Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027032, Tue, 31 May 2016 17:08:35 +0000

Re: Novaya Zemlya and Kuzma's mother
I wonder if VN ever knew that the true-life island of Novaya Zemlya was, exactly at the time of Pale Fire publication, a site of Soviet nuclear tests<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novaya_Zemlya>...in particular (as we NOW know) the October 30, 1961 air burst<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Air_burst#Nuclear_weapons> explosion of Tsar Bomba<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsar_Bomba>, the largest, most powerful nuclear weapon ever detonated....50 Megaton TNT, aka Kuz'kina Mat' (Russian<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russian_language>: Кузькина мать, Kuzma's mother<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kuzma%27s_mother>) referring to Nikita Khrushchev<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikita_Khrushchev>'s promise to show the United States<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States> a "Kuz'kina Mat' at the 1960 UN General Assembly.

Tomsk or Atomsk, indeed, still to our day.

Victor Fet.

From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum [mailto:NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU] On Behalf Of Jansy Mello
Sent: Tuesday, May 31, 2016 10:50 AM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] Novaya Zemlya and VN's refrigerator: resuscitations

While reading a fantasy story in the internet I was directed to a site about Novaya Zemlya [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novaya_Zemlya ] where I read about this northern island and examined assorted maps. At the end of this wikipedia entry, in a reference to "Literature" Vladimir Nabokov's name was cited - but simply because of a line in his poem "The Refrigerator Awakes" (The New Yorker, June 6,1942).
I thought it would be fun to share this curiosity with the VN-List.

Cf. wiki:
Gerrit de Veer<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrit_de_Veer>, Nova Zembla, written 1598, published 1996
Vladimir Nabokov<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Nabokov>, "The Refrigerator Awakes" (1942), line 27
Ian Fleming<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Fleming>, "The Living Daylights" (1966), Agent 272 is holed up in Novaya Zemlya

I copied some of the verses to provide a half-frozen context to line 27.

And if darkness could sound, it would sound like this giant
waking up in the torture house, trying to die
and not dying [...]
the line, hold the line, lest its tale be untold;
let it amble along through the thumping pain
and horror of dichlordisometing methane,
a trembling white heart with the frost froth upon it,
Nova Zembla, poor thing, with that B in her bonnet,
stunned bees in the bonnets of cars on hot roads,
Keep It Kold...[...]
of that wide-open white
god, the pride and delight
of starry-eyed couples in dream kitchenettes,
and it groans and it drones and it toils and it sweats -
Shackleton, pemmican, penguin, Poe's Pym -
collapsing at last in the criminal

Now a quick check online to find VN's mention to Nova Zembla in "Speak, Memory":
"According to my father's first cousin Vladimir Viktorovich Golubtsov, a lover of Russian antiquities, whom I consulted in 1930, the founder of our family was Nabok Murza (floruit 1380), a Russianized Tatar prince in Muscovy. My own first cousin, Sergey Sergeevich Nabokov, a learned genealogist, informs me that in the fifteenth century our ancestors owned land in the Moscow princedom. He refers me to a document (published by Yushkov inActs of the XIII-XVII Centuries, Moscow, 1899) concerning a rural squabble which in the year 1494, under Ivan the Third, squire Kulyakin had with his neighbors, Filat, Evdokim, and Vlas, sons of Luka Nabokov. During the following centuries the Nabokovs were government officials and military men. My great-great-grandfather, General Aleksandr Ivanovich Nabokov (1749-1807), was, in the reign of Paul the First, chief of the Novgorod garrison regiment called "Nabokov's Regiment" in official documents. The youngest of his sons, my great-grandfather Nikolay Aleksandrovich Nabokov, was a young naval officer in 1817, when he participated, with the future admirals Baron von Wrangel and Count Litke, under the leadership of Captain (later Vice-Admiral) Vasiliy Mihaylovich Golovnin, in an expedition to map Nova Zembla (of all places) where "Nabokov's River" is named after my ancestor. The memory of the leader of the expedition is preserved in quite a number of place names, one of them being Golovnin's Lagoon, Seward Peninsula, W. Alaska, from where a butterfly, Parnassius phoebus golovinus (rating a big sic), has been described by Dr. Holland; but my great-grandfather has nothing to show except that very blue, almost indigo blue, even indignantly blue, little river winding between wet rocks; for he soon left the navy, n'ayant pas le pied marin (as says my cousin Sergey Sergeevich who informed me about him), and switched to the Moscow Guards."

Another check at the VN-L:
Date: Wed, 9 Jul 2003 10:17:28 -0400
From: "Jasper Fidget" Subject: NPPF - Preliminary - Zembla

Zembla - resembla: a sort of bizarro-world of reflections and fairy tales,peopled by real-world caricatures and literary characters, located somewhere between Russia and Scandinavia, Kinbote's Zembla is obviously fictitious,but it has many real-world sources [snip] http://www.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novaya_Zemlya
See _Pale Fire_ pp 137-138 for some Zembla geography.
Kinbote asserts that his own Zembla is *not* Nova Zembla (see p. 267).
The Novaya Zemlya Effect: "Named after the Russian island in the Arctic Ocean, where it often occurs, the Novaya Zemlya Effect is produced by a strong, shallow, surface-based inversion acting as a mirror, which reflects the light of the sun when it is just below the horizon."(jackstephensimages.com)
Pope in his "Essay on Man" lists Zembla as one "extreme of Vice" [snip] http://www.theotherpages.org/poems/pope-e2.html
Kinbote refers to this poem in _Pale Fire_, p. 272)
In _Battle of the Books_, Swift refers to Nova Zembla as the home of Criticism: "She dwelt on the Top of a snowy Mountain in Nova Zembla":Swift,1704). http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/s/s97ba/
A running theme in _Life of Johnson_ surrounds Boswell's attempts to convince Johnson of the value of Scotland (from which Boswell hails and toward which Johnson has a low opinion). (Zembla as the generic North.)

The slow accumulation of information and verses and references and images constantly adds new depths to what I find in VN's works. I'm glad that the VN-L provides enough space for this "crystal growth".

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