The Hunchback of Tishim

Mehi Loveski

2022

Introduction

This story has three of my favourite things: Russian characters, book-reading Russian characters, and book-reading Russian characters who like reading Nabokov.  The story is simplicity itself. A group of friends want to meet Nabokov. Unfortunately, Nabokov’s singular mission is to avoid being met.

Nabokov’s writing is still capable of raising strong reactions in readers. Though this is a virtue in my estimate, it is not necessary of course that you, dear Reader, share that view. This is a story about a group of readers who are indifferent about the actual Nabokov. They admire, perhaps even love, their imagined author, the real person one might say, the Nabokov who cared more for words than for butterflies. Already, we’re in the arena of the unreal. Enjoy!

— Anil Menon
The Bombay Literary Magazine

The Hunchback of Tishim

In memory of Leonid Frolov.

Prologue

“Over woods and mountains peaks,
Over seas and little creeks,
There lies a village pleasant
Where once lived a hunchbacked peasant.
Of his sons – and he had three –
The eldest smart was, as could be,
The second – neither dull nor bright,
But the third – a fool all right.”
[1]

Thus starts the tale that made the town of Tishim [2] famous. Founded in 1723 by General Wilhelm de Midoff, the town lies on the left bank of the Tishim River, by the Trans-Siberian railroad. Before the railroad was constructed, Tishim had been the center of local commerce in farm produce and samogon (home-distilled vodka). Today, according to The Big Siberian Encyclopedia (1972), “the town produces farming equipment along with the traditional wares – carpets and felt boots; it has a dairy, meat and confectionery factories, a vodka plant and a brewery.” 

The famous naturalist Alexander von Humbert, passing Tishim on his way to Tobolsk in 1829, bought a pair of locally produced felt boots, which, as he wrote in his diary, “were soon literally falling to pieces in the course of my solitary promenade along the narrow muddy streets”[3]. The naturalist highly commended, though, on the local specialty – the humpback crucian carp (Carassius gibbosus)[4] fried in sour cream, which he was treated to in the house of the local chief of police after nearly being arrested on suspicion of seducing a peasant girl.

The fish, by the way, is still featured in the town’s emblem. In 1918 Bolsheviks even voted that the place should be renamed Krasnokarasevsk (Red Carassiusville), but Admiral Kolchak’s [5] advancing armies ruined their plans, wiping out “the red guards” in a surprise attack on the town. For months afterwards, the locals fished out big fat carps along with various Bolshevist body parts from the river and the surrounding lakes.

It is small wonder that half of Tishim’s population (57,000 in 1972, according to the Encyclopedia) bear the surname Karasev, the most outstanding of them being George Carassius, born Georgiy Konstantinovich Karasev (1799-1877), a Russian poet and the author of the famous fairy-tale poem “The Hunchback of Tishim” about the epic adventures of Ivan Durak (Ivan the Fool) in search of the Golden Carp – the book, that brought the place its eternal fame. 

Not that there haven’t been malicious rumors spread by certain researchers from Russia’s literary capitals, who, envious of the small town’s lucky break, claimed that the poet had indeed been born a few miles away from Tishim, in a remote hamlet, abandoned by its starving inhabitants soon after the Holy Great October Revolution. Other rumors concerned the poet’s private life. Because of his deformity, George Carassius rarely appeared in public, which did not stop him from marrying, in his forties, the town’s beauty fifteen-year-old Parasha Rybakova.  That led some critics to argue that most of the poem had been written by another famous Russian poet, who enjoyed a rather prolonged stay at George Carassius’s house on his way to Sakhalin and is believed to have been enamoured with the latter’s young wife.

