Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0004535, Tue, 2 Nov 1999 09:26:11 -0800

Nabokov & Germany Festival at Petersburg Nabokov Museum
EDITOR's NOTE. The Petersburg Nabokov Museum, located in the former family
home, has marked the centenary with a series of conferences: "VN and
England," the Centennial itself in April-May, and, most recently, "VN &
Germany. Nassim Balestrini, author of a major study of the imagery in THE
GIFT and other VN writings of the 30s and of a definitive bibliography of
German-language criticism of VN (forthcoming in NABOKOV STUDIES), presents
the following account of the conference. NABOKV-L thanks Dr. Balestrini.

From: Nassim Balestrini <balestri@mail.uni-mainz.de>

International Conference on "Nabokov and Germany"
St. Petersburg, Russia, 23-25 October 1999

On the eve of the conference, the Nabokov Museum at 47 Bol'lshaya Morskaya
invited guests to the opening of the new exhibition on "Nabokov and
Germany." The director and the vice directors of the museum addressed the
approximately 50 guests, and some of the sponsors also made a few remarks.
The German consul expressed his appreciation of the museum staff's efforts
with regard to restoring the former home of the Nabokov family. Terry
Meyers from Los Angeles donated numerous books, among them an autographed
copy of the first Russian edition of _The Gift_ which was displayed as part
of the new exhibition. This exhibition consists of photographs and
documents relating to Nabokov's German roots and to his life in Berlin. It
is housed in the "Green Room" which used to be part of the dining room. The
room's walls have been painted green again, but the ceiling has not yet
been restored, as its original pattern of clouds on a greenish background
will require a more elaborate restoration. The exhibition on "Nabokov and
Germany" also includes photographs of several streets in which Nabokov had
lived in Berlin; these new pictures were contributed by Dieter E. Zimmer
and Daniela Rippl.
The actual conference began on 23 October with a variety of lectures on
Nabokov's relationship to Germany. For instance, Erik Rausch-Gernet from
the Russian Genealogical Society spoke about the Rausch von Traubenberg
family, while Dieter Zimmer discussed the uncomfortable relationship
between Nabokov and Germany, and Joanna Huss analyzed the role of silence
in "Breaking the News" and "Signs and Symbols." The second day of the
conference comprised a similarly varied array of topics; abstracts of all
the papers will be posted on the website of the Nabokov Museum. At the
close of the second day, all participants had the chance to voice their
views--a passionate debate ensued.
On the first evening, the Nabokov Museum and the Goethe Institute
hosted a showing of two 1920s movies: "Berlin--Sinfonie einer Grossstadt"
("Berlin--Symphony of a Metropolis") and "M--Eine Stadt sucht einen
Moerder" ("M--A City Searches for a Murderer"). The next evening, the
conference participants as well as the general public also had the chance
to see "Der blaue Engel" ("The Blue Angel"). That same evening, some
confernece participants saw Aleksandr Getman's 2-act play based on _King,
Queen, Knave_--an interesting mixture of drama and dance. Dreyer's
mannequins seemed imbued with life after all...
On 25 October, Vadim Stark, one of the deputy directors of the Nabokov
Museum, gave a small group a fascinating tour of Nabokov sites throughout
St. Petersburg. In addition to seeing the exteriors of the Rukavishnikov
home and of Vera Slonim's childhood home, we went inside the former
Tenishev school which is now a theater academy. Although the school
building is in deplorable shape, it is encouraging to see that the theater
within the building is being restored. Vadim Stark also pointed out
different streets, houses, and shop windows that are mentioned in _The
Defense_, and he proved a veritable encyclopedia of Nabokov's life and
The conference ended with open lectures by Dieter Zimmer and Daniela
Rippl, but as I had to leave before that, I hope that someone else will
report on the final afternoon of the conference. In particular, I would
like to thank Olga Voronina and Vadim Stark, the deputy directors, and
Dmitry Milkov, the director, for their wonderful work in preparing this
conference and in making all participants feel welcome.

Nassim Balestrini
Johannes Gutenberg-Universitaet, Mainz, Germany