Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026791, Mon, 11 Jan 2016 13:18:40 +0300

million of photographers in Pale Fire
In the last sentence of his Commentary to Shade's poem Kinbote mentions a
million of photographers:

God will help me, I trust, to rid myself of any desire to follow the example
of the other two characters in this work. I shall continue to exist. I may
assume other disguises, other forms, but I shall try to exist. I may turn up
yet, on another campus, as an old, happy, health heterosexual Russian, a
writer in exile, sans fame, sans future, sans audience, sans anything but
his art. I may join forces with Odon in a new motion picture: Escape from
Zembla (ball in the palace, bomb in the palace square). I may pander to the
simple tastes of theatrical critics and cook up a stage play, an
old-fashioned melodrama with three principles: a lunatic who intends to kill
an imaginary king, another lunatic who imagines himself to be that king, and
a distinguished old poet who stumbles by chance into the line of fire, and
perishes in the clash between the two figments. 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 1000)

In Eugene Onegin (Two: XIV: 6-7) Pushkin says that the millions of
two-legged creatures for us are orudie odno (only tools):

Но дружбы нет и той меж нами.
Все предрассудки истребя,

Мы почитаем всех нулями,
А единицами - себя.

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

Нам чувство дико и смешно.
Сноснее многих был Евгений;
Хоть он людей, конечно, знал
И вообще их презирал, -
Но (правил нет без исключений)
Иных он очень отличал
И вчуже чувство уважал.

But in our midst there's even no such friendship:

Having destroyed all the prejudices,

We deem all people naughts

And ourselves units.

We all expect to be Napoleons;

the millions of two-legged creatures

for us are only tools;

feeling to us is weird and ludicrous.

More tolerant than many was Eugene,

though he, of course, knew men

and on the whole despised them;

but no rules are without exceptions:

some people he distinguished greatly

and, though estranged from it, respected feeling.

Grammatically, odno (the word used by Pushkin in the sense "only") is
neutral of odin (num. and pron., one).

Odno = Odon = Nodo

dobro/Bordo + vinograd + us + oda = Borodino + Gradus + voda

Odon - a world-famous actor and Zemblan patriot who helps the King to escape
from Zembla

Nodo - Odon's half-brother, a card-sharp and despicable traitor

dobro - good (a noun, as opposed to zlo, "evil")

Bordo - Bordeaux (a city in SW of France and red wine) in Russian spelling

vinograd - vine; grapes

us - moustache hair; whisker; antenna (of an insect), etc.

oda - ode

Borodino - the site of the greatest battle in the anti-Napoleon war of 1812;
a poem (1837) by Lermontov

voda - water

In his essay on Pushkin, Pouchkine ou le vrai et le vraisemblable (1937), VN
points out that, had Pushkin lived a couple of years longer, we would have
had his photograph. In VN's novel Ada (1969) Kim Beauharnais (whose surname
hints at Napoleon's first wife) is a kitchen boy and photographer at Ardis.
According to my hypothesis, Kim Beauharnais is the son of Arkadiy
Dolgorukiy, the narrator and main character in Dostoevski's novel Podrostok
("The Adolescent," 1875). The name of Arkadiy's real father, Versilov,
brings to mind "versipel" (as Shade calls his odd muse). Ulichnyi podrostok
("The Street Adolescent," 1914) is the sonnet with a coda by G. Ivanov (who,
as a young poet, asked Blok, if the sonnet needed a coda).

According to Kinbote, in its finished form Shade's poem has 1000 lines and
Line 1000 is identical to Line 1 ("I was the shadow of the waxwing slain").
But it seems to me that Shade's unfinished poem also needs a coda, Line 1001
("By its own double in the windowpane"). Dvoynik ("The Double," 1846) is a
short novel by Dostoevski. Shade's "odd muse" seems to suggest that his poem
should have the odd number of lines (1001 or, as the German version, 1003).

In his fragment Rim ("Rome," 1842) Gogol mentions sonetto colla coda and in
a footnote explains that in Italian poetry there is a kind of poem known as
"sonnet with the tail" (con la coda), when the idea did not get into
fourteen lines and entailed an appendix which could be longer than the
sonnet itself:

В италиянской поэзии существует род стихотворенья, известного под именем
сонета с хвостом (con la coda), когда мысль не вместилась и ведёт за собою
прибавление, которое часто бывает длиннее самого сонета.

Thus, not only Line 1001, but the entire Kinbote's Commentary and Index can
be regarded as the coda ("tail") of Shade's poem.

In my previous post on PF, "at Parnassum" should be "at Parnassus" (a line
in Pushkin's poem to his uncle Vasiliy Lvovich: "you are my uncle even at
Parnassus"). Btw., Pushkin's Eugene Onegin begins with the death of Onegin's
uncle. In PF, toward the end of his Commentary, Kinbote speaks of his
uncle's death and mentions Conmal's last words:

English was not taught in Zembla before Mr. Campbell's time. Conmal mastered
it all by himself (mainly by learning a lexicon by heart) as a young man,
around 1880, when not the verbal inferno but a quiet military career seemed
to open before him, and his first work (the translation of Shakespeare's
Sonnets) was the outcome of a bet with a fellow officer. He exchanged his
frogged uniform for a scholar's dressing gown and tackled The Tempest. A
slow worker, he needed half a century to translate the works of him whom he
called "dze Bart," in their entirety. After this, in 1930, he went on to
Milton and other poets, steadily drilling through the ages, and had just
complete Kipling's "The Rhyme of the Three Sealers" ("Now this is the Law of
the Muscovite that he proved with shot and steel") when he fell ill and soon
expired under his splendid painted bed ceil with its reproductions of
Altamira animals, his last words in his last delirium being "Comment dit-on
'mourir' en anglais?"--a beautiful and touching end. (Note to Line 962)

Re Mount St. George in Spring in Fialta: Marina Tsvetaev (one of whose
cycles is entitled Georgiy) is the author of Poema gory ("The Poem of the
Mountain," 1924).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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