I am not in a position to pass judgment on such sensitive matters. Besides, robbing the place of its well-deserved fame is the furthest thing from my mind. Were I to add my humble voice 

in support of the town’s celebrity, I would most certainly vouch for the exceptional quality of vodka and beer as produced there back in the 1970-s. As well as for the fact that the events described below did indeed take place…

Part I

One night in the fall of 1975, the three of us – Alex, Leha and I – were drinking cheap port wine and listening to the radio at Alex’s place on Karl Marx Street. Of us, Leha was undoubtedly the smartest – the star pupil in tenth grade. I was no fool, either, but I liked literature and English more than chemistry or math. Alex was the eldest and, therefore, the most experienced in the ways of the world. Being two years our senior, he had a year in a Moscow college behind his belt.  What’s more, his parents were doctors, which meant many people owed them favors and helped get things that in the economy suffering from shortages in almost everything were not freely available in shops. For us it meant books, which were in short supply in “the world’s most well-read country”. Well, jeans, too. But Proust and Joyce, whose books were starting, albeit reluctantly, to be published, came first on the list. 

So here we were listening to the “Voice of America” when the music program ended and the news began. It was one of those days when the reception was quite good despite the efforts of the Committee on Ideological Purity to jam “hostile” capitalist radio broadcasts aimed solely at corrupting our innocent souls. Therefore, when the name of Nabokov was mentioned, it came to us as loud and clear as could be: “The famous American writer Vladimir Nabokov, author of ‘Lolita’, told our Geneva correspondent that he and his wife would be seeing some friends in Japan shortly. Nabokov, who rarely leaves his retreat in Switzerland, said he was undertaking the journey to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of ‘Lolita,’ published in Paris on September 15, 1955. He intends to travel incognito from Moscow to Vladivostok by the Trans-Siberian railroad.” 

It should be noted that we were not altogether ignorant of the book mentioned, for Alex had once brought a few photographed pages of “Lolita”. Needless to say, the book, even in such “limited edition”, immediately became a hit with the three of us. We were all crazy about America at the time, and the cynical, reflective protagonist of the novel was a welcome alternative to all the “right” heroes that the official propaganda thrust upon us.  Before long, we were calling our girlfriends “nymphets” and keeping secret diaries full of shocking revelations. 

We sat in silence, digesting the news. Suddenly Leha jumped: “Say, guys, what day is today?” 

Alex and I stared at him: “Sunday.” 

“No, what day of the month?” 

“September 7. Why?”

“Why? Dumbheads! Just think – Nabokov may well be on his way to Vladivostok, enjoying the view from the window of his Pullman car! Maybe even ‘admiring’ that dumb emblem over the Tishim station clock!”

We sat dumbstruck. To imagine the great man – next to Proust and Joyce – just a few hundred meters away!

Alex looked at his watch. “ A bit too late to give him a hearty welcome today, but plenty of time to start preparations for tomorrow…”

“… and tomorrow, and tomorrow,” I mused.

“As long as it takes! Man, we must meet him! And if we are lucky, we can have a copy of the book – with the man’s autograph!” 

“And how do we know it’s him?” 

“I’ve seen his photo,” said Alex. “Bald, aristocratic nose, glasses. You can’t miss him! Besides, he’s going to be with his wife.”

“But they said ‘incognito’.” voiced his doubts Leha. “He might be in disguise.”

“Do you think anybody can fool Alex the Great?” 

We laughed at Alex’s favorite joke and replenished our glasses. Then we put our heads together to work out the course of action. First of all, we outlined the time frame. As it took five days to travel from Tishim to Vladivostok, our watch was going to be from September 8 to September 10 – three days in all. To keep it longer would mean Nabokov was going to be late for the celebration, a possibility, that, for convenience’s sake as well as out of respect for the great man’s precision in constructing plots, we chose to reject. To avoid the undue attention of the stationmaster Rosalia Georgievna, one of a dozen great-great-great grandchildren of the prolific George Carassius, and Vissarion, the station guard and, by extension, her lover, we were to keep watch one at a time, taking position by the Pullman car of the Trans-Siberian Express and observing the passengers. When and if our quarry appeared… Well, we had no idea what to do then. Surely, getting a copy of the book would be great, but the man, travelling incognito in the country that refused to recognize him could hardly be expected to have a bag full of books for his eager Russian readers. Probably, the best we – or rather the luckiest of us – could get out of it would be to be able to say – in the happier times – “I saw the Man with my own eyes!” 

