-----Original Message-----
Subject: FW: Speaking of plagiarism -- a query for Dmitri

Dear Carolyn,
I have no further intercourse with Professor Johnson, for reasons I'll be glad to explain to you privately. But I shall gladly make this exception to reply to your query.
The Next Swan story, as told by Walter Slezak, is very likely true, but I can't vouch for its authenticity since I wasn't there. Like many comical happenings in opera and other domains, it has become traditional, with different variants and other attributions (or none). Examples of other funny stories and questions: 1) A voice from the gallery to an unfortunate tenor, astonished at calls for a third encore of his aria: "You'll keep doing it over until you get it right!".  2) In a performance of Don Giovanni, I, as the Commendatore, was backing upstage after uttering a final, fateful invitation to the Don (Justino Diaz). On my way I stepped on the trapdoor which was to open soon for the Don's descent through fire and smoke into hell. A stagehand, perhaps blinded by an excess of that smoke, prematurely pressed the "open" button. Just as I felt the earth moving under my feet, Leporello (Fernando Corena) noticed, and signalled to the agile Diaz who, with an improvised leap, nudged me to safety.       3) How many cockeyed Russian academics does it take to offend the memory of Vladmir Nabokov on Lolita's 50th birthday? 3) How many she-scholars with names beginning with "J" or "P" does it take to make insulting incestuous conjectures about the origins of Nabokov's plots? 4) How many fuddy-duddy editors does it take to censor writings by individuals including Vladimir Nabokov in the land of the free, of the brave, and of the First Amendment?  
Incidentally, the swan anecdote was fashionable in the party talk of the 1930s and 40s, and even typical in some circles. Father and I did discuss it, and he told me he deliberately adapted it for his book -- hardly what I would call plagiarism. Another thing I clearly remember him telling Mother and me, while imagining what future morons might make of the vague resemblance, is that the news story about Sally Horner and the mechanic had nothing to do with Lolita.
With best wishes,
Dmitri Nabokov
-----Original Message-----
From: Sandy Klein [mailto:sk@starcapital.net]
Sent: lundi, 29. mars 2004 16:42
To: Dmitri Nabokov
Subject: Fw: Speaking of plagiarism -- a query for Dmitri

From: D. Barton Johnson [mailto:chtodel@cox.net]
Sent: Saturday, March 27, 2004 11:54 AM
Subject: Fw: Speaking of plagiarism -- a query for Dmitri

----- Original Message -----
From: Carolyn Kunin
To: Vladimir Nabokov Forum
Sent: Saturday, March 27, 2004 7:42 AM
Subject: Speaking of plagiarism -- a query for Dmitri

An interesting example of how tricky the concept of "plagiarism" can be came up recently in a private conversation with Jansy in Brazil. We were discussing Lohengrin as a grail story and Jansy told me how funny she found Nabokov's joke about missing the swan (-boat) in Laughter in the Dark.

But that's not Nabokov's joke, it is a famous anecdote from the career of the wonderful tenor Leo Slezak (1873 - 1946). I thought it would be interesting to compare the two jokes and to ask Dmitri if he (almost as big an opera singer as the 6'7" Slezak) can cast any light on the subject.

Laughter in the Dark:

Miller licked his chops and sat down again. Then he smiled, and in a new good-natured manner launched into a funny story about some friend of his, an opera singer who once, in the part of Lohengrin, being tight, failed to board the swan in time and waited hopefully for the next one.

What Time's the Next Swan? by Walter Slezak (as told to Smith-Corona Model 88E)

Papa told ... about a Lohengrin performance. It was just before his first entrance. He was ready to step into the boat, which, drawn by a swan was to take him on stage. Somehow the stagehand on the other side got his signals mixed, started pulling, and the swan left without Papa. He quietly turned around [to the audience] and said: "What time's the next swan?"