Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020770, Mon, 27 Sep 2010 13:42:17 -0300

Re: Botkin
Matt Roth: I've been meaning to reply to this thread, regarding Botkin's plausibility... I went back and looked through the archives to see if I could find an answer to a question I once posed: what does Botkin teach at Wordsmith? The best answer seems to be that he teaches Scandinavian languages (since Nattochdag is a Swedish name, etc.) but this doesn't solve the problem. ...Another Botkin problem: if Kinbote is an alternative personality of V. Botkin, why is he so clearly a mirror opposite (and sometimes analog) of John Shade? The Shade/Kinbote dichotomy includes the following oppostitions and analogs, though I may be missing some things:

live across the lane from one another
all of the echoes that go back and forth between poem and commentary (see PFMAD, chapter 8).
born on the same day, wives resemble each other, came to New Wye at same time as John Shade's attack, both seem to be experts on Pope, etc...
It would make sense were Kinbote the opposite or analog of Botkin, but all of these relationships that should connect Kinbote to Botkin instead connect him to John Shade. Why? I do not doubt the thetic solution--that Kinbote=Botkin--but I don't think we can be satisfied with it, either.

JM: Do we learn anything about Botkin from what we can read in the novel, except the navel-entry (by Kinbote? Nabokov?) in the Index? Your oppositions and analogs is curious because, from what I remember, certain items are not as clear cut as you presented.
Kinbote does not always use a beard (neither does Humbert), but his beaver serves him as a disguese to teach in Zembla and to distinguish him from the beleaguered King.
Shade is not right-handed, but ambidextrous and, this, suggests that he might not have been heterosexual.
Although baptized a Christian, Shade once stated that his "God died young."
Good points on their similarities (arrives in NW at the same time as JS's attack, is familiar with A.Pope, was born on the same day as the poet).
Other contrasts: Although both, JS and CK are narcisistic persons, Kinbote (as a King) seems to be more intent on politics, people and social welfare than Shade.
I wonder what other traits (besides inverting words) does Kinbote share with Shade's mentally-afflicted daughter (dissimilar symptoms, anyway!).

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