search
Poetic justice

Vladimir Nabokov’s Superman poem published for 1st time

Poem rejected by the New Yorker in 1942 because ‘many of our readers wouldn’t quite get it’ is printed by the Times Literary Supplement

Workers raise a five-story replica of a stamp of Superman on the Terminal Tower, Sept. 10, 1998, in Cleveland (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Workers raise a five-story replica of a stamp of Superman on the Terminal Tower, Sept. 10, 1998, in Cleveland (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

A previously unpublished poem by Vladimir Nabokov which was written from the perspective of Superman has appeared in the Times Literary Supplement.

In the poem, the superhero expresses his sadness that he will not be able to have children with Lois Lane and shows concern he could accidentally kill her with his powers.

“Marriage would be murder on my part,” Superman says in the monologue “The Man of To-morrow’s Lament,” adding that his “blast of love” could kill Lane.

“What monstrous babe, knocking the surgeon down, would waddle out into the awestruck town?” he wonders about his potential child.

Writer Vladimir Nabokov is shown in Montreux, Switzerland, in Dec. 1976. (AP Photo)

Nabokov submitted the poem to the New Yorker in June 1942, just a few years after he had arrived in the US, the Guardian reported.

Then-poetry editor at the magazine Charles Pearce told the author who would later pen “Lolita” that “most of us appear to feel that many of our readers wouldn’t quite get it.”

The Times Literary Supplement revealed that the inspiration for the poem was the cover of the Superman No 16 comic book which depicted Clark Kent and Lois Lane looking at a statue of Superman.

The Justice League character was created in the 1930s by Jewish comic book legends Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel.

Siegel once said he conceived of Superman after reading about the “slaughter of helpless, oppressed Jews” in Nazi Europe.

The character’s original name from his home planet of Krypton is Kal-El, which sounds very Hebrew (the Hebrew suffix “El,” which comes at the end of many biblical names, like Rachel or Daniel, is an ancient word for God). And in one of the earliest Superman comics, the Man of Steel fulfills a very Jewish fantasy: He captures both Hitler and Stalin and brings them to the League of Nations, where they are tried for war crimes.

JTA contributed to this report.

read more:
comments