Vladimir Nabokov

VNBIB: New Publication with 3 VN essays

By matthew_roth, 7 February, 2020

I just came across a recent publication:

Living through Literature: Essays in Memory of Omry Ronen, Upsalla University, 2019.

It contains three essays on VN:

Nabokov's First English Language Novel in the Context of the Anglo-American Prose of His Contemporaries, by Irena Ronen

Kinbote's Remorse, by Nancy Pollak

The Pleasure of Translingual Punning: Homage to Nabokov in Olga Grushin's The Dream Life of Sukhanov, by Julie Hansen

Here is the link to the full-text online: https://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1268970/FULLTEXT01.pdf


Matt Roth


4 years ago

Thank you, Matt, for the information. Bibliographic entries have been created. Regularizing all the entries will take some time though, since I would like to do them thoroughly. A little bit of window-dressing seems appropriate to me, at least till I reach my limits. ;)


4 years ago

Thank you for sharing, Matt.

I particularly liked Nancy Pollack's 'Kinbote's Remorse'. Her connection of Hazel-Psyche-Soul-Swallow-Swallowtail is illuminating. She notes that the swallow was associated with death and resurrection through its disappearance in the Winter and return in the Spring. I would add to that string the word 'anima', Jung's term for the feminine archetype in a man's unconscious. Hazel seems to reflect Shade's rejected soul - the homely outsider he was himself as a child.

Pollack also seems to agree with me that 'Kinbote’s observation that Shade was “mortally afraid of his wife” [228] should perhaps be taken more than figuratively' although she doesn't take that to its logical conclusion. Sybil Irondell I see as the antagonistic anima, the real main conflict in PF.


4 years ago

I just wanted to add a few more things about Nabokov’s use of the ‘swallow’ imagery by quoting Nancy Pollack’s essay:


As the daughter, in particular, of Sybil Shade, the namesake of Aeneas’s guide, Hazel has a ready psychopomp, as her father might have predicted (“‘There is always a psychopompos around the corner, isn’t there?’” [226]).75 As the daughter of Sybil Shade, née Irondell, Hazel has a specific connection to Psyche’s heroic descent. A second tradition links Psyche to the swallow, which is associated with death and resurrection through its disappearance in winter and return in the spring.76 Nabokov alludes to this tradition in the poem “Lastochka” (Ласточка; The Swallow: «Однажды мы под вечер оба . . .»), which is attributed to the hero of his 1937 novel Dar: “that swallow” (ласточкуту—a “swift”77 in The Gift, 106) is envisioned as “life in flight” (жизнь на лету)(Dar 107). Kinbote notes the derivation of Sybil’s birth name “from the Frenchfor ‘swallow,’” i.e., hirondelle; he pointedly refers to her as Sybil Swallow (171,



Hazel comes to life in the old barn (185–93), an appropriate habitat for aswallow.79 Her identity as a swallow’s offspring is reinforced by her associationwith blindness: whereas Hazel’s parents refer to her “blind date” (line 449),Kinbote refers to her as a “blind date” (196). “There is a mysterious connection between swallows and blindness,” Kirill Taranovsky notes, with particular reference to the swallow’s fledglings, whose sight, according to legend, theparents would restore by means of the herb celandine (Taranovsky, Essays 159;“Razbor” 146n184; see also Ronen, An Approach 264).Taranovsky’s subject is the “blind swallow” that is the central shared imageof Mandelstam’s “twin” Lethean poems, «Когда Психея-жизнь спускается ктеням» (When Psyche-life descends to the shades) and «Я слово позабыл, чтохотел сказать» (I forgot the word I wanted to say; “Lastochka” [Ласточка;he Swallow]) (Mandel'shtam 147–48, 146). This image provides a useful parallel in the case of Hazel. In Mandelstam’s poems the blind swallow is analogous both to the heroine “Psyche-life”


In Virgil’s Aeneid, a ‘sibyl’ acts as Aneas’ guide to the underworld. Sibyls, of course, in Greece were prophetesses, but this possible allusion to Aeneas and his guide ties into my theory of Jungian influences in PF. First to the ‘Hero’s Journey’ monomyth, but importantly, also to Jung’s attribution of the anima as guide to the unconscious.


It occurs to me that Shade’s quote ‘There is always a psychopompos around the corner, isn’t there?’ is a major clue to Sybil’s centrality in PF, or more correctly since this refers to Hazel’s heritage too, the importance that Jung ascribed to the anima.


Nabokov seems to have used the swallow imagery based on Mandelstam’s ‘Lastochka’ in lines ‘the noun I meant’ (965) and ‘The right word flutes and perches on my hand.’ (872)


 I believe that “Swallow” may have been a term of endearment of Nabokov’s for Vera? I don’t have the book with me, but I seem to recall the word being used as a kind of mutual understanding between them.  Swallow imagery plays a part in the relationship of Fyodor and Zina in The Gift, which seems semi-autobiographical.


Mary Ross