NABOKV-L post 0027430, Sat, 8 Jul 2017 14:07:07 +0300

Subject
bad dog, Princess Kachurin, L'ami Luc & ryuen' in Ada
Date
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In VN’s novel Ada (1969) Ada calls Dack (the dachshund at Ardis) nekhoroshaya sobaka (a bad dog):



Through an open french door Dack led his pursuers into the garden. There, on the third lawn, Ada overtook him with the flying plunge used in ‘American football,’ a kind of Rugby game cadets played at one time on the wet turfy banks of the Goodson River. Simultaneously, Mlle Larivière rose from the bench where she had been paring Lucette’s fingernails, and pointing her scissors at Blanche who had rushed up with a paper bag, she accused the young slattern of a glaring precedent — namely of having once dropped a hairpin in Lucette’s cot, un machin long comme ça qui faillit blesser l’enfant à la fesse. Marina, however, who had a Russian noblewoman’s morbid fear of ‘offending an inferior,’ declared the incident closed.

'Nehoroshaya, nehoroshaya sobaka,' crooned Ada with great aspiratory and sibilatory emphasis as she gathered into her arms the now lootless, but completely unabashed 'bad dog.' (1.11)



Sobaka (“The Dog,” 1864) is a story by Turgenev. In a letter of February 24, 1893, to Suvorin Chekhov praises it, saying that Turgenev’s Sobaka is ochen’ khorosha (very good):



Очень хороша «Собака»: тут язык удивительный. Прочтите, пожалуйста, если забыли.

“The Dog” is very good, the language is wonderful in it. Please read it if you have forgotten it.



In his autobiography Speak, Memory (1967) VN says that the grandparents of Box II (the Nabokovs’ dachshund that followed his masters into exile) had been Dr. Anton Chekhov’s Quina and Brom. Chekhov is the author of two monologue scenes O vrede tabaka ("On the Harm of Tobacco," 1886, 1903). In Turgenev’s Sobaka the narrator mentions tabak (tobacco):



Ну, это само собою, — а совет я его к сведению принял: в тот же день укатил в город, да и поселился на постоялом дворе у знакомого старичка из раскольников. Почтенный был старичок, хотя и суров маленько по причине одиночества: вся семья у него перемёрла. Только уж очень табаку не жаловал и к собакам чувствовал омерзенье великое; кажется, чем, например, ему собаку в комнату впустить согласиться — скорей бы сам себя пополам перервал!



Well, be that as it may, I considered his advice. That very day I drove off to the town and put up at an inn, kept by an old man I knew, a Dissenter. He was a worthy old fellow, though a little morose from living in solitude, all his family were dead. But he disliked tobacco and had the greatest loathing for dogs; I believe he would have been torn to pieces rather than consent to let a dog into his room.



The narrator in Turgenev’s story accepts a Dissenter’s advice. VN’s poem To Prince S. M. Kachurin (1947) begins as follows:



Качурин, твой совет я принял
и вот уж третий день живу
в музейной обстановке, в синей
гостиной с видом на Неву.



Kachurin, I've taken your advice
and here I three long days persevere
in museologic digs, a nice
blue room that looks out on the Neva. (1)



In VN’s poem there is a sentence that consists of a single word, dovol’no (enough):



Мне хочется домой. Довольно.
Качурин, можно мне домой?
В пампасы молодости вольной,
в техасы, найденные мной.



I want to go home. Enough, in truth.
Kachurin, may I now go home?
To the pampas of my free youth,
the Texas I found once on a roam. (4)



Dovol’no (“Enough,” 1865) is a story by Turgenev. The characters in Dostoevski’s novel Besy (“The Possessed,” 1872) include Karmazinov (a satire on Turgenev), the writer who reads his story Merci (a parody of Turgenev’s “Enough”) at a literary festival. The surname Karmazinov comes from karmazinnyi (obs., “red, scarlet”). Falling asleep, Van Veen (the narrator and main character in Ada) thinks of “one hund, red dog:”



Those three admirable trains included at least two carriages in which a fastidious traveler could rent a bedroom with bath and water closet, and a drawing room with a piano or a harp. The length of the journey varied according to Van’s predormient mood when at Eric’s age he imagined the landscapes unfolding all along his comfortable, too comfortable, fauteuil. Through rain forests and mountain canyons and other fascinating places (oh, name them! Can’t — falling asleep), the room moved as slowly as fifteen miles per hour but across desertorum or agricultural drearies it attained seventy, ninety-seven night-nine, one hund, red dog — (2.2)



In the next chapter of Ada Van describes floramors (palatial brothels) built by David van Veen (a wealthy architect of Flemish extraction) all over the world in memory of his grandson Eric (the author of an essay entitled “Villa Venus: an Organized Dream”). According to Van, all the hundred floramors opened simultaneously on September 20, 1875:



All the hundred floramors opened simultaneously on September 20, 1875 (and by a delicious coincidence the old Russian word for September, ‘ryuen’,’ which might have spelled ‘ruin,’ also echoed the name of the ecstatic Neverlander’s hometown). (2.3).



