NABOKV-L post 0023077, Wed, 18 Jul 2012 15:02:58 -0700

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Re: Pale Fire Commentary on Line 130
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Body
completely agree with R S Gwynn - it is all about soccer and baseball - nabokov played soccer back in russia - there is a little story how he incidetely kicked the ball  hard and made a friend bleed - later he was very concern about the poor boys' condition (came to see him a few times) but mostly, nabokov was a goalie


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From: R S Gwynn <Rsgwynn1@CS.COM>
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Sent: Wednesday, July 18, 2012 11:30 AM
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] Pale Fire Commentary on Line 130

Shade, being an American, is probably talking about basketball and baseball as childhood/school sports, soccer being pretty rare in the US at the time (early 1900s when he was a child).  Kinbote complete misses the baseball reference in the "Chapman's homer" line.  Cricket was certainly widely played throughout the British empire early in the century, and the well-traveled CK would have at least have been familiar with it. VN, of course, played soccer (football) at Cambridge, and I assume he played it as a child, along with tennis, which figures in several of the novels (Lolita, Transparent Things).  CK's sport of choice is ping-pong.

In a message dated 7/18/2012 12:34:57 PM Central Daylight Time, ba@TAXBAR.COM writes:


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>Hi
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>I’m new to this list – please forgive me if what follows is trivial or unoriginal.
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>I have been an obsessive reader of PF on and off for years and have absorbed some of the academic literature on it, but obviously not all.
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>I have a couple of observations on the commentary to line 130 (“I never bounced a ball or swung a bat”).
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>1.       Kinbote’s references to soccer and cricket (first line of this commentary)
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>I have seen comments to the effect that this shows how out of touch Kinbote is with American sports, but surely there is something more complicated going on here. By saying that he “never excelled in soccer and cricket” Kinbote is implying that he (and/or Charles Xavier) actually played both sports.
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>Cricket was (and largely still is) a game played in Great Britain and territories of the former British Empire. How likely is it that cricket would have been played in Zembla in the years when Kinbote/Charles Xavier was growing up – the 1920s and early 1930s? Given Zembla’s location in northern Europe and apparently loose ties with the English-speaking world (see the references to English teaching), the answer is surely that it is very unlikely.
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>The later reference in the commentary to line 130 to Oleg being the best centre-forward in his school is soccer-related, of course.
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>So why the reference to cricket? The later reference to the insect in this part of the commentary (“A cricket cricked.”) can’t be the only reason for using “cricket” in its sporting sense. Why would Kinbote, writing in America, ever think to mention a sport unknown to virtually all American readers in 1959?
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>I think that there is a class-related theme here. Cricket in England was, up until the 1950s, a game where both professionals and amateurs played at the highest level.  By convention, the captain of the English national team was always an amateur. Oxford and Cambridge Universities fielded entirely student teams which competed with some success at the highest national level. One of the most important matches in the annual cricket calendar was the “Gentlemen v. Players” match at Lords. The only people who could afford to play as amateurs were the sons of the upper middle and upper classes. This did occasionally included royalty. For example, K. S. Ranjitsinhji (later the Maharaja of Nawangar) played for Cambridge University and England in the 1890s and 1900s.  Nabokov must have known about all of this from his Cambridge days. C. B. Fry, a noted Oxford and England cricketer, is said to have been offered (and refused) the throne of Albania.
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>So if cricket was a “high class” sport, the apparent fact that Kinbote/the young Charles Xavier played it would perhaps fit in with the persona that Kinbote projects throughout the work.
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>From a class perspective, “soccer” and “rugger”(see below) were originally both sports played by the upper classes (but not exclusively) – but by the start of the twentieth century, “soccer” was almost exclusively a working class game in England – “rugger” was almost exclusively the game played by the upper classes.
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>So it’s curious that Kinbote/Charles Xavier (and presumably all high class young Zemblans at the time) played the more upper class cricket in the summer but the more working class “soccer” in the winter.
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>I find the use of the word “soccer” interesting too. Speakers of American English may find nothing unnatural in this, apart from its incongruity in the context of what Shade was actually implying in line 130 of the poem, but to speakers of British English the word strikes a false note. Nabokov would have been aware that in British usage “soccer” was used to distinguish “association football” from “rugby football” – “rugger” - but by the 1950s British usage was to call the round ball game “football” and the oval ball game “rugby”. The word “soccer” had become relegated to slang usage only.
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>2.       “Escalier Dérobé”
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>I am surely not the first person to connect this phrase (in the paragraph that begins with Beauchamp and Campbell’s game of chess and ends with the boys moaning like doves) with Victor Hugo’s Hernani?  But if I am, then here goes:
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>Hernani (1830) is (partly) concerned with a plot to kill the king of Spain – Don Carlos.
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>The play opens:-
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>Serait-ce déjà lui? – C’est bien à l’escalier/dérobé.
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>It was at this point on the play’s opening night that a riot broke out at the Comédie Française because the classical faction in the audience was outraged by Hugo’s use of enjambement.
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>So, in addition to the portrait of Iris Acht and the “green-carpeted steps” (as in “green room”), we have an indication  that there will be a theatre at the end of the secret passage and angry voices! And an allusion to a plot to kill a king called Charles.
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>Barrie Akin
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