Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0022831, Sun, 13 May 2012 15:26:45 -0400

Re: Firebird reply to A. Stadlen
Dear Ms Kunin,

The paragraph about Kalmakov, mermaids and Ada was not mine. My only
contribution was to recall -- yet again -- VN's well-known prophesy of the
reappraiser who will deny that he was a firebird (note that VN does not actually
say the reappraiser will be right). I agree that VN's denials should be
seen sub specie Freud's essay on Negation. When VN says he is not this, or
not that, or not interested in little girls, one has to look dispassionately
at the evidence, and ask why he is telling us this.

Anthony Stadlen

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In a message dated 13/05/2012 14:03:21 GMT Daylight Time,
chaiselongue@ATT.NET writes:

On May 10, 2012, at 4:07 AM, Anthony Stadlen wrote:

... it may be worth recalling that VN in an interview in October 1971

"...I believe that one day a reappraiser will come and declare that, far
from having been a frivolous firebird, I was a rigid moralist kicking sin,
cuffing stupidity, ridiculing the vulgar and cruel -- and assigning
sovereign power to tenderness, talent, and pride." [Strong Opinions (1973),
McGraw-Hill, p. 193.]

Anthony Stadlen

... Unlike you, I don't particularly see any Vladimirian literary
extensions to be gleaned from Kalmakov's painting (except the precious information
that the painting was owned by his parents and hung somewhere in the
house). Nevertheless, the firebird and mermaid/seasand nymph associations in ADA
seem to confirm your hunch! (There are a lot of aquatic images, words,
worlds in ADA.)

Dear Mr Stadlen,

Because of the layout of your last post, it's not clear whom you are
addressing when you write "unlike you" - but I'll take it to mean me. I don't
know what you mean by "Vladimirian literary extensions" - but I think I can
assure you I did not intend to make any such. My pursuit of Kalmakov in the
"Vladimirian" (I would rather say Nabokovian) context, is more directly
biographical and only secondarily literary. Probably this is because my least
favorite of VN's works is definitely Ada. I never intend to read it again,
that's for damned sure.

But I am very interested in Kalmakov as representative of the myriad
artistic and literary movements swirling around Russia before the revolution,
and how VN may have perceived himself in relation to those. The possible
reference I detected in the quote from Ada sent in Jansy's recent post
("Firebird ... Apollo") to the two pre- and post-revolutionary magazines in which
those artistic and literary movements were manifested, that's what interests
me. Also what role VN's family may have played in our author's relation to
those movements. Up until now, the only familial literary connection that
I was aware of was the presence of Box, a direct descendant of Chekhov's
dackel, in the Nabokov household. How did that happen? I have asked in the
past, but have received no reply to date.

By the way, there is no evidence that the Kalmakov painting was "hung
somewhere in the house." We don't know that for a fact. They may have purchased
it to do a favor for a starving artist, for example. Or Kalmakov may have
given it to them in hopes of furthering his carrer. It may have been
stashed in the attic so far as we know. There is no evidence of how or why the
painting came into the family's possession. Perhaps something will turn up -
let's hope so.

As for VN's denial of any firebird identity, I'd take that and put it in a
box with his similar denial of any interests in doubles. It's a pretty big
box, and the label I'd put on it would be "TO BE TAKEN WITH A GRAIN OF

respectfully yours,
C Kunin

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