NABOKV-L post 0023078, Wed, 18 Jul 2012 20:53:04 -0600

Re: Pale Fire Commentary on Line 130
I must admit that, though also "an obsessive reader of PF on and off", I'd
never noticed what Barrie Akin points out. First, I agree that it's odd
that Kinbote says he "never excelled at cricket", suggesting that he tried
it many times (enough to say "never"), even that it was a constant feature
of some part of his life. A number of explanations are possible. First,
we can try to explain it in terms of Kinbote's story of Zembla:

Maybe Kinbote imagines cricket as being, for some reason, popular in
Zembla, at least among the upper classes.

British people on the Continent played cricket during Kinbote's youth, or
at least Wikipedia says, "Many cricket clubs [in France] folded after
the Second
World War <>." <>
Maybe the young prince tried to play during his stay in southern Europe
after his pneumonia attack, when he was 13 or 14. This can even be
elaborated slightly: Maybe Mr. Campbell accompanied him--why wouldn't
he?--and introduced him to British expatriates and their sport clubs.

Maybe Kinbote just never mentioned that he had spent some of his childhood
in Britain or another cricket-playing country.

We can also try to explain it as Kinbote unintentionally thinking of his
"real" youth as Botkin. We can only conjecture where V. Botkin spent his
earlier years, but the quality of his English strikes me as consistent with
some time in Britain.

Finally, we can explain it by saying it's Kinbote's imperfect English--he
meant something like, "I too never excelled at soccer, and I have hardly
even played cricket, so I certainly never excelled at that either."

I too enjoyed the connection between the *escalier d**érob**é* and the plot
to kill the future King Charles in *Hernani*.

By the way, I referred to Barrie Akin in the third person above, much
though I dislike doing so, because it seems to be a common custom if not
the editorial policy on this list. In view of that, Barrie might like to
let people know whether to use "he" or "she".

Jerry Friedman

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: