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Eshafot v khrustal'nom dvortse: o russkikh romanakh Vladimira Nabokova (review)

From: Nabokov Studies
Volume 7, 2002/2003
pp. 215-218 | 10.1353/nab.2010.0006

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Nabokov Studies 7 (2002/2003) Reviews Nora Buks. Eshafot ν khrustal'nom dvortse: o russkikh romanakh Vladimira Nabokova. Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie: Nauchnoe prilozhenie, vyp. 13. Moscow: Novoe literaturnoe obozrenie, 1998. 208 pp. ISBN 5867930335. Review by Magdalena Medaric, University of Zagreb In the Preface to Eshafot ν khrustal'nom dvortse Nora Buks explains her book's informing idea: each chapter deals with a particular novel's basic (formatively important) dominant. Though some of Nabokov's Russian novels are connected by subject matter, genre, etc., Buks contends that each remains a distinctive, unique work "built according to its own original model, which determines its structure and gets projected into devices and tropes; determines the organization of imagery; controls the complex system of allusions in the text" (4). Therefore the author deploys a special viewpoint called for by each novel under discussion. Buks proceeds from each novel's interpretive dominant, which may touch upon the dominants of the other novels but is developed in each respective novel with its own peculiar structure in mind. Buks' readings are fresh and sophisticated at the same time, which is a tremendous achievement nowadays, when the bibliography on the "Russian" Nabokov alone extends to hundreds of references. If there is a unifying method to Buks' interpretations, it is her pronounced interest in the intertextuality of Nabokov's works. This would indicate that she follows the approach of the Moscow-Tartu School. Her interpretations, coUected and presented as the chapters in this book, appeared mainly in the early 1990s, i.e., in the years when Russia (in particular) was swept by a wave of scholarly interest in and works on Vladimir Nabokov. Buks' works can be commended as an innovative merging of the achievements of "Western" Nabokov studies with a knowledge of the "Eastern," notably Russian, cultural, literary, and critical context. It is not easy to summarize the chapters through their conclusions, since each contains an especially valuable store of observations and arguments on individual literary allusions and their function in the overall interpretive design. Still, an attempt should be made to outline briefly the sphere of interest and directions that the author's scholarly imagination takes in each chapter. 216 Nabokov Studies Chapter One, "Sounds and Scents," provides a new reading of Nabokov's first novel, Mary (Mashen'ka, 1926). Buks holds that a song by A. Fet, A Nightingale and a Rose (Solovej i roza, 1847), has a wider function in Mary than Nabokov's usual concealed quotation. The main images, a rose that emits scent by day and sleeps by night and a nightingale who is in love with the rose and lives and sings only at night, seem to permeate all levels of the plot. Flowers, scents, birds, and sounds all work as disguised, often intertextually encoded, characterizations. Chapter Two, "The Novel-Waltz," deals with Nabokov's second novel, King, Queen, Knave (Korol', dama, valet, 1928) and establishes a connection between the musical and dance pattern of the waltz and the deep structure of the novel. This is Nabokov's way of continuing, and at the same time parodying, one of A. Bely's literary experiments: the four Symphonies, each built according to the principles of counterpoint. The structure of King, Queen, Knave is determined by the waltz's circular movement, its social function (as a display of figures), and its ludic function. Buks specifically analyses the novel's aspects, such as "play as a device" (42), "ecstatic structure " (48), "repetition and pairing" (52); each of these is an entirely new way of interpretation. Chapter Three, "Initiated into the Secret," analyses Glory (Podvig, 1933), at first glance one of Nabokov's more simply conceived novels. The author lifts the veils that hide the deep structure of the work. Here she has made an invaluable contribution by discovering the close affinities between Virgil's Aeneid and the mythological layer of the novel, which dramatizes the wanderings of exiles. The novel should be read, according to Buks, as the conjunction of two literary modes, the auto/biographical and the mythological . Yet another possible way would be to read it in parallel fashion, switching from one mode to the other. However, the novel assumes its full meaning only...