Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024606, Thu, 19 Sep 2013 19:42:23 -0300

Re: A Dr.Botkin,
the enema tube and a poet's lyre in connection to Chekhov
Moe Aboulkheir: "Sergey Botkin (or S.P. Botkin, son of Eugene Botkin, another prominent Petersburg Professor) gave his name to "Botkin's Disease", or viral hepatitis (due to his work on its transmissibility, not because he died of that particular failure of the liver). His cause of death is often given as "liver disease", or some combination of that and heart disease; he may well have died of liver cancer, as above. A little unfortunate, either way."

Jansy Mello: Thanks, Moe, for the information concerning the two Botkin doctors, father and son. Do you know more about what relation there is between Chekhov and S.P. Botkin?

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A. Sklyarenko explained that "Chekhov used to say that medicine was his lawful wife and literature, his mistress.", i.e, he gave more importance on his life as a doctor than as a poet, reminding us, also, that Nabokov had Smurov die right at the start of "The Eye", in opposition to what Chekhov's "stale" rule mainstains (a similar procedure as the one adopted, in wry humor, by Machado de Assis, in "The Posthumous Memoirs of Brás Cubas"*). However, Chekhov must have valued human dignity above everything else**.
I wonder if the wordplay "Eye" and "I" is also present in the Russian title?

Carolyn Kunin (off list) wrote: "Boyd gets ir tight, that the Italians destroyed the monument, so why do Kinbote/Nabokov blame the Germans?" and I thought that her query is worth mentioning here. Kinbote wasn't a consistent liar so, perhaps, this argument isn't sufficient to explain the historical inexactitude.
Kinbote's note to line 240: "Not many Englishmen walked there, anyway, though I noticed quite a few just east of Mentone, on the quay where in honor of Queen Victoria a bulky monument, with difficulty embraced by the breeze, had been erected, but not yet unshrouded, to replace the one the Germans had taken away. Rather pathetically, the eager horn of her pet monoceros protruded through the shroud. "

* Machado de Assis "I hesitated for a while about whether I should start these memoirs from the beginning or from the end, if I should first describe my birth or my demise (.)Properly speaking, I am not a deceased author (.) my tomb was my second cradle. Moses, who also wrote about his death, did not commence with it (.): a radical distinction between this book and the Pentateuch."

**Here is what wiki offers concerning A.C's stay at the Sakhalin Island (I went after this wiki summary after having read Murakami's comments): "In 1890, Chekhov undertook an arduous journey by train, horse-drawn carriage, and river steamer to the far east of Russia and the katorga, or penal colony, on Sakhalin Island, north of Japan, where he spent three months interviewing thousands of convicts and settlers for a census. The letters Chekhov wrote during the two-and-a-half month journey to Sakhalin are considered to be among his best[ ] Chekhov witnessed much on Sakhalin that shocked and angered him, including floggings, embezzlement of supplies, and forced prostitution of women. [ ] His findings were published in 1893 and 1894 as Ostrov Sakhalin (The Island of Sakhalin), a work of social science - not literature - worthy and informative rather than brilliant. Chekhov found literary expression for the "Hell of Sakhalin" in his long short story The Murder, the last section of which is set on Sakhalin, where the murderer Yakov loads coal in the night, longing for home."

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