NABOKV-L post 0026883, Tue, 23 Feb 2016 23:47:50 +0300

Subject
Chateau de Byron (She Yawns Castle),
Aunt Beloskunski-Belokonski & Mt Yawn in Ada
Date
Body
They [Van and Ada] followed southward the famous Fillietaz Promenade which went along the Swiss side of the lake from Valvey to the Château de Byron (or 'She Yawns Castle'). (3.8)



Château de Byron (or 'She Yawns Castle') hints at Byron’s poem The Prisoner of Chillon (1816). In 1821-22 it was translated into Russian as Shil’yonskiy uznik by Vasiliy Zhukovski, an illegitimate son of Afanasiy Bunin (a Tula landowner).



In his Memoirs (1952) Felix Yusupov (Prince Felix Yusupov Count Sumarokov-Elston) says that, according to rumors, the name of his paternal grandfather Felix Elston (whose father could be the King of Prussia Friedrich Wilhelm IV) was derived from the French phrase elle s’étonne (she was surprised):



По отцовской линии знал я только бабку. Дед – Феликс Эльстон умер задолго до моего рожденья. Говорят, отец его был прусский король Фридрих Вильгельм IV, а мать – фрейлина сестры его, императрицы Александры Федоровны. Та, поехав навестить брата, взяла с собой фрейлину. Прусский король так влюбился в сию девицу, что даже хотел жениться. Одни говорят, что он и женился морганатическим браком. Другие утверждают, что девица отказала, не желая расставаться с государыней, но короля всё же любила, и что плодом их тайной любви и был Феликс Эльстон. Тогдашние злые языки уверяли, что фамилия Эльстон – от французского «эль с'этон» (elle s'étonne – она удивляется), что, дескать, выразило чувство юной матери. (Chapter Three)



At the dinner in Bellevue Hotel in Mont Roux Dorothy Vinelander (Ada's sister-in-law) mentions dear Aunt Beloskunski-Belokonski, a delightful old spinster (“a vulgar old skunk,” according to Ada) who lives in a villa above Valvey:



‘Tomorrow dear Aunt Beloskunski-Belokonski is coming to dinner, a delightful old spinster, who lives in a villa above Valvey. Terriblement grande dame et tout ça. Elle aime taquiner Andryusha en disant qu'un simple cultivateur comme lui n'aurait pas dû épouser la fille d'une actrice et d'un marchand de tableaux. Would you care to join us – Jean?’ (3.8)



The old spinster’s name hints at the Counts Beloselski-Belozerski who, besides their magnificent city palace in the Nevsky Avenue, had a palazzo and a park in the outskirts of St. Petersburg at the bank of the Malaya Nevka river (covered with ice when, in the last days of 1916, Rasputin’s body was found there). The pistol duel between Prince Nikolay Yusupov (Felix’s elder brother) and Count Arvid Manteuffel took place on June 22, 1908, in the park of the Beloselski-Belozerski family in the Krestovski island:



Узнал я подробности дуэли. Она состоялась ранним утром и имении князя Белосельского на Крестовском острове. Стрелялись на револьверах в тридцати шагах. По данному знаку Николай выстрелил в воздух. Гвардеец выстрелил в Николая, промахнулся и потребовал сократить расстояние на пятнадцать шагов. Николай снова выстрелил в воздух. Гвардеец выстрелил и убил его наповал. (Felix Yusupov’s Memoirs, Chapter Twelve)



Nikolay Yusupov was killed on the spot. He died on the eve of his twenty-sixth birthday (according to a prediction, in the Yusupov family all sons, except one, would die before reaching the age of twenty six):



Сперва я пошёл к матушке. Она сидела перед зеркалом, горничная укладывала ей волосы на ночь. До сих пор помню матушкины счастливые глаза. «Про дуэль все ложь, – сказала она. – Николай был у меня. Они помирились. Господи, какое счастье! Я так боялась этой дуэли. Ведь ему вот-вот исполнится двадцать шесть лет!» И тут она объяснила, что странный рок был над родом Юсуповых. Все сыновья, кроме разве что одного, умирали, не дожив до двадцати шести. У матушки родилось четверо, двое умерли, и она всегда дрожала за нас с Николаем. Канун рокового возраста совпал с дуэлью, и матушка была сама не своя от страха. (ibid.)



In Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (1823-31) Onegin, having killed in single combat his friend, has lived to the age of twenty-six:



Предметом став суждений шумных,
Несносно (согласитесь в том)
Между людей благоразумных
Прослыть притворным чудаком,
Или печальным сумасбродом,
Иль сатаническим уродом,
Иль даже Демоном моим.

Онегин (вновь займуся им),
Убив на поединке друга,
Дожив без цели, без трудов
До двадцати шести годов,
Томясь в бездействии досуга
Без службы, без жены, без дел,
Ничем заняться не умел.



When one becomes a subject of noisy comments,

it is unbearable (you will agree with that)

among sensible people

to pass for a sham eccentric

or a sad crackbrain,

or a satanic monster,

or even for my Demon.

Onegin (let me take him up again),

having in single combat killed his friend,

having lived without a goal, without exertions,

to the age of twenty-six,

oppressed by the inertia of leisure,

without employment, wife, or business,

could think of nothing to take up. (Eight: XII)



Demon is the society nickname of Van’s and Ada’s father, Walter D. Veen. Demon mentioned by Pushkin in Eight: XII: 7 of EO is a self-reference to The Demon, a poem written in October or November of 1823:



В те дни, когда мне были новы
Все впечатленья бытия —
И взоры дев, и шум дубровы,
И ночью пенье соловья, —
Когда возвышенные чувства,
Свобода, слава и любовь
И вдохновенные искусства
Так сильно волновали кровь, —
Часы надежд и наслаждений
Тоской внезапной осеня,
Тогда какой-то злобный гений
Стал тайно навещать меня.
Печальны были наши встречи:
Его улыбка, чудный взгляд,
Его язвительные речи
Вливали в душу хладный яд.
Неистощимой клеветою
Он провиденье искушал;
Он звал прекрасное мечтою;
Он вдохновенье презирал;
Не верил он любви, свободе;
На жизнь насмешливо глядел —
И ничего во всей природе
Благословить он не хотел.



In those days when to me were new

all the impressions of existence –

and the eyes of maids, and sough of grove,

and in the night the singing of the nightingale;

when elevated feelings,

freedom, glory, and love,

and inspired arts,

so strongly roused my blood;

the hours of hopes and of delights

with sudden heartache having shaded,

then did a certain wicked genius

begin to visit me in secret.

Sad were our meetings:

his smile his wondrous glance,

his galling speech,

cold venom poured into my soul.

With inexhaustible detraction

he tempted Providence;

he called the beautiful a dream,

held inspiration in contempt,

did not believe in love, in freedom,

looked mockingly on life,

and nothing in all nature

did he desire to bless.



This “demon” is connected with the “Byronic” personality of Aleksandr Raevski (1795-1868), whom Pushkin first met in Pyatigorsk in the summer of 1820 and of whom he saw a good deal in Odessa, in the summer of 1823, and at intervals later, till the summer of 1824. (EO Commentary, vol. III, pp. 162-163)



The Demon (1829-40) is a long poem by Lermontov, the poet who was killed in a pistol duel in Pyatigorsk.



After Ada refused to leave her sick husband, Van imagines his duel with Andrey Vinelander:



Would she write? Oh, she did! Oh, every old thing turned out superfine! Fancy raced fact in never-ending rivalry and girl giggles. Andrey lived only a few months longer, po pal'tzam (finger counting) one, two, three, four - say, five. Andrey was doing fine by the spring of nineteen six or seven, with a comfortably collapsed lung and a straw-colored beard (nothing like facial vegetation to keep a patient busy). Life forked and reforked. Yes, she told him. He insulted Van on the mauve-painted porch of a Douglas hotel where van was awaiting his Ada in a final version of Les Enfants Maudits. Monsieur de Tobak (an earlier cuckold) and Lord Erminin (a second-time second) witnessed the duel in the company of a few tall yuccas and short cactuses. Vinelander wore a cutaway (he would); Van, a white suit. Neither man wished to take any chances, and both fired simultaneously. Both fell. Mr Cutaway's bullet struck the outsole of Van's left shoe (white, black-heeled), tripping him and causing a slight fourmillement (excited ants) in his foot - that was all. Van got his adversary plunk in the underbelly - a serious wound from which he recovered in due time, if at all (here the forking swims in the mist). Actually it was all much duller. (3.8)



