NABOKV-L post 0018317, Tue, 12 May 2009 10:39:28 -0700

Re: THOUGHTS: Nabokov's Van Veen as a distant relative of
Pushkin's Onegin and Lermontov's Pechorin
I thought Luzhin's name came from the man who was going to marry Raskolnikov's sister in Crime and Punishment?

--- On Mon, 5/11/09, Alexey Sklyarenko <skylark05@MAIL.RU> wrote:

From: Alexey Sklyarenko <skylark05@MAIL.RU>
Subject: [NABOKV-L] THOUGHTS: Nabokov's Van Veen as a distant relative of Pushkin's Onegin and Lermontov's Pechorin
Date: Monday, May 11, 2009, 2:10 AM

from Alexey Sklyarenko:
It is a well-known fact that the names of several heroes of celebrated Russian novels have a fluvial origin. Onegin comes from Onega, the river and the lake in NW Russia; Lensky, the name of another character in Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin", comes from Lena, the river in E Siberia; Pechorin, the protagonist's name in Lermontov's "A Hero of Our Time", comes from Pechora, the river in NE European Russia. Nabokov was of course aware of this fact, for in his memoir Speak, Memory he named one of his tutors 'Lenski' and another, 'Volgin' (after Volga, the longest river in European Russia). The name Luzhin, of the hero of Nabokov's The Luzhin Defense, comes from Luga, the town in the S province of St. Petersburg and the river that flows into the Gulf of Finland (Oredezh, the river that flows through the Nabokov-Rukavishnikov Vyra-Rozhdestveno estate, is Luga's tributary). Finally, the river that flows form the lake Ladoga through St. Petersburg, Nabokov's home
city, into the Gulf of Finland is the Neva. Neva is Finnish for "bog", "marsh".
But, as has been pointed out by many scholars before, the family name Veen, of practically all of ADA's main characters, including the protagonist, Van Veen, means "peat bog" in Dutch. Via the Neva, "the legendary river of Old Rus" (2.1), Van Veen is related to Pushkin's Onegin and Lermontov's Pechorin.
A few additional notes:
The lake Ladoga was known to the inhabitants of ancient Novgorod as Nevo. Nevo = Noev (Noev kovcheg is Russian for "Noah's ark") = oven ("ram", also the Zodiacal constellation) = veno ("bride-price") = Evno (male given name; cf. Evno Azef, the notorious agent-provocateur who is mentioned in Nabokov's The Eye and Speak, Memory).
Like Ladoga, both Luga and its rhyme-city, Kaluga, are mentioned several times in ADA. Like the name Luzhin, Lugovoy (the pen-name of Alexey Tikhonov, the writer who settled down in Luga) derives from Luga. Lugovoy is the author of Pollice verso (a once famous novel consisting of four novellas, 1900). Cf. "'You can catch a glint of it [the Tarn, or the New Reservoir] from here too,' said Ada, turning her head and, pollice verso, introducing the view to Van..." (1.5).
Kaluga is a city SW of Moscow. The Oka river (Volga's tributary also mentioned in ADA) flows through it. As has been pointed out before, kaluga is a dialectal Russian word meaning "marsh," bog". 
Common Russian for "marsh", "bog" is boloto (it differs only in one letter from zoloto, Russian for "gold"). We have a saying in Russian: Bylo by boloto, a cherti budut ("Where there is a marsh, there are also devils"; the ancient Slavs believed that devils lived in marshes). ADA is set on a planet named Demonia (like devils, demons are evil spirits). Ad, so explicitly present in Ada, is Russian for "hell" (the place where the devils are universally believed to dwell). 
Vinelander, the name of Ada's husband, points to Vinland, a region in E North America, but sounds rather like "Finlander", an inhabitant of Finland, esp. a native who customarily speaks Swedish.
Happy birthday to Dmitri Nabokov who is just seventy five!!

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