NABOKV-L post 0026600, Thu, 5 Nov 2015 16:32:56 +0000

Nabokov's Tyutchev Online; Pushkin Link Updated
Dear List,

Thomas Keenan, Slavic East European and Eurasian Studies Librarian at Princeton University, has announced the digital publication of Nabokov’s personal copy of Fyodor Tyutchev’s collected poems.

Together with the “Gofmanskiy Pushkin” volume the publication of which I announced on our list on 08/10/2015, this pocket-size edition of Fydor Tyutchev (put out by Nabokov’s Berlin emigre publisher Petropolis) was purchased by Princeton University at Christie’s after my rather passionate appeal in 2010. I once again would like to take a moment to express my sincerest gratitude to Stephen Ferguson, Acting Associate University Librarian for Rare Books and Special Collections Curator of Taylor Library; Liladhar Pendse, then Princeton's Slavic Librarian and presently of UC Berkeley, and to Thomas Keenan, whom I approached with the idea of digitizing these books and without whose hard work there would be nothing to announce and marvel at today. As I click on these images, I can’t help remembering how difficult it was to catch as much as a glimpse of these two books some years ago now and how desperately I needed to see them for my research and editorial work.

Much like “Gofmanskiy Pushkin,” Nabokov’s copy of Tyutchev’s poems has a lot fascinating information to offer. It is the source of VN’s all known translations from the great metaphysical poet, including such a masterpiece of the pre-literalist, pre-Eugene Onegin era, as “Last Love” (“Love at the closing of our days").

The book itself, as I have had an occasion to point out, is part of VN’s artistic mythology. Please consider the following description: “…Vasiliy Ivanovich… opened a little volume of Tyutchev, whom he had long intended to reread; but he was requested to put the book aside and join the group” (“Cloud, Castle, Lake”). When later in the story the narrator evokes Tyutchev’s poem “Silentium” (the English variant of the episode downplays somewhat the significance of this very Russian allusion) it is the text of this poem reproduced in this very book that VN has in mind (the authorial vision of this text is the subject of an editorial/academic controversy with an amusing history of its own, which is compounded by a history of VN's becoming aware of it). When you listen to VN’s deservedly famous reading of Tyutchev’s Russian original alongside his English translation of “Silentium” (“Speak not, lie hidden and conceal,” recorded 20 March, 1952, at Harvard), you are listening to his reading from this same book.

There is so much to say about these books, but I don’t want to strain your attention much longer. One last morsel, perhaps. Next time when you re-read Invitation to a Beheading and get to that point where Cincinnatus recollects his early days — “I, a child, am sitting with a book in the hot sun on the bank of a dinning stream, and the water throws its wavering reflection on the lines of an old, old poem, – ‘Love at the sloping of our years’ – but I know I should not yield – ‘Becomes more tender and superstitious’ – neither to memories, nor to fear, nor to this passionate syncope: ‘…and superstitious’ – and I had hoped so much that everything would be orderly, all simple and neat” (Ch. XVIII) — you may wish to point your browser to the link I distribute below.

On p. 146 of the Tyutchev book you can see the tips of VN’s pen and pencil repeatedly tracing the “broken” (“pausative” was his preferred subsequent term adapted from the Futurist verse theoretician Sergey Bobrov) rhythm of this “passionate syncope.” Elsewhere VN called this rhythmic variation “a sob that alters the entire history of Russian letters.” This is a striking reminder that VN attached much significance not only to the meaning of this poem as such haunting as it certainly is, but specifically to its formal features.

Please follow this link to leaf through VN’s own copy of Tyutchev’s poems:

I also would like to take this opportunity to distribute the current and updated link to “Gofmanskiy Pushkin”:

Digitally yours,

Stanislav Shvabrin

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