Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0005491, Wed, 27 Sep 2000 13:33:16 -0700

Karelin/Pnin (fwd)
From: Mark Bennett <mab@straussandasher.com>

For all those who may be wondering what the shade of Prof. Timofey Pnin is
up to these days, I recommend a visit to the English website of Alexandr
Alexandrovich Karelin. Mr. Karelin, for those who do not follow such
things, is a Greco-Roman wrestler from Novosibirsk, Siberia. He is a
many-time World and Olympic Champion in the Super Heavyweight (286 pound)
class and is a near-mythic figure; renowned for his astonishing physique and
feared by his opponents for his stupendous, almost inhuman, strength (Matt
Ghaffiri, the American who lost to Karelin in the gold-medal match in the
1996 Olympics described wrestling Karelin as "wrestling King-Kong.")
Considered virtually unbeatable by many who follow the sport, Karelin was
attempting to win his fourth consecutive gold medal at the Sydney Olympics.
However, in the gold-medal match on Wednesday night Karelin lost 1-0 to
Rulon Gardner of the U.S. - as staggering an upset as has ever occurred in
Olympic history.

Now I hear the grumblings: "This may be all fine and good, but what has it
to do with Timofey Pnin?" This. Karelin, like most international
celebrities (!) has his own website http://www.karelin.ru. It is not a
badly put together website, as such things go, and it is available in both
Russian and English. I have no Russian (the shame is intense and
overwhelming) so I cannot comment on the quality of the Russian version's
content, but the English version is a Nabokophile's delight. Karelin is,
apparently, a thoughtful fellow with a good deal to say about many things.
However, the man or machine that was employed to translate the Russian text
into English was clearly seized by some Pninian specter or spirit and has
succeeded in producing a burlesque that should keep admirers of Prof. Pnin
smiling for hours. I recommend that one start with the "Main Things" page,
where one will learn such lighthearted personal matters about Karelin as his
"favorite way of looking?" ("From under my brows. I am like my Grandfather
in it") and "what was your dream in childhood" ("To become the driver of a
large lorry like the dad") to weightier matters, such as his opinion of
Russian President Vladimir Putin ("Vladimir Putin is a pragmatic and
consecutive politician") and much else besides. Some further examples:
Karelin's view of his opponents ("My opponents don't know fatalism. Because
of that each of them want to become an author of a sensation and dreams to
win"); A special training technique that he and other Russian wrestlers
employ ("We play wrestling basketball. It looks like American football, but
we don't use protective ammunition and throw a ball to a basket to get
points"); and the importance of avoiding negative thoughts in competition
("It's necessary to think how to train to evade such trouble. And only
ones, who can tear themselves away from a captivity of binding emotions, can
become champions.") The clinching evidence that Pnin is involved in some
manner is the cavalier use of idiom ("To cut a long story short, in the eyes
of the public opinion any fund is a "roof" for crime. Because of that not
all questions were traditional-jubilee," which is a follow-up to the lament:
"It's enough to recollect Moscow National Sport Fund, which became renowned
not for help sports people, but for export of alcohol and shooting.") On
second thought, there is considerable other evidence as well; wasn't Pnin
bald and equipped with a "strongman's torso?" Hmmmmmmmm . . . .