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Nabokov Studies 5 (1998/1999) MARTIN J. SCHUBERT (Cologne) Happy Birthday, Pnin: Annotations to Nabokov's Calendar "The world the artist creates for [his] purpose may be entirely unreal, [...] but there is one absolute demand we are entitled to make: this world in itself and as long as it lasts, must be plausible to the reader or to the spectator."1 Most striking about Nabokov's Pnin is the careful depiction of the mental enands of the émigré between past and present, of his castaway position between two countries, two societies and two languages. This ambiguous position is reflected in the themes of minors and doubles, which permeate the story. It also finds a parallel in the nanative form, which gradually blends the intrinsic and the extrinsic level. At first sight the story seems to be told by an omniscient nanator, but the person of the nanator more and more intrudes the story, while protagonist Pnin in a singular act of literary emancipation avoids the confrontation with this person, flying away from him and from the whole story in the last scene.2 It may pass as another remarkable reflection that the nanator, introduced as "N.", shares much of his biography with the author, V. N., yet care should be taken not to mix up these two functions of the text. The author (maybe the nanator) has provided the story with an internal calendar, which can be reconstructed with remarkable precision.3 However, a problem remains as far as the exact date of Chapter 3 is concerned. What I would like to offer here is not a solution to the problem, but a possible explanation for the fact that this problem occurs and, as I believe, blends in 1. Vladimir Nabokov: Lectures on Russian Literature, ed. Fredson Bowers, London: 1982, 105. 2. Vladimir Nabokov: Pnin. London: Heinemann 1957 (the following references to the text are identified through page-number and line-number). For details see Barabtarlo, Gennadi: Phantom of Fact. A Guide to Nabokov's Pnin. Ann Arbor, Ardis: 1989. Cf. Cohen, Hazel: Nabokov's Pnin: A Character in Flight From His Author. In: English Studies in Africa 26 (1983) 57-61. 3. See Barabtarlo: Phantom of Fact (note 2), 296-98. 146 Nabokov Studies with the general theme. Gennadi Barabtarlo has collected some hints that make us suspect that the date of Chapter 3 is Pnin's birthday (February 15th), and some others pointing to the anniversary of Pushkin's death (February 10th).4 One might want to assume that Nabokov got entangled in the web of his own chronological construction ,5 that the confusion about the date is only an unimportant slip of the pen. Brian Boyd warned that "to build whole-scale interpretations on details that seem much more explicable as enors is fraught with danger,"6 and he provided an impressive list of details in Nabokov's books which are very well explicable as enors. Several are connected with calendar, and Boyd points out that Nabokov had sometimes tremendous difficulties with dates. "Very often Nabokov, like many of us, would date a letter in January to the previous year, but he could do this as late as October."71 would gladly discharge the problem at this point, if only the concunenting dates where not so obviously accentuated within the novel. If this is a mistake, yet there is method in it. The text provides us with the information that it is a Tuesday (67, 3) in 1953 (69, 7) and with the date of the latest issue of an Russian émigrénewspaper : "Saturday, February 12—and this was Tuesday, O Careless Reader!" (75, 15-16). The easy conclusion that it should be Tuesday the 15th, which is Pnin's birthday (21, 6-7), sounds suspicious because February 15, 1953, was actually a Sunday.8 Yet the hint "O Careless Reader!", carefully placed by the nanator (or the author), stresses the importance of the calendar scheme and urges the reader to collect the clues. Barabtarlo wonders whether the group of hints might be "a thoroughly prepared trap that, as in chess problems, simply must be tried before proceeding to the right solution."9 However, the second possible...


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