We would also have to pretend we had some legitimate business on the platform, for there could be another inconspicuous observer – with a KGB lieutenant’s ID in his wallet – among the passengers, not to mention the ever-watchful Vissarion. Leha said he would be selling hot boiled potatoes – in competition with the local babushkas. Alex chose newspapers — “Pravda” (“The Truth”), “Izvestia” (“The News”) and “Volny Trud” (“Free Labor”), which, he claimed, he’d never read and only – in an emergency – used in lieu of toilet paper. For a bit of local flavor a few issues of “Tishimskiy Rybolov” (“The Tishim Fisherman”) were added to the pack. I was to act as a live bait – impersonating a young enthusiastic butterfly collector armed with a butterfly net and an atlas of the local Lepidoptera

“Just think, Vanya! With luck, the great man will remember you and name one of his butterflies in your honor!” said Leha.

“Yeah,” I chuckled. “I’m sure he will call it Vanessa Quasimodis.” [6]

The problem with that brilliant scenario, though, was I didn’t know how I was going to explain my being on the platform if asked. Alex brought three matches and we drew lots. The longest, that meant going first, quite predictably remained in Alex’s hand – a trick of his that had always worked unless it meant being first to buy liquor.

Part II

 “Why do I bother with this rubbish?” said Alex the next day grabbing the heavy bag with the newspapers. “There is as much news in “The News” as there is truth in “The Truth”. Even if I’m lucky to meet the Man, my name will never be mentioned in any of these ‘newsshits’. And if I try to sell them just a kopeck over their nominal price, I’ll be certainly detained for “illegal commercial activity” by that moron Vissarion. This place stinks. In Moscow I used to earn two hundred rubles a day, selling “Marlboro” at five rubles a pack in the dorm!” 

We came to the station and agreed to meet later at the Beer Pavilion in the park that lay round the wooden building of the Railworkers’ Club. At the Beer Pavilion Leha and I ordered draft beer and sat drinking, when suddenly the net door banged open and, to our utter dismay, we saw Cyclopus, our chemistry teacher, enter the pavilion. Cyclopus was a big bony man with long thinning grey hair falling untidily over a black patch on his right eye. He was swaying as he approached the counter, which made him look like a veritable pirate back from the sea voyage rather than a provincial pedagogue. Rumor had it that he had been taken prisoner by the Germans during the war but escaped and miraculously made it back to the Russians only to be denounced as a traitor and sent to another camp – in Vorkuta. 

“Beer!” Cyclopus bellowed.

To our relief, the one-eyed man was hardly able to see anything but the mug the barmaid was hastily filling for him. Cyclopus grabbed the mug, spilling the beer over the counter, tossed a few coins and stumbled out, still without noticing us. 

“Chemistry sucks,” I said remembering about tomorrow’s test.

“By the way, do you know what C₂H₅OH is?” asked Leha.

“Chinese for ‘sucks’?”

“According to our esteemed teacher Cyclopus, those are the most important molecules in a man’s life. To be more precise, it’s a molecular formula of alcohol of which there is about 3% in your mug.”

Suddenly there was loud commotion outside. We ran out and saw a small crowd gathered by the side of the fountain, which was the focal point of the park. In the center of the fountain there were three huge marble carps standing vertically on their tails and symbolizing, presumably, the union of the three driving forces of the socialist society: farmers, industrial workers and intelligentsia. There was someone thrashing around in the water by one of the “driving forces” with a tie and glasses painted by some prankster, and people were talking excitedly of a drunk who’d tried to climb the sculpture and fell. We saw the familiar bald pate in the water and Leha cried: “Cyclopus!” After a momentary hesitation, he started taking off his clothes, with the intention of jumping into the fountain to rescue the drowning man.   Suddenly, with its siren blaring, there arrived a fire engine and the crowd made way to the men with a ladder. In the meanwhile, the thrashing in the fountain ended with only the black eye patch floating forlornly in the muddy water…

Alex came soon after the police and ambulance cars had left.

