Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0015607, Mon, 22 Oct 2007 08:37:05 -0400

Re: Thoughts and queries: Chronology
> I've been looking at Jerry Friedman's PF chronology from a few years

I hope you're looking at the one on Zembla, which is the latest.

By the way, something I should have added to it is the paper by
William Dowling that Jansy mentioned here, which argues--convincingly,
in my opinion--that Kinbote wrote at least part of the second
note to Line 949 /before/ leaving New Wye, since "it has been a
wonderful game, this looking up in the WUL..." (Wordsmith
University Library, Dowling points out). Though possibly
Kinbote or even Nabokov mistakenly wrote "has been" for "was".

> This is an admirable (not "admiral") job of sleuth work, but it doesn't
> deal very much with speculations about the final events in the novel and
> when they may have taken place.

Not enough dates, mostly.

> I wonder if anyone has thought about these
> strange anomalies. Brian Boyd and others seem to support VN's own
> statement in SO that October 19, 1959, is the date on which Kinbote
> commits suicide. This would seemingly indicate the following sequence
> of composition for the parts of PF:

> Poem (completed on July 21, 1959, also the day of Shade's death)

> Commentary (written after July 29, when CK leaves NW for Cedarn;

(But see above.)

> date of completion unknown, but he has already sent the ms. off to
> Frank, received galleys, corrected and sent them back, and received
> a response from Frank that they have arrived). It seems that the
> manuscript he sent off contained the poem and, at the least, his
> commentary.

> Index (would obviously have to be completed after completion of the
> commentary (since it refers almost exclusively to the commentary;
> probably completed before galleys arrive since it doesn't refer to pages
> in the galleys but to lines in the poems and the corresponding notes;
but > may have been completed afterwards).

> Thus, sometime in the late summer/early autumn of 1959: galleys of Poem,

> Commentary, and (possibly) Index are read by professional proofreader,
> returned to CK and corrected, then returned to publisher.

That all makes sense to me.

> Question: did
> CK receive a second set of proofs, page proofs, sometime shortly before
> October 19?)
> Foreword (completed and signed on October 19, 1959, after which CK
> supposedly commits suicide)

Most of the Foreword seems rather sanguine or at least not
suicidal to me. I imagine he wrote most of it early on, before
falling apart with "many in this fine hall" and "what will /you/
be doing with yourself" and the like.

> BUT, certain problems emerge:

> 1) The Index refers several times to the Foreword, indicating it must
> have been completed after the Foreword. Obviously no one but CK could or
> would have written the Index.

I'm not sure we should think of one part being complete and then
another part. Kinbote may have written the way VN did, working on
a bit here and a bit there. (Their styles have certain resemblances,
after all.) Also, Kinbote may have inserted corrections in the

On the timing of the Index, I think I remember reading somewhere
(sorry) that the missing period at the end of the last Index
entry indicates Kinbote's final exhaustion. Brian Boyd doesn't take
it so literally, but he does note the absence of page numbers in
the Zembla entry, as if Kinbote "is too drained and desolate to
continue", and includes this as evidence the Kinbote commits
suicide. (End of Ch. 7 of /Nabokov's Pale Fire/.

> 2) In the Foreword, Kinbote speaks of his publisher, old Frank, in hopes
> of their "initial relationship . . . remaining a permanent fixture,"
> indicating that he has publishing plans beyond the completion of the
> Foreword and present book.

Little does he know what the author has in store for him.

> 3) CK also mentions that the corrected galleys of the manuscript (poem,
> commentary, and index?) have been returned to the publisher, and that
> Frank has since "asked me to mention in my Preface---and this I
> do--that I alone am responsible for any mistakes in my commentary."--
> which would indicate that Frank has seen the commentary and requested an
> introductory section to the book.

Or that Frank has seen a Completed Draft of Kinbote's whole
apparatus and has requested an addition to the Foreword. Kinbote
makes that change and maybe some others such as the "Insert"
comments, puts the date on the completed foreword, and...

(Ellipses because I doubt Nabokov intended a detailed chronology
for Kinbote's last day, such as whether Kinbote worked on Y and Z in the
Index after dating the Foreword.)

> That his "Preface" (why does he call it
this, with a capital letter?)

Writing "Preface" here rather than "Foreword" could have been a
mistake on Kinbote's part (maybe).

> remains uncorrected (by himself and/or
> the "professional proofreader") may be indicated by the strange
> sentence: "Insert before a professional." on p. 18 and other weirdnesses
> that a proofreader would catch.

> 4) The Foreword three times mentions the noise near CK's motel: "a very
> loud amusement park" (13); "and damn that music" (15); and "that
> inside and outside my head" (28). This is contradicted by CK's note in
> the Commentary (C. 609-614, 235): "At first I was greatly bothered by
> the blare of diabolical radio music from what I thought was some kind of
> amusement park across the road--it turned out to be camping
> tourists . . . ." This would indicate a note written after the
> completion of the Foreword, since the Foreword retains mention of the
> mistaken source of the noise.

I don't see a problem with this. I think the suggestion is that
Kinbote wrote most of the Foreword before writing most of the

> 5) CK also mentions that he is "trying to coordinate these notes" in
> same entry. Does this possibly mean that VN felt he might have got a
> little bit over his head in trying to keep all (or at least most) of his
> juggled balls in the air at the same time? A Herculean effort, though
> it's entirely possible that one or two anomalies escaped him (the book
> also contains a few typos that the author later mentioned--"catskins,"
> for example).

My favorite question is what are anomalies and what are clues.

> One other thing I noticed on this umpteenth reading: Just as Kinbote
> claims his birthday is the same as Shade's and Gradus's, he also claims
> that his mother died on July 21. I'm sure other readers have remarked
> this coincidence, though.

My opinion, now that you mention it, is that it probably is another
indication that Kinbote continues to change all his Zemblan delusions,
that we have no reason to think what he told Shade in May and June
is what he tells us.

Jerry Friedman

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