Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0003251, Fri, 31 Jul 1998 15:51:57 -0700

VN and, er... O.Henry (fwd)
>From Peter Kartsev <petr@glas.apc.org>

I don't quite know whether the item below comes under the heading of
Nabokovian trivia or that of trivial coincidence. It has to do with
O.Henry, a writer who is now, I believe, more popular here in Russia
than in his native USA. As far as I know, he was always popular here,
and VN may well have read his stories both in Russian translations and
in the original English (or shall I say American?). In fact, I always
thought that with his eye for quirky humorous detail O.Henry might have
appealed to Nabokov, at least in his youth. This is a rather long-winded
foreword to the trifle that follows.

In one of O.Henry's collections, entitled "Rolling Stones" (a posthumous
one, I think), there is a (very) short story called "The Prisoner of
Zembla", which, despite its title, does not seem to be a parody of Anthony
Hope's once-famous novel. What makes the coincidence really curious, for
me, is the fact that among the characters there is a king whose favorite
exclamation seems to be "Ods Bodkins!" and a princess called Ostla (isn't
it a truly Zemblan name?).

The story itself is an unmemorable trifle if ever there was one, and
naturally I am not implying any sort of influence - assuming even that VN
might have seen it. In fact, I've been modestly keeping the marvelous
discovery to myself for about a year. I would have probably continued to
do so but for the irrepressible urge to try and distract the members of
the forum from the somewhat irrelevant (in my humble opinion) discussion
of Lyne's folly.