NABOKV-L post 0026642, Fri, 20 Nov 2015 10:19:37 -0800

Subject
Re: lastochka & other birds in Pale Fire
Date
Body
Dear Victor Fet,

How do we know that Nabokov "read Pasternak very carefully"? We know
his opinion of Zhivago, but did he ever comment on the poetry?

Carolyn

On Nov 18, 2015, at 9:59 AM, Fet, Victor wrote:

To Carolyn's query:

No, they are not synonyms.
A swift (Russ. strizh, стриж), Apodus, is a highly aerial bird
that belongs to family Apodidae (order Apodiformes). They are the
fastest fliers among birds (speed over 100 mph recorded)
They are superficially similar to swallows (Hirundinidae), but are not
closely related. (Swifts are more closely related to hummingbirds.)

Nabokov’s swallow is a common barn swallow, Hirundo rustica.
Barn swallow returning from its southern migration is the first
European and Russian messenger of spring, as in a saying “one swallow
does not make a spring” (μία χελίδὼν ἕαρ ού
ποίεῖ), recorded in Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics - or a staple
textbook poem by Alexandr Pleshcheyev (1858), put to music by
Chaikovsky (as "The Grass Grows Green...") in his “Sixteen Songs for
Children, Op. 54”

Nabokov’s choice of a swift over a swallow in his line “That
particular swift that went by” might just be an audible preference of
a rushing bird in an one-syllable “swift”.
A highly feminine nature of Russian “lastochka” is lost in English
translation (“strizh” in Russian is masculine), so I think the
names are interchangeable.
Swallow is a very common bird in Russian poetry from Derzhavin to
Akhmatova and Mandelstam.
A recent article (in Russian) is attached:
Bel’skaya, L.L. (2013) Lastochka v russkoi poezii [Swallows in
Russian poetry], Russkaya rech’ 2: 45-51, which ends with a VN quote
from The Gift poem,

Interestingly, Boris Pasternak, in his early Poverkh barierov book,
had a well-known 1916 poem about swifts (Strizhi).
I am sure Nabokov knew it well – we know he read Pasternak very
carefully.



Victor Fet




From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum [mailto:NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU] On
Behalf Of Carolyn Kunin
Sent: Sunday, November 15, 2015 1:58 AM
To: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] lastochka & other birds in Pale Fire

On Nov 14, 2015, at 6:52 AM, Alexey Sklyarenko wrote: Carolyn, you are
not inventing or parodying. Lastochka (“The Swift”) in VN’s
reading can be listened to here:


Thank you, Alexey. This poem in English and Russian is on an old
Spoken Arts LP I still have somewhere. One one side of the record VN
reads a chapter from Lolita and on the other a selection of poems. The
recording on the web sounds exactly like the reading the way I
remember it. So Lastochka is "swallow" and/or "swift"? Are they the
same bird? No ornithologist, I.

Carolyn



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