NABOKV-L post 0022827, Fri, 11 May 2012 10:13:53 -0700

Subject
Re: Firebird reply to A. Stadlen
Date
Body
On May 10, 2012, at 4:07 AM, Anthony Stadlen wrote:

... it may be worth recalling that VN in an interview in October 1971
said:

"...I believe that one day a reappraiser will come and declare that,
far from having been a frivolous firebird, I was a rigid moralist
kicking sin, cuffing stupidity, ridiculing the vulgar and cruel -- and
assigning sovereign power to tenderness, talent, and pride." [Strong
Opinions (1973), McGraw-Hill, p. 193.]

Anthony Stadlen

... Unlike you, I don't particularly see any Vladimirian literary
extensions to be gleaned from Kalmakov's painting (except the precious
information that the painting was owned by his parents and hung
somewhere in the house). Nevertheless, the firebird and mermaid/
seasand nymph associations in ADA seem to confirm your hunch! (There
are a lot of aquatic images, words, worlds in ADA.)

Dear Mr Stadlen,

Because of the layout of your last post, it's not clear whom you are
addressing when you write "unlike you" - but I'll take it to mean me.
I don't know what you mean by "Vladimirian literary extensions" - but
I think I can assure you I did not intend to make any such. My pursuit
of Kalmakov in the "Vladimirian" (I would rather say Nabokovian)
context, is more directly biographical and only secondarily literary.
Probably this is because my least favorite of VN's works is definitely
Ada. I never intend to read it again, that's for damned sure.

But I am very interested in Kalmakov as representative of the myriad
artistic and literary movements swirling around Russia before the
revolution, and how VN may have perceived himself in relation to
those. The possible reference I detected in the quote from Ada sent in
Jansy's recent post ("Firebird ... Apollo") to the two pre- and post-
revolutionary magazines in which those artistic and literary movements
were manifested, that's what interests me. Also what role VN's family
may have played in our author's relation to those movements. Up until
now, the only familial literary connection that I was aware of was the
presence of Box, a direct descendant of Chekhov's dackel, in the
Nabokov household. How did that happen? I have asked in the past, but
have received no reply to date.

By the way, there is no evidence that the Kalmakov painting was "hung
somewhere in the house." We don't know that for a fact. They may have
purchased it to do a favor for a starving artist, for example. Or
Kalmakov may have given it to them in hopes of furthering his carrer.
It may have been stashed in the attic so far as we know. There is no
evidence of how or why the painting came into the family's possession.
Perhaps something will turn up - let's hope so.

As for VN's denial of any firebird identity, I'd take that and put it
in a box with his similar denial of any interests in doubles. It's a
pretty big box, and the label I'd put on it would be "TO BE TAKEN WITH
A GRAIN OF SALT."

respectfully yours,
C Kunin


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