It takes Andrey seventeen years to die:



So she did write as she had promised? Oh, yes, yes! In seventeen years he received from her around a hundred brief notes, each containing around one hundred words, making around thirty printed pages of insignificant stuff - mainly about her husband's health and the local fauna. After helping her to nurse Andrey at Agavia Ranch through a couple of acrimonious years (she begrudged Ada every poor little hour devoted to collecting, mounting, and rearing!), and then taking exception to Ada's choosing the famous and excellent Grotonovich Clinic (for her husband's endless periods of treatment) instead of Princess Alashin's select sanatorium, Dorothy Vinelander retired to a subarctic monastery town (Ilemna, now Novostabia) where eventually she married a Mr Brod or Bred, tender and passionate, dark and handsome, who traveled in eucharistials and other sacramental objects throughout the Severnïya Territorii and who subsequently was to direct, and still may be directing half a century later, archeological reconstructions at Goreloe (the 'Lyaskan Herculanum'); what treasures he dug up in matrimony is another question.

Steadily but very slowly Andrey's condition kept deteriorating. During his last two or three years of idle existence on various articulated couches, whose every plane could be altered in hundreds of ways, he lost the power of speech, though still able to nod or shake his head, frown in concentration, or faintly smile when inhaling the smell of food (the origin, indeed, of our first beatitudes). He died one spring night, alone in a hospital room, and that same summer (1922) his widow donated her collections to a National Park museum and traveled by air to Switzerland for an 'exploratory interview' with fifty-two-year-old Van Veen. (ibid.)



Andrey’s long illness brings to mind the beginning of Pushkin’s EO:



"Мой дядя самых честных правил,

Когда не в шутку занемог,

Он уважать себя заставил

И лучше выдумать не мог.

Его пример другим наука;

Но, боже мой, какая скука

С больным сидеть и день и ночь,

Не отходя ни шагу прочь!

Какое низкое коварство

Полуживого забавлять,

Ему подушки поправлять,

Печально подносить лекарство,

Вздыхать и думать про себя:

Когда же чёрт возьмет тебя!"



"My uncle has most honest principles:
when taken ill in earnest,
he has made one respect him
and nothing better could invent.
To others his example is a lesson;
but, good God, what a bore
to sit by a sick man both day and night,
without moving a step away!
What base perfidiousness
the half-alive one to amuse,
adjust for him the pillows,
sadly present the medicine,
sigh -- and think inwardly
when will the devil take you?"



In the last line of EO’s first stanza chyort (the devil) is mentioned. Chyort ("The Devil", 1897) is a story by Amfiteatrov, in which there are rhymes on yawning:



Во время оно

Проглотил кит Иону;

Не ты ль, Никита,

Проглотил кита?



In the days of yore

A whale swallowed Jonah.

Was not it you, Nikita,

Who swallowed the whale?



A character and part-time narrator in Amfiteatrov’s story is the Austrian novelist Leopold von Sacher-Masoch, author Venus in Furs (1870).



