Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024754, Mon, 4 Nov 2013 18:54:28 -0500

QUERY: S. A. Vengerov in ADA
Brian Boyd writes:

A quick question:

Does anyone know how the literary scholar Semyon Afanasievich Vengerov
died? In *Ada*, I.38 (p. 259 in the first, Vintage and AdaOnline editions),
Nabokov writes:

Van remembered that his tutor’s great friend, the learned but prudish
Semyon Afanasievich Vengerov, then a young associate professor but already
a celebrated Pushkinist (1855-1954), used to say that the only vulgar
passage in his author’s work was the cannibal joy of young gourmets tearing
“plump and live” oysters out of their “cloisters” in an unfinished
canto of *Eugene

Vengerov was real, but died not in 1954 but in 1920. Note Vengerov as “a
celebrated Pushkinist.” I currently plan to gloss this thus (though there
is much more that could be said, for instance about his famous Pushkin

“Pushkinist”: Vengerov edited the first three volumes of the journal
*Pushkinist*, published in Petrograd from 1914; its final volume, edited in
1923 by Nikolay Vasilievich Yakovlev (a friend of VN’s in the mid and late
1920s), was dedicated to Vengerov’s memory.

I suspect a pointed irony in the Antiterran extension of his life, beyond
his 65 years on Earth, to a year short of a century and a year after
Stalin’s death. I suspect this especially as the only sentence mentioning
him comes between two sentences referring first to mass persecution
(linking the persecution of the Old Believers with, as I read it, the tens
of thousands who died in Stalin’s White Sea-Baltic Canal project in
1931-33, “on the banks of the Great Lake of Slaves”) and then to Stalin as
the “Crimean Khan” praised by Churchill as “A Great and Good Man.” I
suspect also that Nabokov heard from Yakovlev—who certainly supplied
Nabokov with other information the writer cherished and used, and who as an
émigré founded an anti-Bolshevik organization Nabokov joined—something
about Vengerov’s death that made Nabokov give him that almost improbably
long life, outliving Stalin. Of course Stalin himself was not in power at
the time of Vengerov’s death.

Susan Elizabeth Sweeney
Co-Editor, NABOKV-L

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com

Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/