NABOKV-L post 0026473, Wed, 23 Sep 2015 23:37:13 -0700

RLS: Heather Ale & Pale Fire
On Sep 23, 2015, at 2:08 PM, Alexey Sklyarenko wrote:

Heather Ale (1895) is a famous ballad by R. L. Stevenson, the author
of The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1885). According to
Carolyn Kunin, Pale Fire (the novel) is a parody of R. L. Stevenson’s
novella. Indeed, the novel’s three main characters, Shade, Kinbote
and Gradus, seem to represent different aspects of one and the same
person, Prof. V. Botkin (the American scholar of Russian descent).

To the List,

At first I was surprised to hear that "Heather Ale" was a famous poem
by Robert Louis Stevenson, since I had never heard of it - but a bit
of googling explains the discrepancy:
Stevenson's "Heather Ale" was brilliantly translated into Russian by
the genius poly-lingual poet Samuel Marshak, as "Вересковый
мёд" (Vereskovy myod). The translation was published in 1941, just as
the USSR was entering the Second World War, called in Russia "The
Great Patriotic War". The ballad won immense popularity there during
the War for emphasizing the virtues that Stevenson was portraying - of
relentless bravery against hopeless odds, as well as willingness to
sacrifice and die rather than reveal one's secrets to the enemy. This
old Scottish tale served as a major morale boost to the initially
beaten but eventually victorious Russians.

And though this poem is not widely known in its original English any
longer, many Russian-speakers still love it to this day, and are sure
to recognize its closing words, epitomizing the tenacious perseverance
of the "Last Pict" ... **

Anton Nossik

Further I'd like to comment that Alexey is not quite right in saying
that I took Pale Fire to be a parody of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde - more
an homage I would say or a re-imagining of that famous tale. Also, I
never took Botkin seriously (nikto b'); my idea was that Kinbote* is
to Shade as Hyde is to Jekyll (more or less). Gradus is merely a
figment of his (or their) imagination.


*Kinbote is compensation (bot or bote) paid to a family for an injury
done to one of their kin. In the RLS tale, kinbote is paid by Dr
Jekyll to the family of Mr Hyde's first victim, a little girl he
knocks over in the street.

**Правду сказал я, шотландцы,
От сына я ждал беды,
Не верил я в стойкость юных,
Не бреющих бороды.
А мне костер не страшен,
Пусть со мною умрет
Моя святая тайна,
Мой вересковый мед.
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