Nabokov Celebrations in Jerusalem
Leona Toker
Department of English, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

On April 29, a tribute evening devoted to Nabokov's Centennial took place in the library of the Russian Community House in Jerusalem (36 Jaffo str.). The credit for the initiative goes to Peter Kriksunov, whose excellent Hebrew translation of Invitation to a Beheading was published in 1995. The chief librarian Klara Elbert, the genial host and organizer, had suggested that I write an article for the Israeli Russian daily Vesti in anticipation of the event. The article, "K yubileyu V. V. Nabokova," was published in the April 27 issue. On rather short notice I was also asked to conduct the proceedings.

Souvenir invitation to the Nabokov soirée, designed by Leonid Yuniverg
Souvenir invitation to the Nabokov soirée, designed by Leonid Yuniverg

The reading room of the library, unfortunately rather small, could not hold all the people who wished to attend: Nabokov has a very large and admiring Russian-speaking audience in this city. After a musical prelude by the celebrated violinist Moti Schmidt, who came likewise out of genuine love for Nabokov's work in order to provide, as he put it, two musical book-ends and a bookmark in the middle, the actress Alla Radchenko read two of Nabokov's poems. This was followed by a short presentation by Peter Kriksunov, juxtaposing Invitation to a Beheading with a poem written the same year. The critic Mikhail Vaiskopf spoke about the reception of Nabokov's work by his generation, before and after Nabokov's works openly "returned" to Russia. Professor I. Z. Serman situated Nabokov's work in "dvorianskaya literatura," the upper-class tradition of Russian literature, and while doing so, pointed out a most interesting allusion to Nekrasov in The Gift. My comments pertained to different interpretations of Nabokov's metaphysics. Mikhail Djaginov highlighted some points from his interview with Dmitri Nabokov that had been published in Vesti on April 22.

Among the highest points of the evening was Vladimir Gershovich's account of the backgrounds for Nabokov's 1974 letter to The Observer in support of the imprisoned dissident Vladimir Bukovsky (the letter is reprinted in Vladimir Nabokov: Selected Letters, 1940-1977). Gershovich read the letter that Véra Nabokov had written in her husband's name to the group of people in Jerusalem who had appealed for Nabokov's help.

Just before the final violin recital, Petr Kriksunov read Nabokov's poem "Slava." When the floor was given to the audience, an elderly lady read her own poem dedicated to Nabokov and suffused with Nabokov's own language.

The writer Maya Kaganskaya had cancelled her participation. However, on April 18 she had conducted a reading of Nabokov's works in the Jerusalem Russian Literary club.

Intently and somewhat critically overlooking the proceedings from the wall above our heads was a remarkable portrait of Nabokov by Sergei Teryaev; the painter had brought it to the library expressly for the evening.


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