NABOKV-L post 0020752, Thu, 23 Sep 2010 00:59:53 +0400

Subject
three allusions to Dostoevsky in Pale Fire
Date
Body
There are in Pale Fire at least three direct allusions to Dostoevsky and his ouevre:

1. Fra Karamazov, mumbling his inept
All is allowed, into some classes krept (Canto Two, ll. 641-2)

2. According to Kinbote (note to Line 172), Shade once told him: 'How odd that Russian intellectuals should lack all sense of humor when they have such marvelous humorists as Gogol, Dostoevski, Chekhov, Zoshchenko, and those joint authors of genius Ilf and Petrov.'

3. Dr Oscar Nattochdag, head of the department to which Kinbote is attached, in known on the campus as Netochka (after Netochka Nezvanov, the eponymous heroine/narrator of Dostoevsky's unfinished novella, 1849).

It is not quite clear what those allusions are for? Gradus has nothing in common with Smerdyakov (the murderer in The Brothers Karamazov) or Raskolnikov (the murderer in Crime and Punishment), nor does Hazel Shade resemble Sonya Marmeladov or any of Dostoevskian young girls. But since allusions are seldom pointless in VN's novels, Dostoevsky must be important in Pale Fire. I notice that Jacob Gradus is a namesake of Yakov Petrovich Golyadkin, the hero of Dostoevsky's novella "The Double: A Petersburg Poem" (1846) who goes mad, obsessed by the idea that a fellow clerk has usurped his identity. In his Lectures on Russian Literature VN calls "The Double" (that he believed to be Dostoevsky's best book) a parody of Gogol's "The Overcoat" (note the mention of Dostoevsky next to Gogol by Shade).
Like Kinbote, Yakov Golyadkin is mad, but, unlike his namesake Gradus, he is not a killer. Interestingly, in Dostoevsky's "Letters from the House of the Dead" (1862) there is a murderer, who exchanges names and sentences with a fellow convict (who committed a less serious crime and has to pay a lass harsh penalty). For a red shirt and a silver rouble Mikhailov becomes Sushilov and Sushilov, Mikhailov. In order to gain poor Sushilov's confidence, Mikhailov treats him to liquor. Note that Gradus's whole clan was in the liquor business and he himself first comes to Zembla as a brandy salesman.
I am note sure I am on the right track but can not come up with anything better at the moment.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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