Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023392, Mon, 15 Oct 2012 15:37:49 +0300

Hugh Person to Monsieur Wilde: "If I were a poet (but I'm only a proofreader) I would describe to you the celestial nature of solitary confinement, the bliss of an immaculate toilet, the liberty of thought in the ideal jail." (TT, chapter 25)

In The Ballad of Reading Gaol Oscar Wilde says that all men kill the thing they love: "Some strangle with the hands of Lust, / Some with the hands of Gold..." (Hugh Person strangles the thing he loves in his sleep, as it were, with the hands of God).

In his last letter to his publisher, R. says that he will soon be proofread by cherubim - or misprinted by devils, depending on the department his poor soul is assigned to. (TT, chapter 21)

Proofreader's ban is mentioned in VN's parody of Pasternak's poem Nobel Prize, Kakoe sdelal ya durnoe delo... (What is the Evil Deed I have Committed? 1959):

Но как забавно, что в конце абзаца,
корректору и веку вопреки,
тень русской ветки будет колебаться
на мраморе моей руки.

Amusing, though, that at the last indention,
Despite proofreader's and my age’s ban,
A Russian branch’s shadow shall be playing
Upon the marble of my hand.

One is reminded of the branch gently moved by wind (ветка, тихо колеблемая ветром) which the narrator in Turgenev's Phantoms can see through Ellis's semi-transparent face, but also of Khodasevich's poem Pamyatnik (Monument, 1928):

Во мне конец, во мне начало.
Мной совершённое так мало!
Но всё ж я прочное звено:
Мне это счастие дано.

В России новой, но великой,
Поставят идол мой двуликий
На перекрестке двух дорог,
Где время, ветер и песок...

The end, the start I do embody -
Forged as a link that's true and sturdy.
Although my claims to fame are few!
Rejoicing, I unite the queue.

In future Russia - new and mighty,
My graven idol will be sighted
Two faced where two roads come to meet
Where time, wind, sand...evolve their lied.*

In his poem Den' (The Day, 1921), beginnig: Goryachiy veter, zloy i lzhivyi... ("Hot wind, malicious and mendacious..."), Khodasevich compares our everyday reality to a dark-blue prison (temno-lazurnaya tyur'ma):

И верно, долго не прервётся
Блистательная кутерьма
И с грохотом не распадётся
Темно-лазурная тюрьма.**

Did I ascribe Musset's poem A Julie to Baudelaire? Khorosh, nechego skazat' (What an idiot I am)!

*I'm not responsible for this rhymed translation (lied, Germ., "song," is the anonymous translator's contribution)
**it was A. A. Fet who first compared (in his poem In Memory of N. Ya. Danilevski, 1886) the phenomenal world to a blue prison (golubaya tyur'ma)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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