In Memoriam Gennady Barabtarlo by Maurice Couturier

Submitted by dana_dragunoiu on Wed, 02/27/2019 - 09:20

Gene Barabtarlo was a gentleman, a conscientious and highly learned 
scholar, a great Nabokovian, an excellent linguist… and a friend. I 
first met him in June 1992. I had invited him to the first Nice 
Conference on Nabokov where he gave a paper entitled “Nabokov in the 
Wilson Archive.” I seem to remember that it was his first visit to this 
part of the world, one of Nabokov’s favorite haunts. He was constantly 
taking pictures, as he did again at the third Nice conference in 2006; 
after it, he went to Soliès-Pont and sent me pictures he had taken 
there. There was something of a Sherlock Holmes in him; he liked solving 
riddles like in “The Man Is the Book”, a very clever piece on “The Real 
Life of Sebastian Knight” he read in Nice where he said at the end: 
“Sebastian is absent, so is V. The ultimate maker is present, fills 
every cell and fiber of the text – but ontologically is not merely 
imperceptible but incomprehensible.” A statement perhaps meant to meet 
halfway his host’s theory of the tyranny of the author as well as to 
gently chide him for disregarding the otherworldly dimension of 
Nabokov’s works, I belatedly realize. He invited me for a fellowship at 
his university but I was too lazy to go. These last three years, I 
greatly relied on his wonderful book on Pnin while I was doing a new 
translation of this novel and annotating it for the third volume of the 
Nabokov Pléiade due to come out next year. I occasionally sent him 
questions and he always answered gracefully. I admired Gene’s style and 
his discretion. We owe him a great deal and we already miss him.

Maurice Couturier