After much acclaim as a poet, Pushkin apparently wanted to descend from Parnassus and publish some prose stories under a pseudonym, “Belkin,” a name which strikes me as curiously similar to “Botkin”.
I read the first of the “Tales of Belkin, ” “The history of Goriukhino,” and found a number of likenesses of Belkin to Kinbote in Pale Fire:
>Satire of pseudo-scholarship by a buffoonish, self-aggrandizing, yet likable narrator
>Both have grandiloquent hyperbolic stilted style
>Foreword is twice as long as the “story”
>Lost Noble fortune
>”Revolution” brings destruction
>Satire of poor governance
The main thing which struck me was this passage from the Foreword:
The founding of Goriukhino and its original settlement are shrouded in a mist of uncertainty. Legends from the dim past claim that at one time Goriukhino was a large prosperous village, that all its inhabitants were wealthy, and that the quitrent was collected once a year and sent off to some unknown person in a few carts. At that time everything was bought cheaply and sold at high prices. Stewards did not exist, the elders did not mistreat anybody, the inhabitants worked little yet lived in clover, and even shepherds wore boots while tending their herds. We must not be deluded by this enchanting picture. The idea of a golden age is inherent in the tradition of every people, which proves nothing except that people are never satisfied with the present, and since their experience gives them little hope for the future, they adorn the irrevocable past with all the flowers of their imagination. What can be ascertained is as follows.
The village of Goriukhino has belonged to the illustrious family of Belkin since ancient times. But my ancestors, possessing many other estates, did not pay attention to this remote land. Goriukhino was lightly taxed, and governed by elders elected by the people at meetings called village assemblies.With the passage of time, however, the Belkins' ancestral possessions became fragmented and fell into decline. The impoverished grandsons of a rich grandfather were unable to give up their habits of luxury, and they demanded the former full income from an estate that had shrunk to one-tenth of its original size.
It would seem that Nabokov was spoofing this passage in PF’s Foreword:
That King's reign (1936-1958) will be remembered by at least a few discerning historians as a peaceful and elegant one. Owing to a fluid system of judicious alliances, Mars in his time never marred the record. Internally, until corruption, betrayal, and Extremism penetrated it, the People's Place (parliament) worked in perfect harmony with the Royal Council. Harmony, indeed, was the reign's password.The polite arts and pure sciences flourished. Technicology, applied physics, industrial chemistry and so forth were suffered to thrive. A small skyscraper of ultramarine glass was steadily rising in Onhava. The climate seemed to be improving. Taxation had become a thing of beauty. The poor were getting a little richer, and the rich a little poorer (in accordance with what may be known some day as Kinbote's Law). Medical care was spreading to the confines of the state: less and less often, on his tour of the country, every autumn, when the rowans hung coral-heavy, and the puddles tinkled with Muscovy glass, the friendly and eloquent monarch would be interrupted by a pertussal "back-draucht in a crowd of schoolchildren. Parachuting had become a popular sport. Everybody, in a word, was content - even the political mischiefmakers who were contentedly making mischief paid by a contented Sosed (Zembla's gigantic neighbor). But let us not pursue this tiresome subject. (C 58)