NABOKV-L post 0026690, Tue, 8 Dec 2015 17:32:17 +0300

transparent thingum & moondrop title in Pale Fire
JM: I surmise VN forgot Ivanov's line referring to "pale fire"

"Wives are forgetful," but husbands and poets are not.

(But this transparent thingum does require
Some moondrop title. Help me, Will! Pale Fire.) (ll. 961-62)

According to Vera Nabokov, the Russian title of VN's novel Transparent
Things (1972) should have been Skvoznyak is proshlogo ("A Draft from the
Past"). In his poem Nerodivshemusya chitatelyu ("To an Unborn Reader," 1930)
VN addresses a lucid inhabitant of the future centuries, mentions his own
blurred photograph in an oval crowning the sixteen lines in an old anthology
of thoroughly forgotten verses and, in the poem's closing lines, compares
the feeling experienced by the reader to "a draft from the past:"

Ты, светлый житель будущих веков,
ты, старины любитель, в день урочный
откроешь антологию стихов,
забытых незаслуженно, но прочно.

И будешь ты, как шут, одет на вкус
моей эпохи фрачной и сюртучной.
Облокотись. Прислушайся. Как звучно
былое время -- раковина муз.

Шестнадцать строк, увенчанных овалом
с неясной фотографией... Посмей
побрезговать их слогом обветшалым,
опрятностью и бедностью моей.

Я здесь с тобой. Укрыться ты не волен.
К тебе на грудь я прянул через мрак.
Вот холодок ты чувствуешь: сквозняк
из прошлого... Прощай же. Я доволен.

In his most famous (unforgettable!) poem, Emalevyi krestik v petlitse ("An
enamel cross in the buttonhole," 1949), G. Ivanov describes the photograph
of the last Russian tsar's doomed family:

Эмалевый крестик в петлице
И серой тужурки сукно...
Какие печальные лица
И как это было давно.

Какие прекрасные лица
И как безнадежно бледны -
Наследник, императрица,
Четыре великих княжны...

An enamel cross in the buttonhole
And the grey cloth of the tunic:
What sad faces
And how long ago it was.

What beautiful faces
And how hopelessly pale -
The heir, the empress,
The four grand princesses:

(See also my posts on TT of Oct. 23 and Nov. 4, 2014.) Also, here is the
revised version of my translation (last time I translate anything from
Russian) of Ivanov's poem Menyaetsya prichyoska i kostyum: ("Hairdos and
costumes change:"):

Hairdos and costumes change,

But our body remains the same,

And so do our hopes, passions, the restless mind,

Whosever will had wanted to change them.

Blind Homer and the modern poet,

Obscure, impoverished by exile,

Keep one - inextinguishable! - light,

Possess the same precious knowledge.

And to the crowd that demands novelty

He says: "There is no novelty, there is a measure,

And you abjectly ridiculous to me,

Like a barbarian criticizing Homer."

Nichto ne novo pod lunoyu, as in one of his poems Karamzin translates the
Latin proverb nil novi sub luna (there is nothing new under the moon). In
his poem Ya pamyatnik sebe vozdvig: (Exegi Monumentum, 1836) Pushkin
mentions podlunnyi mir (the sublunar world). Pushkin's poem ends in the

Хвалу и клевету приемли равнодушно

И не оспоривай глупца.

accept indifferently praise and slander,

and do not contradict the fool.

G. Ivanov is the author of a slanderous article on Sirin.

Karamzin was a historian. According to Pushkin, in his Count Nulin (1825) he
parodied history and Shakespeare (the author of Lucrece). In Pale Fire VN
parodies history and Shakespeare (the author of Timon of Athens). Shade
borrowed the moondrop title of his poem from Timon of Athens.

Hugh Person, the main character in Transparent Things, dies in a fire.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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