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Subject:
From:
Brian Boyd <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Vladimir Nabokov Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Date:
Sun, 27 Sep 2020 20:20:48 +0000
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Yes, it's a lovely memoir. But inaccurate: Bleak House was only one text in a year-long course.

Plummer has almost always struck me as an inept actor, and never more so than as Nabokov (not helped in this case by weak direction).  

If there had been well-attested anecdotes about VN being rude or insulting to a slow or lazy student I would have reported them. In his European fiction course, in which Ruth Bader studied, he was teaching in classes of 150 to 300 and would not have known most students individually. In smaller classes the reports are uniformly of his playful and cajoling ways.

As for racism, Nabokov always challenged rather than exhibited it.

During his lifetime VN did not have any translations into Chinese (the Cultural Revolution seethed through most of the years of his fame) and only three books translated into Japanese, one in 1972 (Mashenka), and two others (Kinq, Queen, Knave and Invitation to a Beheading) in 1977; by the time the latter two were being prepared, Nabokov was mostly ill in hospital. Since he had no knowledge of Japanese he had in any case no reason to be involved any more than in translations into Norwegian or Bengali.

Brian Boyd

________________________________________
From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of HenHanna <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Sunday, 27 September 2020 6:03 a.m.
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [NABOKV-L] Former student's Memory of Nabokov's teaching at Cornell

           Thank you...   This is such a treat !

I didn't realize that [Bleak House]  was a whole semester, and not
just a unit in a semester.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1jX7_pZ-AzU
The Metamorphosis - A Study: Nabokov on Kafka (1989) Christopher Plummer


 So it seems that Nabokov was charming and funny, in a way that's
much more subdued and subtle than as portrayed by Christopher Plummer.

 I'd love to hear her (the former student's) impressions of
 what aspects  of  VN's  style or demeanor   Plummer  _did_ capture.
__________________

 I wonder...      Are there any anecdotes about VN
        being rude or insulting to a slow or lazy student ?

 ( Racist   remarks that white American ("liberal") professors
    made  to my face   are among my most unforgettable memories. )

__________________

 I probably mentioned this before, but  OF particular interest to me
is  VN 's  attitude toward his translators.    A passage in [Strong Opinions]
suggests that he might have been arrogant toward his Japanese or Chinese
translators.

But I tend to think that his "superior" persona   was  mostly an act.
-- the [Proud Russian] intellectual  (role)  that he was playing
because that was what the readers want to see.

Passages from Prof. Boyd's 2-volume biography indicated to me
that VN was quite patient with his European translators,
never abusive or insulting.



On 9/25/20, Priscilla Meyer <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> The grandmother of one of my students sent him her memories of studying with
> Nabokov. She has graciously permitted me to post it (anonymously, "out of
> shyness"). Note particularly the last paragraph.
>
> To My Grandson:
>
> I am so pleased to hear you are reading Nabokov. I took a class with him in
> 1950, in the Spring of my sophomore year at Cornell. It was not a course on
> his own work or other Russian literature. It was titled: The Thematic Lines
> in Charles Dickensí Bleak House.
>
> He was of some renown then, but was not yet the towering figure he would
> become. He had written only two novels in English to date, The Real Life of
> Sebastian Knight which we knew quite well, and a dystopian novel called Bend
> Sinister which none of us had read at the time. I should expect that Ms.
> Meyer has had the privilege of reading some of his earlier works in the
> original Russian. I have since gone back and enjoyed many of them in English
> and French, but I doubt they read perfectly as intended.
>
> As a professor, he was quite aloof. I can see him now in my mindís eye
> seeming rather eccentric, always moving about the room, pacing relentlessly.
> He was rarely at ease. Not a patient man, he took joy in improving the
> understanding his students possessed about literature, but was not always
> kind in his approach.
> His wife, Vera, sat in the front row for every class. It was rather unusual,
> but her presence seemed to calm him. At the precise moment a smile from
> Professor Nabokov could have warmed up the room, it was often his wife who
> would adjust her shoulders a half turn and offer a warm beam to the room as
> if to say her husband was doing his best.
>
> In class, Nabokov would rarely speak of his career. Once, however, in
> disciplining a student who had been unable to produce the required piece for
> the day and cited poor working conditions in his flat as an excuse, Nabakov
> explained to the young man that he wrote Sebastian Knight in the bathroom of
> his Paris apartment, using a bidet as a makeshift desk, so surely writing
> can take place under most any condition.
> I can say there was one student of whom Nabokov was rather fond. It was my
> friend Ruth, whom I had gone to grade school with and was taking this class
> as a Freshman at Cornell. Ruth was amongst the brightest in the class, but
> beyond her intelligence, she seemed to understand how displaced he felt, so
> far from home, she being the daughter of Russian Jewish immigrants herself.
> I remember being somewhat jealous of the attention my friend received, but
> genius has a way of finding genius, and this was no exception. Four years
> later, my friend Ruth Bader got married and became Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
> Thirty-nine years after that, she was nominated to the United States Supreme
> Court.
>
> Anyhow, I do hope you enjoy Pale Fire!
>
> All my love,
> Your Adoring Grandmother
>
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>  Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
> Nabokov Studies: https://muse.jhu.edu/journal/257
> Chercheurs Enchantes:
> http://www.vladimir-nabokov.org/association/chercheurs-enchantes/73
> Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
> Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com
> AdaOnline: "http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/
> The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada:
> http://vnjapan.org/main/ada/index.html
> The VN Bibliography Blog: http://vnbiblio.com/
> Dieter Zimmer Website: http://www.d-e-zimmer.de/index.htm
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Search archive with Google:
http://www.google.com/advanced_search?q=site:listserv.ucsb.edu&HL=en

Contact the Editors: mailto:[log in to unmask],[log in to unmask],[log in to unmask]
 Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
Nabokov Studies: https://muse.jhu.edu/journal/257
Chercheurs Enchantes: http://www.vladimir-nabokov.org/association/chercheurs-enchantes/73
Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com
AdaOnline: "http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada: http://vnjapan.org/main/ada/index.html
The VN Bibliography Blog: http://vnbiblio.com/
Dieter Zimmer Website: http://www.d-e-zimmer.de/index.htm
Search the archive with L-Soft: https://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?A0=NABOKV-L

Manage subscription options :http://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=NABOKV-L



Search archive with Google:
http://www.google.com/advanced_search?q=site:listserv.ucsb.edu&HL=en

Contact the Editors: mailto:[log in to unmask],[log in to unmask],[log in to unmask]
 Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
Nabokov Studies: https://muse.jhu.edu/journal/257
Chercheurs Enchantes: http://www.vladimir-nabokov.org/association/chercheurs-enchantes/73
Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com
AdaOnline: "http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada: http://vnjapan.org/main/ada/index.html
The VN Bibliography Blog: http://vnbiblio.com/
Dieter Zimmer Website: http://www.d-e-zimmer.de/index.htm
Search the archive with L-Soft: https://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?A0=NABOKV-L

Manage subscription options :http://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=NABOKV-L

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