NABOKV-L post 0024219, Sat, 11 May 2013 21:53:16 -0600

Re: Cocteau and VN
On Sat, May 11, 2013 at 7:02 AM, Nabokv-L <> wrote:

> Excellent discovery between Jansy and Carolyn! Not much has been written
> about Nabokov and Cocteau;

I too found that very interesting!

> Jansy and I have bee discussing off-list the strange inconsistency in
> Kinbote's age reporting: that he is 16 years Shade's junior (= b. 1914),
> but that King Charles the Beloved was born 1915. Perhaps this slippage is
> psychologically related to Kinbote's regarding Shade's "60th-no, 61st"
> birthday, noted already by Jansy. Very possibly others have discussed this
> in their articles and books, and Nab-Lers are invited to send us all to
> those sources! I see that the Library of America notes (ahem) tell us that
> "In his lecture on *The Walk by Swann's Way"* [...] published in *Lectures
> on Literature*, Nabokov wrote "Jean Cocteau has called the work 'a giant
> miniature, full of mirages, of superimposed gardens, of games conducted
> between space and time.'" Note 554.24-25; p. 896 in the volume. No mention
> of Cocteau's birthday or the coincidence there.

Unfortunately I've been busy and haven't been able to respond to at least
one post on this that was addressed directly to me. I mentioned the
16-or-17-years discrepancy in "A *Pale Fire* Timeline" <> and made the same
connection to Kinbote's explicit "slip" about Shade's birthday--the two
mistakes would both be correct if Shade had been born a year later.

If there's any interest in speculations, I have two, not necessarily
consistent. One is that as Brian Boyd pointed out in "Even Homais Nods" <>, Nabokov made many mistakes
in dates. I wouldn't call Kinbote Nabokov's self-parody, but I will
venture to suggest that the seeds of some of Kinbote's comic qualities are
things Nabokov saw in himself--for instance, difficulties with colloquial
American English--and the date discrepancies may have the same source.

The other is that I continue to see a suggestion that Kinbote is lying to
Sybil when he tells her Shade's birthday was his as well. It seems out of
character for him to talk about what happened on his birthday without
complaining that no one gave him a party, he didn't have enough friends in
New Wye to have a party, the parties he actually went to were very
different from what he would have liked his party to be, or some such.
Maybe he just wants to embarrass Sybil. In this view, he would then have
decided to adopt July 5 as his (the King's) birthday, which would account
for the brief reference in the passage about Disa.

Jerry Friedman


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