Ronen, Irena. Pushkin's Presence in Solus Rex. 2008

Bibliographic title
Pushkin's Presence in Solus Rex
Periodical or collection
Nabokov Online Journal
Periodical issue
v. 2
Publication year

The paper surveys Pushkinian motifs in Nabokov's unfinished novel Solus Rex. There are numerous important parallels that have gone unnoticed by critics, among them: 1) the theme of a commission for which no one would ever come, accompanied by a motif of approaching death (Pushkin's Mozart and Salieri); 2) the theme of lost love and the quest for it in the world beyond, associated with water (Pushkin's unfinished poetic drama Rusalka). Pushkin's presence can be signaled by proxy: for example, Tiutchev's poem in memory of his dead mistress Denis'eva ("On the Eve of the Anniversary of August 4, 1864"). In the dream of Sineusov, the protagonist of "Ultima Thule," the motif of a child being born posthumously evokes the birth of Rusalka's daughter to a dead mother in Pushkin's play. Nabokov also uses the plot of Pushkin's antithesis to Rusalka, "The Stationmaster," in one of the episodes of Solus Rex. An early story by Nabokov, "The Return of Chorb," is shown to be a prefiguration of the master-plot developed in "Ultima Thule." Among the works of Pushkin that meant most to Nabokov during the final stage of his Russian period are "Egyptian Nights." Just like his hero in the sequel to The Gift or in the story of the artist Sineusov, Nabokov found his inspiration in an external source, most prominently, Pushkin, in whose "Egyptian Nights" the artist obeys somebody else's creative will and develops the theme offered him by a stranger as if it were his own.