Don Barton Johnson


University of California, Santa Barbara

Articles de l'auteur


Cycnos | Volume 24 n°1

Ada’s “Last Tango” in Dance, Song and Film

Van’s brief stage career as a maniambulist concludes with a London performance in which he dances a tango with a female partner from the Crimea. The unnamed song to which they dance, mostly widely known as “The Last Tango” is one that was very popular in Europe in the period before and after WWI. The Russian version, “Poslednee Tango,” supplied the plot for a 1918 Russian film adaptation starring Vera Xolodnaya whose work was well known to both VN and his “Tamara” from their furtive afternoon trysts in wintry Saint-Petersburg cinemas. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Nabokov heard the song in his Crimean stay (if not before), and likely saw the film. Nor was this VN’s only filmic experience in the Crimea. In Drugie berega, he describes a bizarre encounter with the leading movie star of the day—Ivan Mozzhukhin—in what is described as a rehearsal scene for a movie loosely based on Tolstoy’s Hadji Murad, later released under the title Der Weiss Teufel. The paper examines the role of these musical and cinematic elements as they are interwoven into Ada and Speak Memory. The talk is accompanied by a recording of “The Last Tango” and fragments of the eponymous film, as well as the Mozzhukin feature.

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Cycnos | Volume 10 n°1

Vladimir Nabokov and Captain Mayne Reid

“Chapter Ten of Speak Memory explores the theme of Nabokov’s sexual awakening between the summers of 1909 or 1910 and 1915.1 Oddly, Nabokov chooses Mayne Reid’s 1865 Wild West adventure novel, The Headless Horseman, as the springboard for his investigation of this and a number of other themes. We shall see that the Anglo-Irish novelist plays a surprising role in Nabokov’s life and work. The chapter opens with Nabokov’s fond recollections of The Headless Horseman and of his friendship with his first cousin, Yuri Rausch von Traubenberg. Yuri, eighteen months...”

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Cycnos | Volume 12 n°2

Nabokov, Ayn Rand, and Russian-American Literature or, the Odd Couple

“Vladimir Nabokov and Ayn Rand (née Alisa Rozenbaum), born in imperial Saint Petersburg, Russia, in 1899 and 1905 respectively, became bestselling American writers in the late 1950s. Their chef-d’oeuvres, Lolita (1958) and Atlas Shrugged (1957), were, almost concurrently, bestsellers. Compatriots, coevals, and fellow writers, forced into emigration by the Russian revolution, Nabokov and Rand had much in common, but drew upon very different aspects of their shared cultural heritage. Nabokov, the aesthete, and Rand, the ideologue, made strange bedfellows on the New York Times bestseller list. In life, the ideologue and the aesthete never met, although they may ha...”

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