“What’s all the racket about?”

“Cyclopus drowned in the fountain.”

“Poor son of a bitch! I knew those damn molecules would kill him….”

We lapsed into thoughtful silence.

“Hey!” Leha said suddenly. “How did it come off?”

“Mission accomplished,” said Alex complacently.

“You’re kidding!” Leha and I cried excitedly.

“No, I am not! All settled. Lenina agreed to sleep with me.” Lenina was Alex’s new “nymphet” and he had been quite obsessed with her recently.

“Stop playing the bloody fool! Did you see Him?”

“No, but I saw a carload of Japanese tourists with fancy cameras. They were clicking away at everything they saw, including yours truly, until Vissarion interfered.”

“You sure He wasn’t disguised as a Jap?”

“Nah, too tall for their race.”…

The next day was Leha’s turn. So this time it was Alex and me sipping watered down beer at the Beer Pavilion. Alex was rattling on about Lenina and I felt both annoyed and envious of his amorous adventures, for my love life, as you might guess, was rather uneventful in comparison.  Later we were joined by a guy named Patrick, from ninth grade. He had brown skin and curly hair, being born of an African father, who had met his mother at the First International Youth Festival in Moscow, when hundreds of young men and women from all over the world, mostly “third world”, came to the city. Children of color that were born in multitude afterwards were known as “festival kids”. Patrick had never seen his dad and hoped someday to come to “the black continent” to meet his African relatives. “I’d rather live in a straw hut under a palm tree than in this wretched place.” he said.  As time passed, we got increasingly impatient. Patrick left, wishing us well, and we found ourselves in the company of a few morose alkies and with no more money. 

“Where the hell is our Einstein?” Alex said grumpily, lighting yet another cigarette.

“Einstein” showed up around midnight. He looked tired and depressed. 

“At last! What kept you so long, man?” asked Alex, whose first night with Lenina had just been cancelled.  

From Leha’s dolorous account we learned that one of the passengers, for lack of rubles, had offered him a dollar and the poor fool accepted – only to see Vissarion behind his back. Leha was detained for questioning and promptly accused of illegal currency transactions. After being lectured about the perils of “craving for filthy American lucre”, he was released – with a prohibition to leave town until further notice. 

“I need a drink,” said Leha. 

“Sorry, mate, no rubles.”

“Oh, give me a break, for God’s sake!” Leha took a few crumpled bills out of his pocket and threw them on the table beside a couple of potatoes left over from the unfortunate trade. “I didn’t even have a good look at that fucking dollar,” he said dejectedly… 

I felt like a damn fool, standing on the platform with the butterfly net and the atlas, which seemed to weigh a ton.  Besides, my watch could turn out useless if Leha had missed our quarry in the course of his disastrous “currency transactions”. At last, the train arrived and I found myself right before the Pullman car. The motley crew of passengers in jeans and T-shirts spilled out onto the platform. Among them, I spotted an elderly couple: the man was bespectacled, bald and short; the woman, on the contrary, was tall and imposing-looking with a shock of salt-and-pepper hair. She was smoking a Russian cigarette, holding it in the corner of her brightly painted red lips. I came closer, pretending to be looking for a rare species of Lepidoptera accidentally smuggled in by a careless traveler. 

“Mulya, don’t get me worked up,” the imposing woman said to the shorty. “You have to realize, at last, that you are no longer in your Moscow apartment and the toilet may be occupied right when you urgently need it. Just think what it must be like in other cars! We, at least, have the privilege of shitting in the imported stainless steel bowl and – in between – enjoying caviar and the company of well-mannered morons, who believed Russia is a land of vodka-drinking half-wits and dancing bears… Oh, bother you, boy!” She cried suddenly, as the net, that I heedlessly lowered, brushed her massive backside. “Get that damn stick off me! There is no way a decent woman can be treated like some silly butterfly!”

