Sunday, September 22, 2013

Nabokov Almost Breaks Down Over 13-Year-Old



I wrote iThe Allure of Nymphets about Nabokov's The Enchanting and Selected Poems. Those works aren't as popular as Lolita, but like Lolita, they deal with the theme of ephebophilia. 

In addition, I wrote about Nabokov's amazing work ethic on my writer's blog. I blogged about how he worked on the translation and commentary of Pushkin's Eugene Onegin: A Novel in Verse for over 17 hours per day. But what I didn't write about was the plot summary of Pushkin's famous piece

In the book, Tatyana's love for 26-year-old Onegin is unrequited; however, after a number of years pass, Onegin sees Tatyana at a party and the roles reverse. Now Onegin's love for Tatyana is unrequited. 

There's some debate about Tatyana's age. Everyone is in agreement that Tatyana was a teenager, but some have come to the conclusion that she was merely 13-years-old. The blog Russian Dogs relates evidence from the Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda to support this view. 

For example, in Chapter Four Pushkin writes:

To listen to the same tedious objections,
Do battle with rooted convictions,
Such as never were and never have been
Even in a young girl who's just thirteen. 

Thus, it appears that Tatyana was a 13-year-old  teleiophile. And her age helps explain why Nabokov almost had a nervous "breakdownwhile translating the novel in verse. 

Interestingly, Tatyana's character is often played by actresses who are not in their teens. For example, in the film Onegin (1999), Tatyana's character was played by 22-year-old Liv Tyler. And in the opera that is currently playing here in New York at the Lincoln Center's Metropolitan Opera House, Tatyana is being played by Anna Netrebko who is a whopping 43-years-old!