Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0008875, Fri, 7 Nov 2003 12:03:16 -0800

"A True History of the Attacks on 'The Song of Bernadette'"
EDNOTE. Now it can be told.....

----- Original Message -----
From: "Charles Nicol" <ejnicol@isugw.indstate.edu>
Sent: Friday, November 07, 2003 9:57 AM
> "A True History of the Attacks on The Song of Bernadette"

I explain why--or at least one absolutely clear
> reason why--Nabokov attacked The Song of Bernadette on pages 127-28 of
> my article, "Necessary Introduction or Fatal Fatuity: Nabokov's
> Introductions and Bend Sinister" in the first volume of Nabokov Studies.
> It's too long an explanation to quote, but briefly, Clifton Fadiman, a
> regular reviewer for the New Yorker, panned Mary McCarthy's novel
> (sample: "Miss McCarthy is no novelist") while in the same review
> praising Werfel's Bernadette. At that time, Mary McCarthy was Edmund
> Wilson's wife. I also pointed out that in the Nabokov/Wilson
> correspondence, the obscure phrase by Wilson, "we are still pursuing our
> activities up here regardless of Clifton Fadiman and Pearl Harbor," is a
> quite specific reference to that review and shows that both men were
> quite familiar with it. The whole set of attacks on Werfel's novel
> seems intended to comfort Mary McCarthy and Edmund Wilson (who soon
> took over the reviewing job from Fadiman).
> >>> chtodel@cox.net 11/6/2003 8:05:48 PM >>>
> lines) ----------------------- Original Message -----
> From: "Mary Bellino" <iambe@rcn.com>
> To: "Vladimir Nabokov Forum" <NABOKV-L@listserv.ucsb.edu>
> Sent: Thursday, November 06, 2003 2:33 PM
> Subject: Re: QUERY: "a fake from beginning to end"
> > A little detective work turns it up: the book is The Song of
> > Bernadette by Franz Werfel, a huge bestseller in 1942 and
> > 1943, and still in print. It was also of course made into a
> > movie.
> >
> > The ad Nabokov refers to in his discussion of poshlost'
> > (Nikolai Gogol 68-69) ran in the NY Times on August 9, 1942,
> > and perhaps also later (and of course possibly in other
> > newspapers too; Nabokov might have been looking at a Boston
> > paper). The quotes VN gives are verbatim, and there are
> > many, many more along the same lines.
> >
> > What in particular roused Nabov's ire about The Song of
> > Bernadette and its blurb-writers is another question. 1942
> > was a dim year for bestsellers; other possible contenders
> > for the Nabokovian lash include The Robe by Lloyd Douglas
> > and The Moon is Down by John Steinbeck. Maybe it was the
> > "whole page ad" itself; prior to the success of Lolita
> > Nabokov was lucky if he got a small text ad. Perhaps he was
> > trying to plant a seed in James Laughlin's mind about a big
> > ad campaign for Nikolai Gogol.
> -----------------------------------------
> EDNOTE. A nice piece of detective work by Mary Bellino, classicist and
> Associate Editor of NABOKOV STUDIES. I seem to recall VN also makes a
> snide, semi-coded reference to Mr. Werfel in Bend Sinister. It is is
> also
> my very hazy recollection that Werfel, a German Jewish refugee who made
> it
> to Hollywood, wrote part of "Bernadette" while staying at the
> Biltmore
> Hotel here in Santa Barbara. Didn't Jennifer Jones play B. in the film?
> (Or
> maybe it was "Jakobowski and the Colonel", a comic novel that was
> turned
> into a movie with Danny Kaye, that was written in Santa Barbara.)
> Werfel
> escaped Hitler's invasion of France by fleeing afoot over the
> mountainous
> border and stayed at Lourdes en route. He vowed to write B. if he
> escaped.
> All from my memory. Hence unchecked and suspect.