I stepped back and nearly fell, colliding with a bearded man in sunglasses and a Tyrolean hat. He caught hold of my arm to steady me and addressed the imposing lady: “I beg your pardon, Frau Blutterfleisch, but this young man doesn’t look particularly interested in butterflies, silly or not.”

“Huh! What is he doing then, Mister Darkbloom?”

Here we go, I thought. Next, they’ll send for Vissarion.

“To my eye, he must be looking for tender little things known as nymphs,” said the man. “Oh, there is nothing shameful about it!” He added seeing my embarrassment at hearing a familiar word. “Even some… mature gentlemen find those creatures quite charming, to say nothing of legions of young enthusiasts. For, as any lepidopterist knows, where there is a nymph, there is… a mystery. Isn’t that so?” The bearded gentleman lifted his glasses and winked at me conspiratorially. The people around laughed good-naturedly.

I understood very little of what had been said, for it was the first time that I heard anyone speak English outside the classroom, so I just stood there, totally confused, wishing I had chosen selling roasted sunflower seeds instead of listening to Leha. At that moment, the monotone voice from the loudspeaker announced the departure of the train, and the passengers hurried to the car. Frau Blutterfleisch walked with Mister Darkbloom, who was saying something to her, and she laughed, belching out thick cigarette smoke. The shorty brought up the rear, having apparently resigned himself to a long wait at the toilet door.   As he came to the car, he farted loudly and, turning, stuck his tongue out at me…

Part III

The next morning I woke up with a terrible hangover. The sky was dark with clouds drizzling rain. I remembered the feeling of despair we had fallen into and the ensuing drinking bout at the Beer Pavilion. Our big dream shattered and we were back to the drab reality of small-town emptiness with its unbearable boredom and boozing. 

Needless to say, school was a blur that day: a practical course for young builders of communism, tangents and tangerines, “The Mother of an Idiot” as the mirror of the Russian revolution… Good Lord! I just couldn’t reconcile myself to the fact that my life was going to be wasted on such bullshit! 

And so I decided to give it another try – without telling Alex and Leha.  By midday, after a cup of strong coffee and a pill from the medicine cabinet where mom kept her antidepressants, I felt better and, as the evening wore on, I was filled with eager anticipation. Carpe diem! [7] Time to catch your Golden Carp, Ivan!

I didn’t bother with the net and the atlas this time and took an umbrella instead. The familiar platform was dark and deserted. Even the ever-vigilant Vissarion was nowhere in sight, though I think I saw a dark figure wrapped in a long raincoat in the distance. Just before the Trans-Siberian express was announced, it had started pouring and when the train arrived nobody ventured out but a conductor with an umbrella and a lantern. The windows of the Pullman car were lit inside and I could make out faces of the passengers sitting comfortably at the tables with Coca-Cola bottles before them. The lucky bastards were smoking Marlboros and apparently checking the name of the station in their guides: “What’s the name again? Tis him? Tishim?”  A smiling Japanese man with a camera put his face to the window and waved at me. Suddenly, I felt a presence behind. I turned and saw an old hunchbacked man in a shapeless raincoat and a pointed cap of the kind wizards wear in movies.

 

“First come, first served,” the man said in a crackly voice. “Meeting somebody, young gentleman?”

 “Yes… My uncle,” I lied awkwardly. An overwhelming feeling of failure came over me. 

“Does he… your uncle live far?”

The Japanese man took a stick of chewing gum out of his pocket and was gesturing for me to come to the window.

“Hokkaido,” I said suddenly, tears welling up in my eyes.

