NABOKV-L post 0026588, Sat, 31 Oct 2015 05:59:26 +0300

Pale Fire as parody of history & Shakespeare
It seems that Shade's unfinished poem needs two lines to be completed. In
Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (One: VI: 7-8) Onegin "remembered, though not
without fault, two lines from the Aeneid." According to VN, one of those
lines could be "una salus victis, sperare nullam salutem" - "Le seul salute
des vaincus est de n'attendre aucun salut" (Aeneid, II, 354, with a
comfortable French position for nullam after, instead of before, sperare).*
Nullam brings to mind Pushkin's narrative poem Graf Nulin ("Count Null,"
1825). According to Pushkin, in his poem he wanted to parody history and
Shakespeare (the author of Lucrece). In Pale Fire VN, too, parodies history
and Shakespeare (the author of Timon of Athens).

At the end of Graf Nulin Pushkin mentions Lidin, a landowner of

Смеялся Лидин, их сосед,

Помещик двадцати трёх лет.

It was their neighbor Lidin,

a landowner of twenty-three, who laughed.

In Pushkin's draft the neighbor's name was Verin. Verin means "belonging to
Vera." Vera was the name of VN's wife.

Pushkin's Graf Nulin ends in the (tongue-in-cheek) lines:

Теперь мы можем справедливо
Сказать, что в наши времена
Супругу верная жена,
Друзья мои, совсем не диво.

Now we can say with all fairness

that in our times

a wife who is faithful to her husband

is, my friends, no wonder at all.

If my hypothesis is correct, in its finished form Shade's poem should
consist of 1001 lines. In Eugene Onegin (Two: XIV: 3-4) Pushkin says:

Мы почитаем всех нулями,
А единицами - себя.

We deem all people naughts

And ourselves units.

At the end of his Commentary Kinbote (who imagines that he is Charles the
Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla) mentions history and a million

Oh, I may do many things! History permitting, I may sail back to my
recovered kingdom, and with a great sob greet the gray coastline and the
gleam of a roof in the rain. I may huddle and groan in a madhouse. But
whatever happens, wherever the scene is laid, somebody, somewhere, will
quietly set out - somebody has already set out, somebody still rather far
away is buying a ticket, is boarding a bus, a ship, a plane, has landed, is
walking toward a million photographers, and presently he will ring at my
door - a bigger, more respectable, more competent Gradus. [note to Line

In the same stanza of EO Pushkin mentions the millions of two-legged

Мы все глядим в Наполеоны;
Двуногих тварей миллионы
Для нас орудие одно

We all expect to be Napoleons;

the millions of two-legged creatures

for us are only tools (Two: XIV: 5-7).

Orudie odno (only tools) brings to mind the lines in the same Chapter of EO:

"Сосед наш неуч, сумасбродит,
Он фармазон; он пьёт одно
Стаканом красное вино"

"Our neighbor is a boor; acts like a crackbrain;

he's a Freemason; he drinks only

by the tumbler red wine" (Two: V: 9-12).

odno = Odon = Nodo (a Zemblan patriot, the actor Odon has a half-brother
Nodo, a cardsharp and despicable traitor). Krasnoe vino (red wine) brings to
mind Vinogradus and Leningradus (as Kinbote mockingly calls the killer

Pushkin's EO begins: Мой дядя самых честных правил (My uncle has most honest
principles). K.'s uncle Conmal, Duke of Aros (1855-1955), translated the
entire works of Shakespeare into Zemblan. Zembla (Kinbote's native land)
hints at zemlya (earth). In EO (One: VI: 9-11) Onegin "had no urge to
rummage in the chronological dust of the earth's historiography" (v
khronologicheskoy pyli bytopisaniya zemli).

Kinbote completes his work on Shade's poem and commits suicide on Oct. 19,
1959 (the anniversary of Pushkin's Lyceum).

*EO Commentary, vol. II, p. 53

Alexey Sklyarenko

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