NABOKV-L post 0024848, Thu, 28 Nov 2013 23:46:10 -0200

Old news
I don't know if this item was distributed in the VN-L (it was published online in July 26, 2012 at
I decided to post it because in Karen Fitzgerald's report the references to the flagpole incident in Springfield are mainly restricted to VN's letters to Vera, with only a short nod to the amusing exchange found in his correspondence with E.Wilson, where we find wordplay related to Poles and to the Russian word for sex (pol), thereby linking the guide's reaction to this patriotic erection to something Freudian. K.Fitzgerald's article bears some acerb and superficial criticism of VN that's also interesting to read.

btw: While I was writing about pole, Poles and "pol" I was reminded (again) of another comment by Nabokov related to Freud. Its subject was psychoanalysis and a poll.and the word "pollination." Shade: "No, Charlie, there are simpler criteria: Marxism needs a dictator, and a dictator needs a secret police, and that is the end of the world; but the Freudian, no matter how stupid, can still cast his vote at the poll, even if he is pleased to call it [smiling] political pollination.'.. Attention to echoes of "pol" in "police" and "political". The flagpole must have left a firm mnemic imprint in VN...

"When Vladimir Nabokov came to Springfield - The great Russian novelist, author of Lolita, was taken aback by a flagpole enthusiast"
[ ] When the great Russian novelist Vladimir Nabokov visited Springfield in 1942, he met a man who would become fodder for one of the most entertaining letters he wrote to his wife. It was excerpted last year in The New Yorker magazine and is among 300 letters to be published in a forthcoming volume titled Letters to Vera. Several years before writing the classic Lolita, Nabokov came to town to give a lecture to the Mid-Day Luncheon Club. He was met at the train station by the secretary of the club, whom he described as “a creepily silent melancholic of somewhat clerical cast with a small stock of automatic questions, which he quickly exhausted,” according to The New Yorker. The day after his arrival, the man escorted Nabokov on a tour of the Lincoln home and tomb, where it became clear that the passion of the man’s life was flagpoles. “He livened up and flashed his eyes one single time – got awfully nervous, having noticed that the flagpole by the Lincoln mausoleum had been replaced by a new, taller one,” Nabokov wrote. The man “sighed with relief” after finding out that the pole was 70 feet tall – 10 feet less than the flagpole in his own garden. “He’s saving money for a hundred-foot flagpole,” noted Nabokov, adding, “Dr. Freud could have said something interesting on that subject....” Although Nabokov didn’t name the man, the club secretary at the time was Elmer Kneale. [ ] Kneale, who worked for the Illinois State Register for 37 years, “walked through life performing the duties of a routine employee of a newspaper business office, but extended the fame of his native town into even the remote places of the earth,” according to his ISJ obituary. How could Nabokov, with his reputed powers of observation, have failed to see that underneath Kneale’s mild-mannered exterior beat the passionate heart of a Springfield superhero? Well, Nabokov was something of a cold fish, if not a snob, according to some. In a snarkier letter to literary critic Edmund Wilson printed in Dear Bunny, Dear Volodya, Nabokov included Kneale in a list of “aberations of homo saps and homo sapiens” that he collected on his lecture tour through the U.S. that fall. This description of Kneale adds the tidbit, “I noticed him tingle for a moment when I happened to mention Poland and Poles.”
Really, it’s not surprising that the author of the scandalous Lolita would be unable to relate to a lifelong bachelor like Kneale. In the letter to Wilson, Nabokov surmised that Kneale’s sex life was either limited or nonexistent. Should a man who addresses a male friend as “Bunny” really be making fun of someone else’s sexuality? Some people might consider Nabokov’s passion for collecting butterflies an odd hobby for a grown man, even if he was curator of lepidoptera at the Harvard Museum of Comparative Zoology at the time of his visit.
In the end, thankfully, Nabokov left Springfield with the names of two men who did impress him. In the last portion of the letter to Vera [see sidebar “Unpublished fragment”], which was not printed in The New Yorker, Nabokov wrote that he got on very well with John C. McGregor, the director of the Illinois State Museum and founder of the Illinois State Archaeological Survey. He also praised the museum and its butterfly and fossil insect collection.
He hit it off as well with Paul Angle, the librarian of the Illinois State Historical Library, state historian, and Lincoln scholar. Angle introduced Nabokov’s speech titled “One Hundred Years of Exile: The Strange Fate of Russian Literature” before a large noontime crowd at the Leland Hotel. Nabokov spoke about outer and inner exile, which he described as a restlessness of the soul, noting that it “seems a national state of great Russian writers,” according to ISJ.
Nabokov ended the account of his visit, however, on a rather sour note. “Now I am waiting at the Springfield station for the train, which is an hour late.” Some things never change.

Unpublished fragment of Nabokov’s Springfield letter
Brian Boyd, editor of the forthcoming Letters to Vera, provided IT with the portion of the November 7, 1942, letter from Springfield that was not printed in The New Yorker magazine. It was written by Vladimir Nabokov, translated by Olga Voronina and Brian Boyd, with Dmitri Nabokov.
"I spoke before a huge crowd. Got on very well with the director of the State Museum McGregor (really a charming museum with a decent collection of butterflies and undescribed fossil insects which will be sent to Carpenter at my museum) and with the director of the history library Paul Angle. Now I am waiting at the Springfield station for the train, which is an hour late. I love you very much, my sweetheart. Yesterday I again had an attack – but very short – of fever and pain between the ribs. It’s not cold, but dampish. I am kissing my Mityushonok very much." [Used by permission of The Wylie Agency LLC ]

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