In a letter of 7/19 September, 1875, to N. V. Khanykov Turgenev says that on the next day (September 20, NS, Monday) he will move to the new-built chalet at his and Viardot's villa Les frênes ("The Ash Trees") in Bougival:



Я Вас приму в новом своём доме, куда завтра переселяюсь, а г-н и г-жа Виардо будут очень довольны, если Вы при сей оказии останетесь у них обедать, и просят меня пригласить Вас, так же как Салтыкова и Соллогуба.



In Alexandre Dumas fils’s novel La dame aux camélias (1848) subsequently adapted by the author for the stage the action takes place in Bougival. According to Dumas fils (whose words Boborykin quotes in his memoirs), Pauline Viardot-Garcia (an opera singer in whose family Turgenev lived) was a lesbian. Van suspects Cordula de Prey (Ada’s schoolmate at Brownhill) of being a lesbian (1.27). Many years later, when he meets Cordula (now married to Ivan G. Tobak) in Paris (also known on Demonia, aka Antiterra, Earth’s twin planet on which Ada is set, as Lute), Van quotes the stale but appropriate lines:



A moment later, as happens so often in farces and foreign cities, Van ran into another friend. With a surge of delight he saw Cordula in a tight scarlet skirt bending with baby words of comfort over two unhappy poodlets attached to the waiting-post of a sausage shop. Van stroked her with his fingertips, and as she straightened up indignantly and turned around (indignation instantly replaced by gay recognition), he quoted the stale but appropriate lines he had known since the days his schoolmates annoyed him with them:



The Veens speak only to Tobaks

But Tobaks speak only to dogs. (3.2)



As I pointed out before, Van quotes these rhymes in Russian:



Viny govoryat lish’ s Tobakami,

a Tobaki govoryat lish’ s sobakami.



A moment before Van parted with Greg Erminin, whose father preferred to pass for a Chekhovian colonel:



Van was about to leave when a smartly uniformed chauffeur came up to inform’ my lord’ that his lady was parked at the corner of rue Saïgon and was summoning him to appear.

‘Aha,’ said Van, ‘I see you are using your British title. Your father preferred to pass for a Chekhovian colonel.’

‘Maude is Anglo-Scottish and, well, likes it that way. Thinks a title gets one better service abroad. By the way, somebody told me — yes, Tobak! — that Lucette is at the Alphonse Four. I haven’t asked you about your father? He’s in good health?’ (Van bowed,) ‘And how is the guvernantka belletristka?’

‘Her last novel is called L‘ami Luc. She just got the Lebon Academy Prize for her copious rubbish.’

They parted laughing. (ibid.)



The governess-novelist mentioned by Greg is Mlle Larivière. The title of her last novel, L’ami Luc, hints at Maupassant’s Bel ami (1885). Just as Lebon is Nobel backwards, Luc is cul (Fr., bottom) in reverse. In Speak, Memory VN compares old Trainy (the Nabokovs’ dachshund that preceded Box II) to a cul de jatte (legless cripple):



One of the musical themes of my childhood is Trainy’s hysterical tongue, on the trail of the hare he never got, in the depths of our Vyra park, whence he would return at dusk (after my anxious mother had stood whistling for a long time in the oak avenue) with the old corpse of a mole in his jaws and burs in his ears. Around 1915, his hind legs became paralyzed, and until he was chloroformed, he would dismally drag himself over long, glossy stretches of parquet floor like a cul de jatte. (Chapter Two, 4)



Cul-de-sac (Fr., dead end) also has cul in it. Describing Eric Veen’s floramors, Van mentions the lovely cul-de-sac south of the viaduct of fabulous Palermontovia:



None could help admiring David van Veen’s knack of making his brand-new Regency mansion look like a renovated farmhouse or of producing a converted convent on a small offshore island with such miraculous effect that one could not distinguish the arabesque from the arbutus, ardor from art, the sore from the rose. We shall always remember Little Lemantry near Rantchester or the Pseudotherm in the lovely cul-de-sac south of the viaduct of fabulous Palermontovia. (2.3)



Palermontovia blends Palermo (a city in and capital of Sicily) with Lermontov. Lermontov’s poem Son (“The Dream,” 1841) begins: V poldnevnyi zhar v doline Dagestana (In a noon’s heat, in a dale of Dagestan). In his poem To Prince S. M. Kachurin VN mentions the vales of Daghestan:



Священником американским
твой бедный друг переодет,
и всем долинам дагестанским
я шлю завистливый привет.