“Cockeyed-do?” The old man giggled. “That’s some name!” He took a dirty rag out of the folds of his raincoat and wiped his wet wrinkled face. “I knew a man… had a really funny name… A bit of a squint, too. Wrote a poem about the Golden Fish.” 

I blinked back my tears: “The Golden Fish?… Was it George Carassius, sir?”

“Huh?”

“Was the man’s name Carassius?”

 “You got it, son! Them kids called him Uncle Carp.” 

“You knew George Carassius, sir?” I asked, incredulous.

“Aye, I did. Crafty old devil! Married a girl thirty years younger than hisself. I was but a little boy at the time. Uncle Carp often came to our place. Brought flowers for mommy and candy for us kids. Guess, he liked kids. Had half a dozen of his own.”

I put my hand in the pocket, but there were just a few kopecks left after yesterday’s drinking orgy. 

“Here, take the umbrella, dedushka [8]. Looks like my uncle isn’t coming.” 

“Beggars can’t be choosers. God bless you, Vanya.” 

“You know my name, sir?”

“You bet! You and me, we come from the same stock, son,” the man said. “I even know what awaits you in future years. You may not cut a fine figure, but – in the fullness of time– you’ll be rich and famous and marry the tsar’s daughter.” 

The hunchback took the umbrella with his gnarled hand and inadvertently closed it. 

 “Just hold this a moment, will you?” He pushed towards me the canvas bag he had in the other hand and fumbled with the button. At that moment, the train started rolling. The warmly lit windows floated by, taking people behind them to parts unknown: Omsk, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk, Chita… 

I heard the umbrella snap open and turned – only to find the man gone. The platform, swept by harsh wind, was dark and empty. In the distance, the taillights of the Trans-Siberian Express were rapidly turning into two red dots. I felt cold and drenched to the skin. The station clock showed nearly midnight. As I started walking home, I realized I still had the old man’s bag in my hand. I looked around for a trash bin, but curiosity got the better of me and I stopped under a streetlight. Inside the bag was a bundle wrapped in moist newspaper. I unwrapped the newspaper and found a battered book. It had no covers and the pages were loose at the spine. I took the book closer to my eyes and suddenly shivered, feeling goose bumps all over my body, as, in the pool of dim light, with the rest of the world swallowed by darkness, I read the most beautiful lines on earth: “…light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta…” 


Epilogue

I still come to Tishim every year in August – for my mother’s birthday. There is an old bird cherry tree in the yard and I like to sit in its fragrant shadow, enjoying a good book. The book the old man left me – the first of the two slim volumes published in Paris about fifty years ago, with V. N.’s autograph on it – has been long lost.

The town looks different now, with the old trees on Karl Marx Street gone and kiosks selling Coca-Cola and Marlboro built around. Where once was the modest building of the Railworkers’ Club, now stands the palace of the first Tishim mayor, popularly known as “The Woodcutter” for his amazing agility in handling an axe – and other weapons, for that matter. 

Sometimes I take a leisurely walk to the cemetery where people I’ve known found peace. Leha was expelled from university for his liberal views and drafted into the army. I could never picture our Einstein in the military uniform. Nor could I imagine him in a zinc coffin he came back in one dreary November morning. Alex, quite predictably, became a prosperous businessman but was shot dead over some “property dispute” in the “roaring” 90-s. The Tishim cemetery is full of rich marble tombstones with pictures of young smiling men who perished in the name of “bloodless transition to market economy”. Lenina’s tombstone is more modest, though many Tishimians believe she’s still in Turkey and it’s her fellow prostitute who’s in the grave. Patrick Pidzhakov never made it to Africa and is serving a life sentence for murder and rape. 

A few years ago, they pompously celebrated the 200-th birthday anniversary of George Carassius, attended by dozens of his descendants from all over the world. Rosalia Georgievna, now an honorary citizen, read the presidential address, which claimed that “the Tishim genius” surpassed both Pushkin and Shakespeare and his name should be engraved on the Kremlin wall along with the other glorious names of yore. The president also called upon the town’s residents to rename the vodka, produced locally, after the great man and gave a solemn promise to attend the inauguration. All the while, the faithful, grey-haired Vissarion stood by Rosalia’s side and, afterwards, gallantly rolled her wheelchair from the podium.

