An informal discussion related to “Spring in Fialta” seems to be taking shape. Perhaps this can be an opportunity to ask about certain words and expressions that make no sense to me.
For example, what does “deep snow had performed the amputation of an arctic” mean? [I only managed to collect etymological data about the word arctic itself: late 14c., artik, from Old French artique, from Medieval Latin articus, from Latin arcticus, from Greek arktikos "of the north," literally "of the (constellation) Bear," from arktos "bear; Ursa Major; the region of the north," the Bear being a northerly constellation].
A .Sklyarenko mentions, in his last posting that “In VN’s story Nina is associated with Eurydice (Orpheus’ wife).” He also states: “In VN’s story the narrator asks Ferdinand (False Orpheus) if he has read a recent bit of criticism about himself.” Did he obtain these data from the Russian original? It makes no sense to me. It would be interesting to compare his interpretation about Orpheus and Eurydice with another Greek myth, the one related to Proserpina/Persephone, who spends one part of the year in the underworld and represents the cycle of life, death and rebirth. Proserpina, however, is associated to chastity and fertility (not Nina’s virtues). Why then associate either Eurydice or even Proserpina to her? Nina never seems to consider moral values, social costumes, civil law (“citizenship”). What does she/it represent in VN’s pantheon?
Concerning seasonal changes, what could have been the point of the author’s modification from Xmas to Easter in Nina’s postal message to Victor? He received it long before their last encounter in Fialta when the season was not simply “Spring” but a period in the Christian liturgical calendar related to the forty days before Easter. According to the narrator: “there is something in the very somnolence of its humid Lent that especially anoints one's soul.” The couple first met during Winter (My introductory scene with Nina had been laid in Russia quite a long time ago, around 1917 I should say, judging by certain left-wing theater rumblings backstage. It was at some birthday party at my aunt's on her country estate, near Luga, in the deepest folds of winter (how well I remember the first sign of nearing the place: a red barn in a white wilderness).
Despite the constant indication of Christian festivities, a “pagan” feeling prevails. The narrator’s vision of a setting similar to Christ’s Last Supper (also pointing to Lenten days) arises from a sacrilegious distortion: “…I saw the composite table…at which, with his back to the plush wall, Ferdinand was presiding; and for a moment his whole attitude, the position of his parted hands, and the faces of his table companions all turned toward him reminded me in a grotesque, nightmarish way of something I did not quite grasp, but when I did so in retrospect, the suggested comparison struck me as hardly less sacrilegious than the nature of his art itself.”
The change of focus in the narrative in “Spring in Fialta” from the past (Winter) to the present (Spring) reminds me of Charles Kinbote’s oscillation between Winter and Summer. Maybe, in “Pale Fire” the determinant has to do with birthdates: V.N’s own, which at times must have coincided with Easter (and Spring) and Saint George’s day (I included the Saint because of “Mount Saint George” as a landmark in Fialta), being substituted for Shade/Kinbote’s in July 5 (Saint Anthony’s day, Summer).