Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0008778, Sun, 19 Oct 2003 19:44:18 -0700

Dmitri Nabokov: Luzhin prototypes: replies to Bába Ildikó and others

I think Jeff Edmunds comes closest. I recall talking about
possible models with my father. It is true that, on a different
occasion, he excluded Rubenstein, who might have seemed a possible part
of the mix. But a mix, to a degree, it was: part erratic genius Alekhin,
part Capablanca whom he challenged, part the
self-defenestrated Bardeleben, perhaps others. But the main ingredient
of the mix was the catalyst of VN's imagination. Traits (observed or
known) of real people may reappear in Nabokov's fiction. That can be
said of much-investigated Pnin; it can be said, to a lesser degree, of
Bachmann; it can be theorized regarding Shade; or one can consider Lance
(in a sense an exception to the rule). But fiction it remains, and one
must be able to imagine that a writer has license to imagine, and
sometimes to synthesize, unless he is composing that oxymoron, the
"historical" novel. The same is true of the hunt for real-life
solutions in the realm of authorial fantasy, say with regard to Pale
Fire. VN would have been distressed to learn that, carried to an
extreme, such obsession might lead to mental imbalance. Yet, one unusual
e-correspondent claimed to have "solved" that novel after years of
labor, and to have ascertained that the author had stashed eleven
million dollars (a sum mentioned in a quite different context) to be
awarded to the solver. When I jokingly dimissed his thesis, he demanded
belligerently that I "pay up."

Incidentally, who did invent whom? Curious and perceptive readers have
been searching for clues since Day One. Father once told me it made just
as much sense to postulate that the author had endowed Shade and Kinbote
with the capacity to invent each other, but that one must not lose sight
of the fact that the same author had invented everyone. He kept his
characters on a short figurative leash, and said, in a TV interview,
that they"quivered" at his passage.

Science has now posited a finite, roughly spherical universe, with up to
ten dimensions. We'll see about that, or maybe not. But a dimension does
exist for the inventions of an original, creative author.

I shall be curious to read Jeff's Silvery Light. Also The Oiginal of
Laura cleverly pictured on the Web. Also The Original of Laura, less
cleverly "based on Nabokov" by a certain Shishkin and announced as
being "in preparation" by a publisher named Vagrius.

Warm greetings,