NABOKV-L post 0011852, Tue, 13 Sep 2005 08:57:33 -0700

Subject
Fwd: Re: "German source" in SPEAK, MEMORY
Date
Body
Generally I am not overly fond of trickreading, but often it at least does
no great harm. Sometimes, however, it leads plainly astray, and it would be
much more enlightening to take Nabokov by his word. Such is the case of the
"German source" he mentioned in 'Speak, Memory' in relation to his
ancestors. All the names he enumerates in Chapter 3 Section 1 of 'Speak,
Memory' are real people. Mr. "Staegemann" was no "upstaged stageman" but a
real person whose name happened to be Staegemann, without any deliberate
overtones. You can find them all if you take the trouble to walk through the
comprehensive Nabokov genealogy I compiled a few years ago and which is
exhibited online in Zembla. And 'source' just is 'Quelle' in German, an old
Indogermanic root, without the slightest reference to Quilty and not an
invitation for a game of wordgolf.

However, I think I know exactly whom Nabokov had in mind when he spoke of
his "German source", and as I believe it has never been said before, I will
disclose it now. The source was Heinz Hintermeier, one of the executives at
Nabokov's German publishing house Rowohlt, by now dead. Hintermeier was an
ardent admirer of Nabokov's works and reading the 1951 version of 'Speak,
Memory' (published in 1964 by Rowohlt under the title 'Andere Ufer', in my
humble translation) he discovered they had ancestors in common back in the
eighteenth century: the publishing dynasty of Hartung, in Koenigsberg, East
Prussia. At one point the Hartung and the Graun families intermarried and
became ancestors to Nabokov's paternal grandmother, Baroness Maria Korff.
Around 1965 Hintermeier gave Nabokov as a birthday present a big hand-drawn
genealogical chart detailing his relationship to the Graun and Hartung
families. This among other things enabled Nabokov to greatly expand the
genealogical remarks in the 1967 version of 'Speak, Memory'. Whereas in the
1951 version he had only mentioned the composer Graun, he now could add
Graun's parents, the Hartungs, the Staegemanns, v.Olfers, etc. If I recall
correctly, the Kleist anecdote went back to Hintermeier's informations as
well. On the day of his suicide, Kleist seems to have tried to call on
Elisabeth v.Staegemann but was turned away, but not because it was laundry
day in the Staegemann household but because Elisabeth had a bad migraine and
could not see anybody. It is unlikely, however, that she could have talked
Kleist out of his disastrous plan.

Dieter E. Zimmer, Berlin
September 13, 2005 -- 10am

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