As an American clergyman
disguised is your poor little friend,
and to the vales of Daghestan
I envious salutations send. (1)



Maupassant dedicated his story La Maison Tellier (1881) in which the action takes place in a whorehouse to Ivan Turgenev. In his essay “The Works of Guy de Maupassant” (1894) Leo Tolstoy says that it was Turgenev who in 1881 gave him a copy of Maupassant’s stories. Tolstoy translated into Russian (as Fransuaza) Maupassant’s story Le Port (1889) about the brother-and-sister incest. In a letter of February 6, 1891, to Suvorin Chekhov says that the last sentence (“she is your sister!”) added by Tolstoy does not spoil the story:



Ваша статья о Толстом сплошная прелесть. Очень, очень хорошо. И сильно, и деликатно. Вообще какой-то особенно удачный номер: и Ваша статья, и «Франсуаза». Прекрасный рассказ. Прибавка о сестре («она твоя сестра!»), сделанная Толстым, не так портит, как Вы боялись. Только от неё рассказ утерял как будто свою свежесть. Впрочем, всё равно.



According to Van, Eric Veen devised his Villa Venus project after reading the books from Count Tolstoy’s library:



To put it bluntly, the boy had sought to solace his first sexual torments by imagining and detailing a project (derived from reading too many erotic works found in a furnished house his grandfather had bought near Vence from Count Tolstoy, a Russian or Pole): namely, a chain of palatial brothels that his inheritance would allow him to establish all over 'both hemispheres of our callipygian globe.' (2.3)



Describing his last visit to Villa Venus, Van mentions Princess Kachurin:



He was thirsty, but the champagne he had brought, with the softly rustling roses, remained sealed and he had not the heart to remove the silky dear head from his breast so as to begin working on the explosive bottle. He had fondled and fouled her many times in the course of the last ten days, but was not sure if her name was really Adora, as everybody maintained — she, and the other girl, and a third one (a maidservant, Princess Kachurin), who seemed to have been born in the faded bathing suit she never changed and would die in, no doubt, before reaching majority or the first really cold winter on the beach mattress which she was moaning on now in her drugged daze. (ibid.)



In his dictionary Dahl (Ada’s beloved lexicographer) suggests that the old Russian word for “September,” ryuen’ (also spelled ruven’), comes from ryov oleney (roar of deer). In his essay on Chekhov, Tvorchestvo iz nichego (“Creation from Nothing,” 1905), Shestov points out that at the end of Chekhov’s story Palata No. 6 (“Ward Six,” 1892) the doctor sees a herd of deer:



И, кажется, “Палату № 6” в своё время очень сочувственно приняли. Кстати прибавим, что доктор умирает очень красиво: в последние минуты видит стадо оленей и т. п.

I believe, Ward No. 6 met with a sympathetic reception at the time. In passing I would say that the doctor dies very beautifully: in his last moments he sees a herd of deer... (VI)



In the last sentence of Ada Van (whom Dr Lagosse made the last merciful injection of morphine and who hastens to finish the book) mentions a doe at gaze:



Not the least adornment of the chronicle is the delicacy of pictorial detail: a latticed gallery; a painted ceiling; a pretty plaything stranded among the forget-me-nots of a brook; butterflies and butterfly orchids in the margin of the romance; a misty view descried from marble steps; a doe at gaze in the ancestral park; and much, much more. (5.6)



Describing Uncle Dan’s Boschean death, Van mentions sobach’i cherti (the hell curs):



‘Or better — come at once, both of you, because I’ll cancel my appointment and go home right now.’ He [Demon] spoke, or thought he spoke, with the self-control and the clarity of enunciation which so frightened and mesmerized blunderers, blusterers, a voluble broker, a guilty schoolboy. Especially so now — when everything had gone to the hell curs, k chertyam sobach’im, of Jeroen Anthniszoon van Äken and the molti aspetti affascinati of his enigmatica arte, as Dan explained with a last sigh to Dr Nikulin and to nurse Bellabestia (‘Bess’) to whom he bequeathed a trunkful of museum catalogues and his second-best catheter. (2.10)



The phrase k chertyam sobach’im (to the devils) occurs in Ada three times (this is the third and last mention of the hell curs). Nurse Bellabestia brings to mind dikie bestii (wild creatures) mentioned by Chekhov in a letter of March 5, 1889, to Suvorin:

Вчера ночью ездил за город и слушал цыганок. Хорошо поют эти дикие бестии. Их пение похоже на крушение поезда с высокой насыпи во время сильной метели: много вихря, визга и стука...

Last night I drove out of town and listened to the gypsies. They sing well, the wild creatures. Their singing reminds me of a train falling off a high bank in a violent snow-storm: there is a lot of turmoil, screeching and banging.



In the same letter to Suvorin Chekhov says that he is reading Dostoevski:



Купил я в Вашем магазине Достоевского и теперь читаю. Хорошо, но очень уж длинно и нескромно. Много претензий.

I bought Dostoevski in your shop and am now reading him. It is fine, but very long and indiscreet. It is over-pretentious.



Alexey Sklyarenko


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