Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002321, Tue, 2 Sep 1997 17:03:49 -0700


From: Kelvin H Lu <khlu@midway.uchicago.edu>

While browsing the 80%
off book sale at Soho-Guggenheim, I found a great book about Pavel
Tchelitchev (or something like that, I can't remember his name too well),
an emigre artist like VN and his brothers Sergei and Nicholas. Though
VN and PT differed in age by only a year, PT seems to have worked with
Nicholas, the composer, quite often in Paris because PT sometimes designed
backdrops for ballet productions while Nicholas (obviously) did the music
stuff (and PT lived with the Nabokovs (I'm not clear on the details) in
Berlin and/or Paris). I'd known Nicholas was a composer, but forgotten
when I posted the inquiry, and it seems likely that Nabokov's "tin-ear"
might have just been his reluctance to comment on matters in which his
"honest" opinion might have impinged on his brother's work. This sort of
reservation is definitely something Nabokov admits to in Strong Opinions
or some other book I read, where he talks about not criticizing Soviet
novels too harshly (am I remembering this correctly?) because he fears
the government might take retribution on the writers (I feel like I'm
muddling the details because that opinion doesn't seem to make any sense
(why would the government care?)).

Anyway, I suppose if Nabokov never studied music (he did study
art/painting), he probably never had an urge to write about it too
"seriously." And the complexity of his public behaviour makes
interpretation of his "frivolous" comments on these subjects difficult.
He said some really nasty things about Prokofiev and Tchaikovsky that were
terribly vague. I was hoping I could get a "good" reason he had these
opinions, not just the "soft music" thing.