Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024658, Wed, 2 Oct 2013 23:35:19 -0300

Re: quote query
Brian Boyd [ ] I'm sceptical this pallid shadow of the opening of "Pale Fire" is VN, even from his Russian poetry, but does anyone recognise it? :

"Only birds are able to throw off their shadows
The shadow always stays behind on earth.
Our imagination flies.
We are its shadow on the earth."

Matt Roth: That sounds like a Kinbote translation of a Conmal translation of a John Shade poem!

Jackie Cameron:The phrase, "only birds are able to throw off their shadows," seems to be from a lyric by Rod McKuen, although there are several websites that link the phrase to Nabokov without - frustratingly - actually indicating where or when it was written. Interestingly a French version of the final two lines - "Notre imagination vole. / Nous sommes son ombre sur la terre" - appears on several sites with Nabokov's name attached to it..

Jansy Mello: When I first compared the lines Brian brought up with Nabokov's opening verses in PF, I felt like Matt has so aptly described (a Kinbote translation of a Conmal translation...) together with am unwarranted disappointment. as if the mere idea of pinning down the authorship on an early work by Nabokov could somehow downgrade John Shade's lines.

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane;

I was the smudge of ashen fluff - and I

Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.

However, after reading Jackie Cameron's "double split" of a lyric by Rod McKuen and a French version of the two last lines, I inexplicably felt some relief. At the same time the philosophy about our imaginative flights that cast our shadows on the world doesn't quite fit with Nabokov's ideas about imagination, monism, platonism, etc. as he expressed them in "Strong Opinions.". and the initial impression of any palest similarity vanishes completely. John Shade's "I" cannot become a didactic"We," nor his ornithological ancestry denied by the creation of a mere analogy between man and birds. .

Matt Roth: Back in 2012 I posted a brief message to the list speculating that the narrator of "The Visit to the Museum" is narrating posthumously. I have developed that idea more fully on the Kobaltana blog here: http://kobaltana.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/can-the-i-die/

Jansy Mello: A well-fundamented and insightful message about "street crossings in Nabokov's fiction [ ]in at least three instances, Nabokov uses a literal crossing as a marker of the passage into death or an alternate state." It enriches the vision of "The Visit to the Museum," or the conjectures about the narrator of Transparent Things, and a host of other subtle markers in VN's fiction (even the opening statement about the waxwing slain in PF may gain a new slant!).

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