Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004433, Sat, 2 Oct 1999 11:07:21 -0700

Dmitrii Likhachev & VN: ---some informal remarks
EDITOR's NOTE. Academician Dmitri Likhachev, the doyen of Russian
literary studies, died a few days ago at 92. A specialist in Old Russian
cultural history, he played the leading role in the process of the
reassimilation of many aspects of Russian culture that had been suppressed
during the Soviet period. Although greatly respected in his later years,
he too had been in one of the most notorious of the camps: Solovki
Below, his colleague, Evgenij B. Belodubrovskij,
<Pushkin@EB2951.spb.edu> of Pushin House, the literary branch of the
Petersburd Academy of Sciences, honors Likhachev and describes the older
scholar's role in introducing Nabokov to his native land. NABOKV-L thanks
Evgenii Belodubrovsky, himself a well-known Nabokov scholar. The rough
translation below is NABOKV-L.

"Vo pravi, takoe rezshitel^noe vosvrazshenie V.N. na Rodinu..."

In truth, the return of Nabokov to his native land is directly
connected with the name of Dmitri Likhachev and the Soviet Cultural
Foundation that was established at his initiative in 1985. Academician
Likhachev's Foundation was dedicated to the return, preservation, and
publication of the creative and archival materials and manuscripts of the
"First Wave" of the Russian emigration who believed that ultimately
democratic changes would take place in Russia. Such cultural developments
in Russia .... are linked with Likhachev's name, just as political changes
were wih the name of Andrey Sakharov.

A Foundation requires donations, income, repositories,
publications, and a competent staff -- both in Moscow and
Leningrad, and also subsidiarires in large and small towns of the USSR and
the capitals of the then republics. Likhachev succeeded in enlisting the
support of Raisa Gorbachov, and established a headquarters and staff --
with himself as Chairman of the Foundation -- drawing into his project gifted
scholars from the ranks of the young rebels of the sixties who were
mostly without jobs appropriate to our training. In doing so, he helped
many of us to find our feet and to legally engage in our careers. Thus we
began "to reassimilate" under the supervision, or better to say,
"blessing" of Dmitri Sergeevich.

Naturally, Nabokov was first among those names for "restoration"
via the Foundation, especially since "samizdat" had already played its
role. Publications had appeared at Pushkin House, the literary branch of
the Academy of Sciences, where Alexnader Dolinin worked, in Kostroma --
Evgenii Borisovich Shchikhovtsev, in Moscow -- Alexander Gaijanin and his
circle, and in Petersburg, the doyenne of Russian Nabokov specialist
Natalija Ivanovna Tolstaija-Artemenko, and Ivan Tolstoi, Vadim Stark and
yours truly.

Another major achievement of our Nabokov project supported by
D.S. Likhachev at the Foundation (afterwards working independently after
his and our departure from the Foundation) was his establishment of the
journal "Our Heritage," where, with his concurrence and approval, we
published materials about Nabokov and his father, and other matters...

I, as an active participant of the Foundation, personally hired by
Dmitri Sergeevich precisely for the Nabokov project, know well D.S.'s very
high regard for Nabokov, especially as an original, subtle, and meticulous
Pushkinist. D.S. and I often discussed Nabokov's Onegin commentary. In
these discussions arose our mutual opinion (debatable but never
indifferent) about Nabokov's Pushkin enterprise, which can be summed up in
5-6 words: "Yes, You're right. It's Nabokov's mistake of genius." I recall
how at the begining of the nineties D.S. prodded a group of translators
and Pushkinists to hasten work on Nabokov's Onegin so that it would be
available to students and school children. It was his initative that at
last brought this task to its completion, albeit with a long delay.
Likhachev was also instrumental in the return of the Nabokov Family home
on Petersburg's Bolshaya Morskaya street to Dmitri Nabokov. In my presence
he seriously discussed this with Anatoly Sobchak (then mayor of
Petersburg) and various officials from Moscow.

I don't know, apart from personal conversations, what Likhachev
said about Nabokov in public statements, although this doesn't mean such
statement were not made. It was not his area of literary study. None the
less, it speaks volumes that his Foundation undertook the first work on
Nabokov. Now, Nabokov has found his place in scholarship and in the
schools and universities of Russia. Academician Likhachev's
fundamental role in bringing this about was a huge one.

Evgenii Borisovich Belodubrovsky