Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0001208, Fri, 9 Aug 1996 13:15:51 -0700

Russ. film Scenario of LATH!
EDITOR'S NOTE. My thanks to Nabokov translator, Sergey B. Ilyin, for the
following item.

Sergey B. Ilyin <isb@glas.apc.org> reports from Moscow that a
Russian film scenario of LATH! has been published in the journal
"Kinostsenarii" 6, 1995. The author, Aleksandr Chervinskij, did
the scripts for several films successful during the dawn of
"perestroika." At the beginning of the 90s he moved to the US, but
apparently failed to prosper. As Chervinskii himself explains in
his preface to the script, a young Russian director, now living in
New York, proposed that he write the script. The director does not
read English, and Chervinskii confesses that he reads it only with
difficulty. Nonetheless, he managed and characterizes the book as

"This tale, in which there is no beginning, denouement, nor
character of the writer himself is, rather, the story of the
writer's five or six marriages. It is Nabokov ironizing over himself."

Initially Chervinskij rejected the idea of doing the scenario
but later sat down and wrote it in two months. Of the scenario, he

"..the scenario has a plot, a story line. It is full of
human feelings and passions -- all lacking in the novel. Further,
it seem to me that this is the first serious attempt to make a
Nabokov film. And it is Nabokov; Nabokov's world."

Apparently, Chervinskii has not seen Fassbinder's film.

He further reports that his scenario has now been sent to
Dmitri Nabokov but that his opinion is as yet unknown.
At the end of the preface B. Nosik, who is described as "a
collector" of "the First Wave" Russian emigration and as the
author of the first Russian biography of the writer, adds: "V.V.
Nabokov dreamed of films for two-thirds of his life--to write for
films, to take part in film making.... How glad Vladimir Nabokov
would have been seeing a scenario based on his last novel. And how
About the scenario itself.
The "Nabokov part" proper is framed by semi-parodic scenes of
the discovery of the memorial plaque in the country estate where
Vadim Vadimych passed his childhood. It now belongs to "a new
Russian" (the local version of the French 'nouveau riche'), who
will live there with his daughter Nelly. Of those in attendance on
a few have read "A Kingdom beyond the Sea." They are interested
only in whether the author did or didn't sleep with is daughter.
More than half the script is devoted to the situations
described in the first half of LATH!. Childhood on the estate of
"Mstislav Kharnetskii" in 1918. Lieutenant Blagidze and his wife
Nadya appear. Vadim's first cousin Nelly "initiates" him. Vadim
then turns up in bed with Mstislav's wife, Dagmar, and Nadya.
Vadim dreams of becoming a writer. Next--the flight to Europe:
Starov, again Blagidze, Ivor, Iris (called "Ajris"--Chervinskii
apparently failed to notice the etymology of "Irisin" given in
LATH!, just as he failed to note much else, for example, he
mentions "My Last Duchess" among Vadim's works. Paris: Vadim
writes "A Kingdom by the Sea" in which Iris' death is foretold and
the narrator/writer undertakes "something pathological with the 12-
year-old Dolly."
Next we have the brief story of Annette (in which Oksman,
Stepanov, and Dolly Stepanov flash by), followed by Vadim's move
to California. The 20-year-old-Dolly appears. Anentte sees Vadim's
dalliance with Dolly through the window of his study. A blow up.
We next learn of Annette's death and Vadim's daughter Nelly
returns to her father. It turns out that she knows his novel
"Tamara" by heart and much, but not all of his "My Last Duchess."
Vadim weeps.
The Parisian scenes with Annette and the American ones -- with
Annette and Nelly -- are interspersed with the scenes of life in
Paris with Iris. The final four scenes are:
1. Paris. A meeting with Ivor who promises to make a film of
Vadim's "A Kingdom by the Sea". Iris explains to Vadim that he is
not mad but has simply muddled Space with Time and "fears
returning to the past". Blagidze kills Iris on the street.
2. California. Nelly goes to her father's bedroom with the just
written ("clumsy" according to Chervinskii) poem about "Medor" and
goes to sleep in her father's bed.
3. Russia. 1995. The guests leave the estate. One of them ("an
old intellectual") tells two of his coevals that Nadezhda Blagidze
left memoirs, Ivor Black dies of cirrhosis of the liver, and
Oksman was tortured in Dachau.
Nelly lies in bed on the estate watching a moth circle around
the bed.

The language of both characters and the author leave much to be
desired. The film has not yet been made. But you never can tell!