I left the land of the Tishim hunchback after the fall of the Iron Curtain when the delegation of Tishim town council was invited to pay a visit to the twin town of Grand Dolores in North Dakota and I was taken along in the capacity of an interpreter – in recognition of my ten-year spell as an English teacher at the community college. Now, many years and places after, I live in Saint Petersburg, Florida, with a beautiful 24-year-old wife Vasilissa and three sons from my first marriage. Thank God, none of them inherited my ancestral curse – the boys are tall and well built. The eldest is a Harvard graduate, the middle one studies ichthyology, and the youngest plays football. At night I dream of snow and samogon, felt boots and meat dumplings, of school and the Beer Pavilion. In my villa with a view of Tampa Bay I have a huge library full of rarities, though there’ll never be enough for me without that yellowish little book with loose pages that I held in my trembling hands under a streetlight in the dark Tishim street…

NOTES:

[1] George Carassius “The Hunchback of Tishim”. Translated from the Russian by H. H. Yershoff-Vodkin, Omsk, 1897.

[2]Researchers are divided on the issue of the name’s origin. Some believe that it originated from the Russian word “tish” (quiet, calm). Others think it could be the Tartar for “It is Him!” the phrase allegedly uttered by the indigenous people upon seeing General Wilhelm de Midoff at the head of his little army.

[3] Alexander von Humbert, “Fear and Shivering in Siberia”, London, 1879.

[4] In colloquial use, “carp” usually refers to several species of freshwater fish from the family Cyprinidae, the crucian carp being one of them. The Russian for “crucian carp” (Carassius) is “Karas”.

[5] Alexander Kolchak (1873–1920), Russian naval commander, head of anti-Bolshevik White forces.

[6] Vanessa is a genus of butterflies belonging to the family Nymphalidae. In a sense, the word is a feminine version of the boy’s name –“Vanya”, a diminutive of Ivan, while Quasimodis is reminiscent of a character from Victor Hugo’s novel.

[7]Catch the moment.” (Lat.)

[8] “Grandfather” (Rus.), a polite form of address to older men.

 

Acknowledgements

Image Credits:

The banner image is a fusion of two items: Nabokov’s pencil drawing of the Karner blue butterly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) on the left and a photo of the actual specimen. The difference between “text” and “lump” (as Richard Rorty put it), that is the difference between the actual, living, physical object and its representations mirrors the difference between the actual living Nabokov and the idealized Nabokov his fans in the story had constructed.

Contributor

 

Mehi Loveski

Mehi Loveski (Oleg G. Mikhailovsky) is a bi-lingual author from Russia. His essays and short stories have appeared in several online and print venues both in the USA and Russia, including Essaysandfictions, Dove Tales, Metonym Literary Journal and The New Youth Magazine (Moscow). He lives in Tyumen province, Siberia, where his great-grandparents were exiled from Poland.

In his own words: “One morning, at the time I was approaching the golden age of fifty, I woke up with a distinct feeling that, no matter how much more bliss might lie ahead, it was time I should start preparations for the immensely happy but inevitable end. One particular item on the list I’d drawn up that memorable morning concerned writing memoirs – to make sure I wouldn’t depart this world without leaving a trace, however ephemeral and microscopic it could prove to be. The trouble with that, as it turned out, was that at the dawn of my computer literacy I couldn’t type in Cyrillic, having been quite content to write everything, including my To Do list, in English. And so, instead of contributing to the Russian autobiographical literature, I committed a sin of betrayal of my native tongue – only to join legions of aspiring English-writing authors worldwide (which, in a way, is no mean feat for a guy from the Siberian hinterland – for all I know, I might be the only one of the kind for miles around)”

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