NABOKV-L post 0000483, Wed, 15 Feb 1995 08:00:32 -0800

Re: Browning's door and et alia (fwd)
From: Gene Barabtarlo <>

1. No sooner had I posted a note regarding the 999
cells in The Crosses (a prison in SPbg where V.D.Nabokov spent three
months for having endorsed the Vyborg Proclamation) than a most peculiar
photograph landed on my desk, depicting VDN ARRIVING AT THE PRSION GATES
in a hansom, with a companion at his side (Kaminka ?), and another cabbie
carrying VDN's large trunk in a separate carriage in the background. The
photo is printed on p.162 of *The Sunset of the Romanov Dynast y* by
Mikhail Iroshnikov et al. (Terra <sic>: Moscow, 1992), a "lavish" book, as
hacks always like to put it. I haven't seen it anywhere else; it might
have come out of the newly ransacked Soviet archives.

2. On Browning's Door. I think Blackwell is quite right that VN doesn't
hoodwi nk his reader; rather, he invites him to wink at Laughlin's
misplaced pedantry. But there is more to it, for the playful entry is
packed tight.

"Winter 1836-37.
"Paris. Lived on the corner of the Place de la Bourse and rue Vivienne.
Wrote there a large portion of the First Part of "Dead Souls". Browning's door
is preserved in the library of Wellesley College. On warmish days he took Chich
ikov for strolls in the Tuileries. Sparrows, grey statues."

The door is inserted as a tribute to Gogol's famous non-sequitur
zigzags, a stylistic trademark quirk that VN points up at every turn in
his book (and in his lectures). Examples ar e inmense in number, but it
seems offhand that the closest in tone is the one at the close of "The
Diary of a Madman".

Taking Chichikov for strolls in the Tuileries paraphrases the famous
line in Eugene Onegin (I v Letnii Sad guliat' vodil -- And to the Letniy
Sad took him for walks, in VN's translation. See also his note to this
line). Of course, Pushkin died a violent death that very "Winter of
1836-37", while Gogol was in Paris evolving a plot of his Dead Souls that
Pushkin had palmed him (accordin g to Gogol). (Cf.the next entry)

The chirping and twittering of the sparrows sitting on the grey statues
in the Gardens, droppings and all, are imitated in "chichikov" and "tuileries".
Gogol, Pushkin, and the frivolous, onomatopoeic, multi-planed
"Vivienne" form a string familiar to the reader of The Gift, while
Browning, he or she, seems immaterial.

3. On February 15th, 1955, Pnin veered out of the book. He will be
97 tom orrow, but he looks exactly forty years younger. How fictive time
stands still!
Gene Barabtarlo