Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0008987, Sat, 6 Dec 2003 08:49:45 -0800

Fw: Fw:More PF & Zenda
EDNOTE. Two of the most revered names in Nabokov studies kick in on the
"Prisoner of Zembla" theme. Chaz Nicol is a founding father of the Vladimir
Nabokov Society and Mary Bellino is assistant editor of the Society's
By chance the Turner Classic Movies TV channel (69 in California is runnng
the 1937 film of "Prisoner of Zenda"at 8pm this evening.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Charles Nicol" <ejnicol@isugw.indstate.edu>
> ----------------- Message requiring your approval (51
lines) ------------------
> Some additional Zenda comments:
> 1. By mentioning only Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger, you neglected
> a great, dashing performance by VN's pal James Mason as the charming
> villain whazhisname.
> 2. Aside from Mason, the earlier film was by far the better, even
> though the later seems to have been shot as an absolutely slavish
> remake, with almost every shot and every scrap of dialogue identical.
> 3. The book by Anthony Hope is still delightful, in my opinion, and I
> read it every decade or so; the follow-up, where the James Mason
> character gets his own sequel, isn't bad either.
> 4. The Prisoner of Zenda is typical of a whole genre of novels set in
> imaginary kingdoms in middle Europe written at the beginning of the 20th
> century; the granddaddy of them all is Graustark, but Zenda was popular
> enough that sometimes the whole genre is referred to as Ruritanian.
> 5. I have always thought that Queen Blenda of Zembla was a nod in
> passing to Zenda.
> Chaz
> Charles Nicol

lines) ------------------
It's also been suggested (though I can't remember whose idea
it was originally) that the philistine Mrs. Goldsworth may
have owned a copy of The Prisoner of Zenda. Kinbote, looking
over her shelves, says "her intellectual tastes were fully
developed, going as they did from Amber to Zen" (p. 83 of
the Vintage). Now "Amber" almost certainly refers to
Kathleen Winsor's trashy novel Forever Amber (a sort of Gone
with the Wind set in Restoration England, considered very
racy at the time of its publication in the mid 1940s; it
sold millions of copies). So "Zen" might refer to the
Prisoner of Z, a novel whose swashbuckling plot and
easy-to-read text might have appealed to Mrs. G--and it
falls into the same kitschy, midcult genre that Nabokov
satirized time and again.

Thus those who subscribe to the theory that Kinbote
fashioned Zembla out of bits and pieces of his New
Wye/Wordsmith life might argue that he read (or recalled)
the book as his sanity slowly unravelled chez Goldsmith and
he reknit it into the rich tapestry of Zembla (pardon the
mixed metaphor--I guess it should be "reknit it into the
rich mittens of Zembla").

Also of interest is Victor's dream in Pnin--a sort of
foreshadowing of the Zembla plot--among the sources of which
are The Scarlet Pimpernel, another swashbuckler (see
Barabtarlo, Phantom of Fact, ad loc).

And on all of this see Boyd's Nabokov's PF: The Magic of
Artistic Discovery 96-98 (esp 98; he links "Zen" to JD
Salinger) and the online version of his original Nabokov
Studies article "Shade and Shape in Pale Fire" (online p. 2
at http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/boydpf2.htm: the
para that begins "When he outrageously imposes on Shade's
helpless poem the Zembla story...." specifically mentions Zenda).


> >>> chtodel@cox.net 12/5/2003 8:28:27 PM >>>
> PF & Zenda & p.s.?EDNOTE. Thanks to Carolyn for checking. There was an
> earlier film version form before 1937 but VN doubtless knew the
> original Anthohy Hope novel from the 1890s reinforced by one or more of
> the film versions.
> =======
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: Carolyn Kunin
> To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
> Sent: Friday, December 05, 2003 12:01 PM
> Subject: PF & Zenda & p.s.?
> The Garland Companion does mention that Prisoner of Zenda was among
> Nabokov's childhood favorites. The (excuse the expression) doppelganger
> theme and the commoner-as-king theme are certainly echoed in PF. It is
> a charming read, a sort of British Three Musketeers, but the only
> possible reference I could find was Shade's eggspoon which turns up in
> the first paragraph of Zenda.
> The 1937 film is a charming tour de force for its star, Ronald Colman,
> but is otherwise undistinguished. There was a remake in 1952 with
> Deborah Kerr & Stewart Granger, which I haven't seen.
> Carolyn
> p.s. Duck Soup?! I guess perhaps the revolution in Fredonia -- but that
> is a stretch.