN says that it was published in the emigrant press ("Zapiski"?)
with the exception of the Chernyshevsky chapter and of one epithet.

What epithet?

Vitaly Kupisk
Berkeley, CA

-------------Forwarded Message-----------------

EDITORIAL NOTE. Since the summertime doldrums are upon us, I thought the
following query (and my semi-response below) might provide some food for
thought. It's the kind of question that (il-)logical positivists like
myself tend to steer clean of since it involves so many imponderables
but it is not without interest. Comments from anyone?
> FROM:Mari Yamaguchi(
> I'm a student at Rikkyo University in Tokyo. In one of the
> classes there, a teacher has asked me to research into one of
> any bilingual(or trilingual, or more) authors and find out
> if the writer's personality changed when he/she used different
> languages. I decided to do my research work on a trilingual
> author, Vladimir Nabokov. So I have to find out whether(if any,
> how) his personality in his English works is different from
> that in his Russian works, or in his French works. I have done
> some research and I already found that Nabokov didn't feel so
> comfortable to write novels in English. He felt more comfortable
> in Russian. But I don't know HOW differently his personalities are
> appeared in his works. If I only knew both English and Russian,
> I could probably find out about it by myself. If you could just tell me
> how I can find necessary information about it, I'd be very grateful!
> Mari Yamaguchi, from Kanagawa Japan
Dear Mari Yamaguchi,
.................... You can get some backgound information from a book
by Elizabeth Beaujour, _Alien Tongues_, I think it's called, which deals
with Nabokov, inter alia. The author also has an essay or two in the
recent _Guide to Nabokov_ edited by Vladimir Alexandrov. Her bibliography
give you a place get background to the matter. My own feeling is that
Nabokov projects rather the same image in both Russian and English.
Best of luck.

D. Barton Johnson