While I was searching for references to Nemo and Nobody (thinking about the Odyssey, particularly after hearing two words in Greek, “nostalgia” and something sounding like the German “Niemand”, in a movie about photography, cinematography and memory called  ‘Ulysses’ Gaze’ - To Vlemma tou Odyssea -  by Theo Angelopoulos), and considering Kinbote and a trail of discussions in the VN-L related to Nitko(b), I came to the “fictional double Mr. Nikerbroker” in an article by Maria Lobytsyna.  Curiously, I cannot remember reading this part in Speak,Memory: one must always return to VN’s texts, over and over and still the story continues over the slabs of pieces I’ve forgotten.

Here is the quote:

“The Nabokovian protagonist in most of  his American Works is mythopoetic, forcing his imagination to conjure the smallest details of those places of his youth – St. Petersburg and the Nabokov’s estate, for example – destroyed during the revolution and the Civil Was of 1917-1921.  Nabokov invented the fictional double Mr.Nikerbroker – Mr. Nobody – to emphasise his obsessive search for “nothing” and to reflect the indifference of cruelty of an abstract history that moves people about like the chess-figures.  Indeed, the leitmotif of the chess-game becomes at once a crucial narrative device and a symbol of human homelessness. https://www.academia.edu/9307302/HE_OTHER_SHORES_OF_VLADIMIR_NABOKOV

The ‘Other Shores” of Vladímir Nabokov, Maria Lobytsyna


A review of the Angelopoulos movie reproduced the words said by Harvey Keitel/ Ulysses in the end and informed me that it derives from Homer’s epic: After I return I shall arrive in another man’s clothes, under a different name and with different facts. I’ll be back. This is the story of humanity. A story that never ends.


I was reminded of Kinbote’s words concerning the assassin Gradus but, when I checked it in VN’s text, I realized that I was, once again, under the influence of Nabokov’s “referential mania”: nothing warranted any connections between the nostalgic Kinbote/Botkin(Nitko?) and the Greek hero, nor the fact that Jakob Gradus “also appears in police records as Ravus, Ravenstone and d’Argus” (Ulysses’ dog, the first to recognize him under a different guise, something that the initial Gradus didn’t manage to do…).  Although the lines I recollected bore no actual similarity to any Homeric allusion, my eerie feeling remained free-floating and unaltered:


I may pander to the simple tastes of theatrical critics and cook up a stage play, an old-fashioned melodrama with three principles: a lunatic who intends to kill an imaginary king, another lunatic who imagines himself to be that king, and a distinguished old poet who stumbles by chance into the line of fire, and perishes in the clash between the two figments. Oh, I may do many things! History permitting, I may sail back to my recovered kingdom, and with a great sob greet the gray coastline and the gleam of a roof in the rain. I may huddle and groan in a madhouse. But whatever happens, wherever the scene is laid, somebody, somewhere, will quietly set out — somebody has already set out, somebody still rather far away is buying a ticket, is boarding a bus, a ship, a plane, has landed, is walking toward a million photographers, and presently he will ring at my door — a bigger, more respectable, more competent Gradus.” (CK’s note on line 1000, the absent line which our commentator interprets as reproducing the first line of the poem…).

Google Search
the archive
the Editors
NOJ Zembla Nabokv-L
Subscription options AdaOnline NSJ Ada Annotations L-Soft Search the archive VN Bibliography Blog

All private editorial communications are read by both co-editors.