NABOKV-L discussion


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Pale Fire and Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno books

Submitted by lawrebas on Thu, 09/02/2021 - 05:58

I'm aware of Nabokov's Russian translation of Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland, and I've come across many references to the role of chess in Pale Fire and Through the Looking-Glass (1871). 

I haven't seen any mention of Pale Fire's structural and thematic similarities with Carroll's later novel(s) Sylvie and Bruno (1889) and Sylvie and Bruno Concluded (1893). I realise I may be looking in all the wrong places . . . 

Here's a quick overview of the novels' structure:

Sylvie and Bruno

Source for Ada's orchestra/horsecart dream anagram

Submitted by Alain Champlain on Wed, 07/07/2021 - 04:57

As has already been mentioned, in Ada, Part One, Chapter 12, the mention of a hammock begets both these parentheticals:

"(where a former summer guest, with an opera cloak over his clammy nightshirt, had awoken once because a stink bomb had burst among the instruments in the horsecart, and striking a match, Uncle Van had seen the bright blood blotching his pillow)."

"(where that other poor youth had cursed his blood cough and sunk back into dreams of prowling black spumas and a crash of symbols in an orchal orchestra—as suggested to him by career physicians)"

Svengali & Trilby: Mesmerism trope in PF

Submitted by MARYROSS on Wed, 06/30/2021 - 14:33

I happened to come across a reference to “Svengali and Trilby” the other day. I had long been aware of “Svengali” as a sort of mastermind mesmerist, but was not aware that he was fictional – from an 1894 novel by George du Maurier, Trilby. I had never heard the word “trilby” until reading Pale Fire, where I found out it referred to a type of hat  – worn in PF by “the man in brown,” Gradus (in Britain it is called a “brown trilby”).


PF's Hazel=FW's Kate

Submitted by MARYROSS on Tue, 06/15/2021 - 19:40

It occurs to me that the image of Hazel as “Mother Time” is an allusion to the character “Kate” the old charwoman in Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Kate appears with slop pail and broom, and like Time, is always cleaning up the mess after disasters, picking out various detritus which she has been throwing on her garbage heap since the beginning of time. The word “time” is frequently found somewhere near her.

Talk: Dana Dragunoiu on Lolita, 06/15 4:15 pm ET

Submitted by Stanislav_Shvabrin on Thu, 06/10/2021 - 11:37

Tuesday, June 15, 4:15 pm EST

The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC)

UNC Center for Slavic, East European and Eurasian Studies

UNC Russian Flagship Program

present a talk by

Dana DRAGUNOIU (Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada)


(Annotation) Ada's Koalas, or "Sentiment" versus "Sensitivity"

Submitted by md143rbh7f on Mon, 05/17/2021 - 19:56

Pertaining to the following quote from Ada, Part 1, Chapter 17:

"I am sentimental," she said. "I could dissect a koala but not its baby. I like the words damozel, eglantine, elegant. I love when you kiss my elongated white hand."

In his Lectures on Russian Literature he pointedly makes clear his views on "sentimentality" and "sensitivity"—and the difference therein:

Anna Karenina questions

Submitted by Alain Champlain on Sat, 05/15/2021 - 20:50

(Not directly a Nabokov question, but thought this might be a good place to ask.)

Is anyone here well acquainted with Anna Karenina?

I'm re-reading it for the first time, and now that I'm paying closer attention, I found I was totally surprised at the mention of Dolly giving birth (Two II), since this means she would have been quite pregnant throughout part One, and I couldn't find any hint of it (her thinness is all I can find) — am I missing anything? Was this on purpose?

VN and occult societies

Submitted by MARYROSS on Fri, 04/02/2021 - 18:31

Does anyone have information on what VN refers to in Speak Memory when he writes:


'Short of suicide, I have tried everything. I have doffed my identity in order to pass for a conventional spook and steal into realms that existed before I was conceived. I have mentally endured the degrading company of Victorian lady novelists and retired colonels who remembered having, in former lives, been slave messengers on a Roman road or sages under the willows of Lhasa.'