Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review 276
PN Review Substack

This report is taken from PN Review 112, Volume 23 Number 2, November - December 1996.

A Far Violin Raymond Tallis

Everything I know about the emigré Russian poet Boris Poplavski's life derives from the two sentences Nabokov devotes to him in his autobiography:

I did not meet Poplavski who died young, a far violin among near balalaikas… His plangent tonalities I shall never forget, nor shall I ever forgive myself the ill-tempered review in which I attacked him for trivial faults in his unfledged verse.

And my acquaintance with his work is confined to the single (translated) line quoted in Nabokov's Speak Memory: 'Go to sleep, O Morella, how awful are aquiline lives.' Even so, the image of the man and the idea of his work have haunted my imagination over the years.

I sometimes wonder whether he is a stray from Nabokov's novel of exile, The Gift, his name assigned in the author's luminous mind to the wrong swarm of frit-illaries, indexed under Memory instead of Fiction. Occasionally, I suspect that he is the product of a characteristically Nabokovian joke, a humiliating trap for scholars and pedants, sprung with their own assumptions of omniscience. A medium-sized reference book, readily available in the reference libraries of this medium-sized town, would provide the answer. But even if I were to go so far as to sit among the coughers, the tramps, and the schoolboys, I am sure I would close X's Encyclopaedia of Modern Russian Literature or Y's Complete Guide to Twentieth Century Russian Verse before finding POPLAVSKI (or his absence) between POLONSKY and ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image