ASSOCIATION : Manifestations – Colloque 2013 – SHVABRIN

Colloque International : « Vladimir Nabokov et la France »

Les Chercheurs enchantés : Société Française Vladimir Nabokov

Paris, 30 mai-1er juin 2013

SHVABRIN, Stanislas – Princeton University, USA
“Quand le chagrin, l’exil et les années auront flétri ce cœur désespéré…”: Alfred de Musset, Vladimir Nabokov and the Invention of Exile

    In “Mademoiselle O” V. Nabokoff-Sirine (1936) famously contrasts the tastes of an average Russian lover of French literature, an unimaginative admirer of Sully Prudhomme and de Musset, with the decidedly finer predilections that distinguished his younger self, a “barbare, ami de Rabelais et de Shakespeare,” over whose adolescence presided not Copée or Lamartine, but Verlaine and Mallarmé.
In reality that same exuberant savage felt compelled to tone down – or suppress altogether – a number of frivolous images in his adaptation of Romain Rolland’s Colas Breugnon, and it has long been established that V. Nabokoff-Sirine’s repudiation of de Musset’s “lyrisme sanglotant” in “Mademoiselle O” conceals a far more complex and intriguing relationship inextricably connecting Vladimir Nabokov with the author of the “Nuits.” Nabokov, who published a highly personalized Russian version of de Musset’s “La Nuit de décembre” in 1916 only to retranslate it for a 1928 publication (a Russian version of “La Nuit de mai” had been published a year earlier) not simply continued to nourish a peculiarly strong attachment to the French poet whose brand of Romanticism had been ridiculed as derivative and outmoded by his Russian critics as early as 1863, but persisted in incorporating references to “La Nuit de mai” into such diverse mature principle texts as his eulogy of Vladislav Khodasevich (1939) and Ada (1969).
    Without the slightest inclination to underestimate the groundbreaking research and excellent interpretative work by Jane Grayson (see her “French Connection: Nabokov and Alfred de Musset. Ideas and Practices of Translation,” 1995), I am nonetheless prepared to argue that our knowledge of Nabokov’s association with de Musset is far from complete. Nabokov’s attachment to de Musset may have all the appearance of a hopelessly pathetic liaison with an infatuation of one’s early days; surprisingly or not, the role played by de Musset in Nabokov’s evolution places him on the same pedestal where we find such true beacons of his literary tastes as Byron, Keats and Heinrich Heine. It is to the task of highlighting such lesser-known aspects of Nabokov’s alliance with de Musset that I hope to be able to apply myself should my abstract be deemed worthy of inclusion in the program of the Parisian forum.

Stanislas Shvabrin : In addition to his scholarly and editorial work on Vladimir Nabokov, Mikhail Kuzmin, Georgy Ivanov and Martina Tsvetaeva, Stanislas Shvabrin has done research in the areas of Russian diaspora studies from Andrey Kurbsky to interbellum Parisian literature. Apart from a number of academic miscellanies, his articles and reviews have appeared in Nabokovskii vestnik, Zvezda, The Nabokovian, Comparative Literature, Slavic and East European Journal, Canadian Slavonic Papers, Slavic Review and Russian Literature.