NABOKV-L post 0003294, Tue, 11 Aug 1998 08:23:01 -0700

Re: Nabokv's story "Krasavitsa" [A Russian Beauty] (fwd)
>From Eugene Il'ichev

Up to my mind, of all the "Dubliners" stories the most close to "A Russian
Beauty" in meaning is Joycean "The Dead". Death enters the story at the very
beginning (when the author tells about the tragic end of Olga's mother and
brother) and never releases the heroine up to the very end, when it
literally takes her. Unlike Cincinnate C. in "Invitation to A Beheading",
who is the only alive in the falsehood of putrefying world, and for whom
death makes liberation, transfering him to a real life, Olga's real life
after emigration resembles death and deterioration. The face of 19-year old
Olga is described as "perestarivshijsya" ("looking too old" -- sorry, I
don't have an English variant, so, here and further is my own imperfect
translation), besides, she is allways wearing a black cardigan. Cincinnate
C. had been condemned for "neprozrachnost'" (non-transparency), - Olga is
all drowned in transparency: look at her deathly "vesnushki na tonkoi
sizovatoi kozhe" (freckles upon thin dove-colour skin). She is transparent
to people she is communicating with, and no one takes a serious notice of
The Death comes to her earlier than she actually dies in childbirth -
the moment the author takes a sudden backtrack - "No vot zhizn' potemnela;
chto-to konchilos', uzhe vstavali, chtobi ukhodit' " (But suddenly the life
grew darker, something got over, some people rose to take away). Hereafter
there is nothing sympathetic in heroine description. Thirty is not the age
to be spoken of seriously, but Olga "dotyanula do tridtzati let" (dragged
herself to thirty). Forstmann is suiting Olga without any deep feeling and
marriage is rather an unavoidable necessity to both. By the way, Forstmann's
name sounds in Russian as "Force-man" -- so, is he, literally speaking,
"forcing" Olga towards her tragic end?
The notice of Olga's death is clad in a sort of a journalist
indifference, like a mere touching. It appears like an artistic way to put
an end to an overextended tale, a substituent to author's not nowing a
continuation. Nabokov helps Olga with death, puts death's target in front of
the flying arrow of her life, thereby giving her a chance to culminate to