NABOKV-L post 0022029, Sat, 24 Sep 2011 15:40:20 -0300

Subject
surrender and exile...
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In one of the latest video presentations in which Vladimir Nabokov is being interviewed he mumbles, with a lowered head: "I'll not surrender." I found a printed interview for BBC, in 1962, (SO,Vintage, p.9/10) where VN replies to "Would you ever go back to Russia?" saying that he "will never go back, for the simple reason that all the Russia I need is always with me: literature, language, and my own Russian childhood. I will never return. I will never surrender..." VN gives us to understand that he cannot become an exile since he carries the artist's passport and that his native country is a state of mind. In this context, what does it mean "I'll not surrender"?

I found one of VN's very clever comments about Ilf and Petrov (SO,pg87/88): "Ilf and Petrov, two wonderfully gifted writers, decided that if they had a rascal adventurer as protagonist, whatever they wrote about his adventures could not be criticized from a political point of view, since a perfect rascal, or a madman or a delinquent or any person who was outside Soviet society - in other words, any picaresque character - could not be accused either of being a bad Communist or not being a good Communist. Thus Ilf and Petrov, Zoshchenko, and Olesha managed to publish some absolutely first-rate fiction under that standard of complete independence, since these characters, plots, and themes could not be treated as political ones. Until the early thirties they managed to get away with it. The Poet had a parallel system. They thought , and they were fight at first, that if they stuck to the garden - to pure poetry, to lyrical imitations, say, of gypsy songs, such as Ilya Selvinski's - that then they were safe. Zabolotski found a third method of writing, as if the 'I' of the poem were a perfect imbecile, crooning in a dream, distorting words, playing with words as a half-insane person would..."
In his next answer to the same interviewers, he expands on his six Russian plays and about "The Exploit" in particular. His summary reminded me of the adventures of Ganin in the 1930/32 "Glory," and even the later fantastic "The Visit to the Museum" (1938).
His closing lines about his play mention how the character "a lover of adventure for adventure's sake...for the pure thrill of it decides one day to cross illegally into Soviet Russia, and then cross back to exile. Its mains theme is the overcoming of fear, the glory* and rapture of that victory."


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* In the same 2008 issue of The Nabokovian (n.61) carrying Rachel Trousdale interpetation of Ada's reference to Manfield Garden, there's an interesting discussion about translation (by another poet or by the autor-poet) and Nabokov's variations on "Glory" and "Fame" (Cf. "A Note on the Translation of Nabokov's 'Slava' " by Matthew Walker.)

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