NABOKV-L post 0003285, Mon, 10 Aug 1998 10:25:33 -0700

Re: Nabokv's story "Krasavitsa" [A Russian Beauty] (fwd)
From: Anat Ben-Amos <>

I find Galya Diment's comments on "Krasavitsa" very interesting, and do
agree that Olga has a symbolic role in the story, representing at
least part of the Russian emigration. Yet I feel that Olga represents a
specifically female destiny, which can be traced back to pre emigration
Russian literature. I think especially about female protagonists of
Chekhov, who are also losing their place in a changing world of the
turn of the century, when the expectations of the traditional female
role clashes with their new aspirations. It may not be the best
example, but still this may be the direction to follow additionally to
what Galya wrote.

Furthermore, I feel that marriage to a Russian German can hardly
signify the relationship between the Russian emigres in Berlin and the
local population. Russian Germans, again, are extensively described in
Russian literature and have a set image in it: Hermann in "Pikovaia
dama" or Shtolts in _Oblomov_, to name two obvious examples. I feel
that the Russian German in "Krasavitsa" represents the practical nature
usually assigned to these characters in Russian literature, to signify
the need of Olga to abandon the romantic-feminine image she had
cultivated in her youth and enter a `harsh reality'. In this context
Galya's reflection about the death in birth seems very suitable: Olga
stops being a `female muse' and her role is now, to quote Galya, "to produce
a better, more adjusted, breed of citizenry" (although "better", of
course, is a question of taste).

> From: Galya Diment <>
> I think the comparison with the DUBLINERS is right on since the nature of
> KRASAVITSA is also that of an epiphany. It is, on the surface, about a
> trivial and increasingly meaningless life of a young woman uprooted by
> events beyond her control but Olga is obviously a metaphor for the whole
> generation of uprooted Russian emigres finding themselves in the 1930s no
> longer able to entertain hopes of eventual return to Russia, and thus
> being forever stuck in alien lands and cultures. In some ways, the story
> is almost reminiscent of Nadezhda Teffi, who was wildly popular in the
> emigre press at the time (having established her potent satirist
> credentials back in Russia prior to her emigration).
> Where Teffi is usually loudly sarcastic, Nabokov is just mildly
> ironic, yet they both appear to refuse to endorse the stereotype by
> melodramatizing the fate of many Russian emigres who, they believed, would
> have led equally meaningless -- but probably better "masked" -- lives if
> the revolution had never happened and they had remained in Russia.
> There is probably some symbolism in the story as well -- Olga is
> born in 1900, new century, new era; she marries a Russian German, whom she
> apparently cannot stand -- as many Russian could not stand being
> surrounded by Germans in Berlin yet had to endure that uneasy "marriage."
> Finally, she dies in childbirth: being a member of the "lost" generation
> her only constructive function may be, in fact, to produce a better, more
> adjusted, breed of citizenry.
> The end? I think it is about how perfect the epiphany really is -- it
> does, for Nabokov, hit its mark, so nothing else is needed to clarify it
> further. He may have known someone like Olga in emigration -- just like
> Joyce based his Dubliners on some of the real-life "epiphanies" that he
> dutifully recorded in his notebooks and scraps of paper. That VN brings up
> a fairy tale at the end is also deeply ironic, of course, for, unlike
> heroines in fairy tales, Olga is obviously not destined for "happily ever
> after."