NABOKV-L post 0000164, Fri, 31 Dec 1993 13:15:08 -0800

Re: VN & "Tokalosh" (fwd)
The following message from Galya Diment, U. of Washington, is another
contribution to the on-going discussion about "Tokalosh," an early story
appearing in a Latvian emigre-Russian newspaper in 1925 and attributed to
Nabokov by a recent bibliographer. So far, none of the NABOKV-L
specialists have argued in favor of VN's authorship, although at least one
other authority apparently entertains the possibility.
The Editor

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 1993 12:34:18 -0800 (PST)
From: Galya Diment <>
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <>
Subject: Re: VN & "Tokalosh"

I have read the story and here are my ten reasons (Letterman may have his
own -- have you sent him the story?) for why it could not possibly be
written by Nabokov:

10. It sounds too much like Remizov (esp. the description of Tokalosh as
seen by the child in the story) whom Nabokov detested. He often attacked
Remizov and his imitators in the reviews he wrote for Rul' and other
papers around the same time as Tokalosh appeared.

9. Young Nabokov could be extremely sentimental and yet, even then, he
would not allow himself the "poshlust" of the kind that is found in the
story. It's sentimentality of the most primitive kind, and N. would have
been embarrassed even then to employ something like that.

8. Nabokov did not believe in any redeeming features of a loveless older
man-younger woman match. The Alfyorovs' marriage is rendered ridiculous
on these grounds, and he liked to tell his students that the real "moral"
message of Anna Karenina should be that loveless marriages of the Karenins
type is a crime against one's human nature.

7. Even the young Nabokov had a better ear for a dialogue than the one
revealed in this story -- esp. when the protagonist's father talks to the
widow upon T.'s death and then to his son.

6. The locale is very uncharacteristic for N.'s stories. Not because it's
most likely Asia (after all Fyodor's father goes on expeditions there in
Dar) but because it so provincial and "landownish" -- definitely more
Aksakov-like or Turgenev-like than Nabokovian

5. Why would he sign it "S. Sirin" and then use his own first name in the
story? I also have a gut feeling that of all variations of his short name
he would probably hate "Vol'ka" most (I know I would if I were him!).

4. Nabokov can be quite bad in his early writings but his "badness" is of
a different kind. And even when he is bad there are still "moments" when
one can recognize the later Nabokov (just as you yourself pointed out).
There is not a single "moment" of this kind here.

3. The existence of another writer who published in emigre papers under
the pen-name Sirin (I am referring to Gene's suggestion here) makes the
possibility of Nabokov's authorship at least twice less likely.

2. The "twist" of the arranged death and insurance would be something
Nabokov was interested in in a story (cf. Despair) but he would
arrange for a much more effective surprise at the end (after all, both
Mary and Chorb are already good with surprises -- here it's almost
totally wasted).

1. It's easier to imagine that Russia would become a capitalist democracy
one of these days than that the writer of Tokalosh would go on to write
Invitation to a Beheading or Lolita.