Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0015644, Mon, 5 Nov 2007 08:34:54 -0500

SIGHTINGS: Snowy Jewish Onhava of Alyeska
[EDNOTE. Victor Fet sends this rather Nabokovian imagining from Michael
Chabon. -- SES]

sighted at:

"Pale Fire" and "Ada"-relevant,

from: Michael Chabon, "Useful Expressions", 2004, "a meditation on "Say
It in Yiddish" (1958) by Uriel and Beatrice Weinreich".

"...I can imagine another Yisroel, the youngest nation on the North
American continent, founded in the former Alaska Territory during World
War II as a resettlement zone for the Jews of Europe. (For a brief
while, I once read, Franklin Roosevelt was nearly sold on such a plan.)
Perhaps after the war, in this Yisroel, the millions of immigrant
Polish, Rumanian, Hungarian, Lithuanian, Austrian, Czech and German Jews
held a referendum, and chose independence over proferred statehood in
the U.S. The resulting country is obviously a far different place than
Israel. It is a cold, northern land of furs, paprika, samovars and one
long, glorious day of summer. The portraits on those postage stamps we
buy are of Walter Benjamin, Simon Dubnow, Janusz Korczak, and of a
hundred Jews unknown to us, whose greatness was allowed to flower only
here, in this world. It would be absurd to speak Hebrew, that tongue of
spikenard and almonds, in such a place. This Yisroel—or maybe it would
be called Alyeska—is a kind of Jewish Sweden, social-democratic,
resource rich, prosperous, organizationally and temperamentally far more
akin to its immediate neighbor, Canada, then to its more freewheeling
benefactor far to the south. Perhaps, indeed, there has been some
conflict, in the years since independence, between the United States and
Alyeska. Perhaps oilfields have been seized, fishing vessels boarded.
Perhaps not all of the native peoples were happy with the outcome of
Roosevelt's humanitarian policies and the treaty of 1948." Lately there
may have been a few problems assimilating the Jews of Quebec, in flight
from the ongoing separatist battles there.

This country of the Weinreichs is in the nature of a wistful
fantasyland, a toy theater with miniature sets and furnishings to
arrange and rearrange, painted backdrops on which the gleaming
lineaments of a snowy Jewish Onhava can be glimpsed, all its grief
concealed behind the scrim, hidden in the machinery of the loft, sealed
up beneath trap doors in the floorboards. But grief haunts every mile of
that other destination to which the Weinreichs beckon, unwittingly
perhaps but in all the awful detail that Dover's "Say It" series
requires. Grief hand-colors all the postcards, stamps the passports,
sours the cooking, fills the luggage. It keens all night in the pipes of
old hotels. The Weinreichs are taking us home, to the "old country." To

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