NABOKV-L post 0026686, Sun, 6 Dec 2015 18:08:29 +0300

Shade, Shakespeare & Shelley in Pale Fire
JM: Are there any hints by V.Nabokov to non-Russian speaking readers about
G. Ivanov?

Strong Opinions, p. 39; Selected Letters, p. 289.

JM: Or didn’t V.N. remember him when he has John Shade invoke Shakespeare?
(here I mean the American poet Shade, not Kinbote, not Botkin…)

He did. At the beginning of his article Pisatel’ Burov (“The Writer
Burov,” 1951) G. Ivanov (who mentions a pale fire in his poem “Like Byron
to Greece \xa8C oh, without regret…”) quotes Burov’s words from his book V
tsarstve teney (“In the Realm of Shades,” 1951):

"Стократ блестяще написанные повести и ра
ссказы... сегодня художественные пустяки.
Чернила умерли, мертвецами бездушными ст
али слова... Сегодня это больше никому не н
ужно... Нужны - книги... что потрясать могли
бы леса и горы".

И в заключение этих фраз, как вывод из них,
властное требование - "Подайте нам Шекспи

Кто это говорит и к кому обращается? Это г
оворит писатель-эмигрант, обращаясь к сов
ременности. Говорит от лица того собирате
льного русского человека, который за "Ноч
ь" (т. е. за годы последней войны с её безгр
аничной жестокостью и не менее безгранич
ной бессмыслицей) "вырос и прозрел" и кото
рому, чтобы запечатлеть трагические собы
тия последних лет, необходим "новый Шексп
ир" - новый мировой гений, с новыми словами
и образами, "потрясающими леса и горы"...

According to Burov, we need a new Shakespeare \xa8C a new planetary genius,
with new words and images “that would shake forests and mountains.” In
VN’s story Usta k ustam (“Lips to Lips,” 1931), a satire on the literary
review Chisla (Numbers) in which Burov’s writings appeared, Ilya Borisovich
(the story’s main character) was modeled on Burov and Galatov (the editor
of Arion) is a recognizable portrait of G. Ivanov (see my post of Sept. 19,
2015, “Shakespeare, dogs, Zembla & coda in Pale Fire”).

Speaking of “the Realm of Shades,” in the closing lines of his poem Der
Scheidende (“The Dying Man,” 1853) Heinrich Heine (whose name was
mispronounced Un rien) “quotes” Achilles’ words in Homer’s Odyssey (XI,

…Er hatte recht, der edle Heros,
Der weiland sprach im Buch Homeros':
Der kleinste lebendige Philister
Zu Stukkert am Neckar, viel glücklicher ist er
Als ich, der Pelide, der tote Held,
Der Schattenfürst in der Unterwelt.

In Heine’s poem Achilles calls himself der tote Held, der Schattenfürst in
der Unterwelt (“the dead hero, the Prince of shades in the underworld”).

The title of Annenski’s essay on Heine in “The Second Book of
Reflections” (1909), Geyne prikovannyi (“Heine Bedridden”), hints at
Prometey prikovannyi (“Prometheus Bound”), a tragedy by Aeschylus.
Prometheus was a Titan who stole fire from Olympus and gave it to humankind.
Prometheus Unbound (1820) is a drama in verse by Shelley. In his poem The
Nature of Electricity (quoted in full by Kinbote in his Commentary: note to
Line 347) Shade mentions Shakespeare and Shelley’s incandescent soul:

The dead, the gentle dead―who knows?―
In tungsten filaments abide,
And on my bedside table glows
Another man’s departed bride.

And maybe Shakespeare floods a whole
Town with innumerable lights,
And Shelley’s incandescent soul
Lures the pale moths of starless nights.

Streetlamps are numbered, and maybe
Number nine-hundred-ninety-nine
(So brightly beaming through a tree
So green) is an old friend of mine.

And when above the livid plain
Forked lightning plays, therein may dwell
The torments of a Tamerlane,
The roar of tyrants torn in hell.

In her essay “Poets with History and Poets without History” (1933) Marina
Tsvetaev says that great lyrical poets like Heine, Byron, Shelley, Verlaine
and Lermontov have set the world on fire from all four sides with their

Кто может рассказать о поэтическом пути
(беру самых великих и бесспорных лириков)
Гейне, Байрона, Шелли, Верлена, Лермонтов
а? Они заполонили мир своими чувствами, во
плями, вздохами и видениями, залили его св
оими слезами, воспламенили со всех четырё
х сторон своим негодованием…

In Canto Four of his poem Shade writes:

Now I shall speak of evil as none has
Spoken before. I loathe such things as jazz;
The white-hosed moron torturing a black
Bull, rayed with red; abstractist bric-a-brac;
Primitivist folk-masks; progressive schools;
Music in supermarkets; swimming pools;
Brutes, bores, class-conscious Philistines, Freud, Marx
Fake thinkers, puffed-up poets, frauds and sharks. (ll. 923-930)

Some ten lines further into the Canto Shade says:

Man's life as commentary to abstruse
Unfinished poem. Note for further use. (ll. 939-940)

In her essay Marina Tsvetaev (the author of Verses to Blok, 1916 and 1921)
speaks of another great lyrical poet, Alexander Blok. According to G. Ivanov
(an extremely unreliable memoirist), Blok, when asked if a sonnet needs a
coda, replied that he did not know what a coda was. Kinbote believes that to
be completed Shade’s unfinished poem (consisting of 999 lines) needs but
one line and that Line 1000 is identical to Line 1 (“I was the shadow of
the waxwing slain”). But it seems to me that Shade’s poem also needs the
coda, Line 1001 (“By its own double in the windowpane”).

In VN’s story “Lips to Lips” Ilya Borisovich (who never heard of
Innokentiy Annenski) wants to publish his novel under the penname (derived
from the name of his late wife) “I. Annenski.” Innokentiy Annenski’s
penname Nik. T-o (“Nobody”) was derived from Outis (“Nobody”),
Odysseus’ pseudonym in Homer’s Odyssey (IX, 366-460). In Pale Fire Shade,
Kinbote and Gradus seem to be the pseudonyms of Vsevolod Bodkin, the
American scholar of Russian descent who went mad after the suicide of his
daughter Nadezhda (who appears in Shade’s poem and in Kinbote’s Commentary
as Hazel Shade). Nadezhda (hope) is the last word in G. Ivanov’s poem Vsyo
neizmenno i vsyo izmenilos’ (“Everything is unchangeable and everything
has changed…” 1947; see my post of a week ago, “Galatea in Solus Rex,

Alexey Sklyarenko

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