Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025894, Wed, 17 Dec 2014 15:33:06 -0500

Dating Anomalies in Nabokov and Pushkin
What makes Stephen's terrific observation even more interesting is the fact
that in the draft of the "editor's" foreword to Belkin's Tales November 16
is the day of Belkin's untimely death:

П. И. Бел<кин>, осенью прошлого года занемог простудною лихорадкою,
обратившуюся в горячку и умер, не смотря на неусыпные старания уездного
нашего лекаря, человека весьма искусного особенно в лечении закоренелых
болезней как то: мозолей и т. п. Он умер на моих руках, исполня
христианские обязанности в пр.<ошлом> 1829 году ноября 16 дня на 29 году от
рожд.<ения> и погребен в церкве села Гор<юхина> близ покойных его родителей
(VIII, 590). The volume of Pushkin's complete works in which the draft was
printed is dated by 1940.

Alexander Dolinin

On 12/17/14, Stephen Blackwell wrote:
> Alexey Sklyarenko kindly pointed out my error: not Ivan Karamzin but
Nikolay (Mikhailovich) Karamzin.
> --Stephen Blackwell
> Dating Anomalies in Nabokov and Pushkin
> Ever since Brian Boyd&#8217;s &#8220;Even Homais Nods: Nabokov&#8217;s
Fallibility, or, How to Revise Lolita,&#8221; there has been good reason to
disregard the dating anomaly in the creation Nabokov had the &#8220;most
affection&#8221; for. But despite their force and eloquence, Brian&#8217;s
arguments have never persuaded me, on various levels (unlike most of his
other arguments). Despite Nabokov&#8217;s ability to make errors of various
sorts, this error (that the fifty-six days Humbert claims he has been
writing his confession is the wrong number, or that the September dates in
the text are scribal errors) does not make sense, at least not as
Nabokov&#8217;s error. The placement of the key components of the puzzle is
too highly marked: in the preface, and almost exactly one page before the
end. Just as the beginning of Humbert&#8217;s text creates a riddle
surrounding Dolly&#8217;s birth year, the beginning and ending of
Nabokov&#8217;s novel clasp at this strangely pr!
ovocative date. The only remaining question, for me, is&#8212;why?
> In a discussion with Deborah Martinsen beginning at the recent ASEEES
convention, I realized that her forthcoming article in Nabokov Studies 13,
"Lolita as a Petersburg Text," to be released in January 2015, approaches
the same problem from a complementary point of view, and I decided I should
make my partial information public before the entire project is complete,
so that our related efforts might mutually benefit.
> A year and a half ago, I stumbled onto a partial explanation of the
anomaly while teaching a freshman seminar on humor in Russian literature.
We were reading some of Pushkin&#8217;s Belkin Tales (Tales of the Late
Ivan Petrovich Belkin) including the preface, called &#8220;From the
Publisher,&#8221; and in that preface I came upon these passages at the
beginning and ending of the letter from a &#8220;friend&#8221; of the late
&#8220;Belkin&#8221; to the publisher (who is &#8220;A. P.&#8221;):
> >
> > My dear Sir, ****!
> >
> >
> >
> > I had had the honor or receiving your most honorable letter of the 15th
of this month on the 23rd of this same month, and in it you pronounce to me
your desire for a detailed accounting about the dates of birth and death,
service, and domestic arrangements, as well as about the occupations and
character of the late Ivan Petrovich Belkin, who was my sincere friend and
neighboring estate owner.
> >
> >
> >
> > [. . .]
> >
> >
> >
> > There, my Dear Sir, you have all that I could recall concerning the way
of life, occupations, character, and appearance of my late neighbor and
friend. If it so happens that you are pleased to make some sort of use of
my letter, I most respectfully request that you not mention my name in any
capacity whatsoever; for although I fully respect and admire writers, I
consider it superfluous and, at my age, even indecent to embark on such a
calling. With my true respect etc.,
> >
> >
> > November 16, 1830
> >
> > Nenaradovo Village
> >
> (Translation mine, SB)

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
Co-Editor, NABOKV-L

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