There are footnotes that bewitch, excite and then leave you a happier person than you were before. I’m slowing down my reading of Dostoevsky’s Memoirs from the House of the Dead by reading relevant parts of Frank’s Dostoyevsky, The Years of Ordeal, 1850-59.
In a footnote, Frank tells of a certain General I. A. Nabokov, great-great uncle of Vladimir Nabokov, who was commandant of the fortress in which Dostoevsky underwent solitary confinement after his 1848 arrest. According to Nabokov, his illustrious relative lent books to Dostoevsky, which Frank questions saying that no evidence exists for Nabokov’s fantasy that his ancestor loaned Dostoevsky books. Frank writes: ‘Perhaps all it means is that Dostoevsky borrowed books from the prison library.’
It is an amusing story because of Nabokov’s well-known disdain—in my view a philistine stance—for Dostoevsky and his fondness for parodying him.