Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025968, Sat, 24 Jan 2015 17:59:35 +0300

Gradus & Dead Poets bars
The opening lines of Goethe's Erlkoenig incorporated by Shade in his poem are a leit-motiv in Pale Fire:

Who rides so late in the night and wind?
It is the writer's grief. It is the wild
March wind. It is the father with his child. (ll. 662-64)

Der Erlkoenig was translated into Russian (as Lesnoy tsar') by Zhukovski, the poet and mystic. The fashionable Dead Poets bar and the cheap Gradus bar are opposite each other in the Zhukovski street in St. Petersburg (VN's home city). In her article Dva lesnykh tsarya ("Two Forest Kings," 1933) Marina Tsvetaev compares Zhukovski's Russian version to Goethe's original (according to Tsvetaev, in Zhukovski's poem the child dies from fear, while in the original the child is killed by Erlkoenig). The article ends as follows:

Но есть вещи больше, чем искусство.
Страшнее, чем искусство.
But there are things bigger than art and more terrible than art.

So much for life's riddles.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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