Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002453, Fri, 10 Oct 1997 09:45:57 -0700

Re: Kornei Chukovsky's Diaries and Query (fwd)

From: Dolinin <dolinin@facstaff.wisc.edu>

Unfortunately, the reviewer quoted the least interesting passage of
Kornei Chukovsky's important memoir that is two pages long. Chukovsky, at
that time a showy, exuberant, cocky critic, knew Vladimir Dmitrievich
Nabokov rather well as he was a reviewer of the newspaper Rech' which VDN
edited. In 1916 both of them were in a group of Russian dignitaries that
visited Great Britain, an ally in the Great War. VDN showed his son's early
writings to Chukovsky and one of them was scribed by young Nabokov in
Chukovsky's marvelous album, so called Chukokola (now published). For
Chukovsky who was a self-made man VDN belonged to the alien, outdated and
hostile world of the Russian wealthy aristocracy and he looked at him with
the disdain of a bohemian enfant terrible.
In his memoir Chukovsky characterizes VDN as a rather dull person
who had an enormous erudition but lacked the spark of wit and talent,
"tipichnyi pervyi uchenik" (a typical first student of the class, a
valedectorian, which in Russian tradition means a diligent plodder), and an
epitome of "barin" (an haughty noble). Yet, adds Chukovky, there was
something good in him, and first of all his voice--moving, enchanting,
enticing--that could transform platitudes into poetry. But the most
important qualities of VDN, in Chukovky's view, were clearness and purity.
It is so sad, he concludes, that they killed such a quiet, pure,
unmeddling, generous "barin" who managed to remain a Russian "intelligent"
in spite of his millions.

Re: QUERY: "Genius is the African that dreams of snow."

Fyodor Godunov-Cherdyntsev: "I am convinced that extraodinary surprises
await us. It's a pity one can't imagine what one can't compare to anything.
Genius is an African who dreams up snow." (The Gift, p.193)