NABOKV-L post 0023002, Sun, 1 Jul 2012 13:24:22 -0400

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Re: Pale Fire's "Harfar Baron of Shalksbore"
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Thanks. Bend Sinister is next on my reading list. I imagine one needs to be a hardened Nabokov reader to know how seriously he is to be taken in any given context. I'm sure you're familiar with his 1924 poem, translated by his son, which to my mind leaves no doubt about his sentiments at that time. I mean, a poet who writes this isn't leaving anything open to interpretation:

"...It's true, of course, a usurer had grown
accustomed, for a sum, to sign your work
(that Shakespeare - Will - who played the Ghost in Hamlet,
who lives in pubs, and died before he could
digest in full his portion of a boar's head)..."

Of course it could be said that VN's rejection of the traditional attribution in that verse was merely a youthful indiscretion, but the way he consistently referred back to the matter in his writings thirty and forty years later suggests that his unease persisted. In Ada he writes of "Billionaire Bill" and critiques the Droeshout engraving which prefaces the First Folio; but the very name with which he adorns his most admired author -- "Billionaire Bill" -- suggests that he had little to no respect for the man from Stratford, the theatrical shareholder/moneylender/grain hoarder/real estate speculator which inspired VN's cynical name for him. I think that he rejected the man from Stratford, but at the same time made it difficult to see where his own preferences lay. Perhaps, as you suggest, he simply couldn't decide. I sympathize.

Mike Marcus

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