Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027031, Tue, 31 May 2016 11:49:39 -0300

Novaya Zemlya and VN's refrigerator: resuscitations

While reading a fantasy story in the internet I was directed to a site about
Novaya Zemlya [ <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novaya_Zemlya>
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Novaya_Zemlya ] where I read about this
northern island and examined assorted maps. At the end of this wikipedia
entry, in a reference to "Literature" Vladimir Nabokov's name was cited -
but simply because of a line in his poem "The Refrigerator Awakes" (The New
Yorker, June 6,1942).

I thought it would be fun to share this curiosity with the VN-List.

Cf. wiki:
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerrit_de_Veer> Gerrit de Veer, Nova Zembla,
written 1598, published 1996
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vladimir_Nabokov> Vladimir Nabokov, "The
Refrigerator Awakes" (1942), line 27
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ian_Fleming> Ian Fleming, "The Living
Daylights" (1966), Agent 272 is holed up in Novaya Zemlya

I copied some of the verses to provide a half-frozen context to line 27.


And if darkness could sound, it would sound like this giant

waking up in the torture house, trying to die

and not dying [...]


the line, hold the line, lest its tale be untold;

let it amble along through the thumping pain

and horror of dichlordisometing methane,

a trembling white heart with the frost froth upon it,

Nova Zembla, poor thing, with that B in her bonnet,

stunned bees in the bonnets of cars on hot roads,

Keep It Kold...[...]

of that wide-open white

god, the pride and delight

of starry-eyed couples in dream kitchenettes,

and it groans and it drones and it toils and it sweats -

Shackleton, pemmican, penguin, Poe's Pym -

collapsing at last in the criminal


Now a quick check online to find VN's mention to Nova Zembla in "Speak,

"According to my father's first cousin Vladimir Viktorovich Golubtsov, a
lover of Russian antiquities, whom I consulted in 1930, the founder of our
family was Nabok Murza (floruit 1380), a Russianized Tatar prince in
Muscovy. My own first cousin, Sergey Sergeevich Nabokov, a learned
genealogist, informs me that in the fifteenth century our ancestors owned
land in the Moscow princedom. He refers me to a document (published by
Yushkov inActs of the XIII-XVII Centuries, Moscow, 1899) concerning a rural
squabble which in the year 1494, under Ivan the Third, squire Kulyakin had
with his neighbors, Filat, Evdokim, and Vlas, sons of Luka Nabokov. During
the following centuries the Nabokovs were government officials and military
men. My great-great-grandfather, General Aleksandr Ivanovich Nabokov
(1749-1807), was, in the reign of Paul the First, chief of the Novgorod
garrison regiment called "Nabokov's Regiment" in official documents. The
youngest of his sons, my great-grandfather Nikolay Aleksandrovich Nabokov,
was a young naval officer in 1817, when he participated, with the future
admirals Baron von Wrangel and Count Litke, under the leadership of Captain
(later Vice-Admiral) Vasiliy Mihaylovich Golovnin, in an expedition to map
Nova Zembla (of all places) where "Nabokov's River" is named after my
ancestor. The memory of the leader of the expedition is preserved in quite a
number of place names, one of them being Golovnin's Lagoon, Seward
Peninsula, W. Alaska, from where a butterfly, Parnassius phoebus golovinus
(rating a big sic), has been described by Dr. Holland; but my
great-grandfather has nothing to show except that very blue, almost indigo
blue, even indignantly blue, little river winding between wet rocks; for he
soon left the navy, n'ayant pas le pied marin (as says my cousin Sergey
Sergeevich who informed me about him), and switched to the Moscow Guards."

Another check at the VN-L:
Date: Wed, 9 Jul 2003 10:17:28 -0400

From: "Jasper Fidget" Subject: NPPF - Preliminary - Zembla

Zembla - resembla: a sort of bizarro-world of reflections and fairy
tales,peopled by real-world caricatures and literary characters, located
somewhere between Russia and Scandinavia, Kinbote's Zembla is obviously
fictitious,but it has many real-world sources [snip]

See _Pale Fire_ pp 137-138 for some Zembla geography.

Kinbote asserts that his own Zembla is *not* Nova Zembla (see p. 267).

The Novaya Zemlya Effect: "Named after the Russian island in the Arctic
Ocean, where it often occurs, the Novaya Zemlya Effect is produced by a
strong, shallow, surface-based inversion acting as a mirror, which reflects
the light of the sun when it is just below the


Pope in his "Essay on Man" lists Zembla as one "extreme of Vice" [snip]

Kinbote refers to this poem in _Pale Fire_, p. 272)

In _Battle of the Books_, Swift refers to Nova Zembla as the home of
Criticism: "She dwelt on the Top of a snowy Mountain in Nova
Zembla":Swift,1704). <http://etext.library.adelaide.edu.au/s/s97ba/>

A running theme in _Life of Johnson_ surrounds Boswell's attempts to
convince Johnson of the value of Scotland (from which Boswell hails and
toward which Johnson has a low opinion). (Zembla as the generic North.)

The slow accumulation of information and verses and references and images
constantly adds new depths to what I find in VN's works. I'm glad that the
VN-L provides enough space for this "crystal growth".

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