20 december 2010

The recent snow here and the early dark showed reflections in our back (garden windows) and made me think of something. Back in 2003 I quoted this from Randall Jarrell:

. . . the peculiar fantastic wit that keeps surprising the reader of Leonov or Pasternak, so that a man is described as he looks reflected in the coffee pouring from the spout into a cup, and the soft dark blanket that hangs in one corner of a room in the slums turns out to be the sky.

and have only just realised another addition to this strand. Jarrell wrote the above in 1954, so in 1962 must have been pleased to read on page one of Nabokov's Pale Fire:

Uncurtaining the night, I'd let dark glass
Hang all the furniture above the grass,
And how delightful when a fall of snow
Covered my glimpse of lawn and reached up so
As to make chair and bed exactly stand
Upon that snow, out in that crystal land!

In the commentary which follows the poem the lunatic narrator (who is probably not Zemblan/Russian at all) suggests that this last line is a reference to his home country. In fact it's Nabokov's nod to his own homeland, left years behind, put into the work of an all-American poet, but unmistakably (if you trust Jarrell) the construct of a Russian sensibility and imagination. Nabokov yet again hiding behind one of his many masks.