Van, Ada and Lucette (“three Veens”) are the children of Venus:



Knowing how fond his sisters were of Russian fare and Russian floor shows, Van took them Saturday night to 'Ursus,' the best Franco-Estotian restaurant in Manhattan Major. Both young ladies wore the very short and open evening gowns that Vass 'miraged' that season - in the phrase of that season: Ada, a gauzy black, Lucette, a lustrous cantharid green. Their mouths 'echoed' in tone (but not tint) each other's lipstick; their eyes were made up in a 'surprised bird-of-paradise' style that was as fashionable in Los as in Lute. Mixed metaphors and double-talk became all three Veens, the children of Venus. (2.8)



While Ada and Lucette revel with Van in ‘Ursus,’ their furs “are locked up in the vault or somewhere:”



'Why,' asked Lucette, kissing Ada's cheek as they both rose (making swimming gestures behind their backs in search of the furs locked up in the vault or somewhere), 'why did the first song, Uzh gasli v komnatah ogni, and the "redolent roses," upset you more than your favorite Fet and the other, about the bugler's sharp elbow?'

'Van, too, was upset,' replied Ada cryptically and grazed with freshly rouged lips tipsy Lucette's fanciest freckle. (ibid.)



Leaving ‘Ursus,’ Van follows his sisters’ bluish furs:



He too had had just about his 'last straw' of champagne, namely four out of half a dozen bottles minus a rizzom (as we said at old Chose) and now, as he followed their bluish furs, he inhaled like a fool his right hand before gloving it. (ibid.)



At the end of the dinner Van is yawning:



'Look, our cavalier is yawning "fit to declansh his masher"' (vulgar Ladore cant).

'How (ascension of Mt Yawn) true,' uttered Van, ceasing to palpate the velvet cheek of his Cupidon peach, which he had bruised but not sampled. (ibid.)



It is after their dinner in ‘Ursus’ that Van learns from Lucette the name of Ada’s fiancé:



'Arm up! Point at Paradise! Terra! Venus!' commanded Van, and for a few synchronized heartbeats, fitted his working mouth to the hot, humid, perilous hollow.

She sat down with a bump on a chair, pressing one hand to her brow.

'Turn off the footlights,' said Van. 'I want the name of that fellow.'

'Vinelander,' she answered. (ibid.)



Btw., Marina Heyden (Nikolay Yusupov’s mistress who married Arvid Manteuffel) was a daughter of the Commander of the Helsingfors fortress. Helsingfors is the Swedish name of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. In Finnish, neva means what veen does in Dutch: “peat bog.” In one of her letters to Van Ada mentions “the legendary river of Old Rus:”



We are still at the candy-pink and pisang-green albergo where you once stayed with your father. He is awfully nice to me, by the way. I enjoy going places with him. He and I have gamed at Nevada, my rhyme-name town, but you are also there, as well as the legendary river of Old Rus. Da. (2.1)



Like Pushkin’s Onegin, VN “was born upon the Neva’s banks.” Walter D. Veen (Van’s and Ada’s father) is a Manhattan banker (1.1). Marina and her twin sister Aqua are the daughters of General Ivan Durmanov, Commander of Yukon fortress and peaceful country gentleman (1.1). According to Van, Pushkin, when he was bitten by mosquitoes in Yukon, cried out: Sladko (Sweet)! (1.17)



Pushkin’s exclamation brings to mind Van’s love of sweets. During Van’s first tea party at Ardis Marina says that she and Ada share Van’s “extravagant tastes” and mentions Dostoevski:



They now had tea in a prettily furnished corner of the otherwise very austere central hall from which rose the grand staircase. They sat on chairs upholstered in silk around a pretty table. Ada's black jacket and a pink-yellow-blue nosegay she had composed of anemones, celandines and columbines lay on a stool of oak. The dog got more bits of cake than it did ordinarily. Price, the mournful old footman who brought the cream for the strawberries, resembled Van's teacher of history, 'Jeejee' Jones.

'He resembles my teacher of history,' said Van when the man had gone.

'I used to love history,' said Marina, 'I loved to identify myself with famous women. There's a ladybird on your plate, Ivan. Especially with famous beauties - Lincoln's second wife or Queen Josephine.'

'Yes, I've noticed - it's beautifully done. We've got a similar set at home.'

'Slivok (some cream)? I hope you speak Russian?' Marina asked Van, as she poured him a cup of tea.

'Neohotno no sovershenno svobodno (reluctantly but quite fluently),' replied Van, slegka ulïbnuvshis' (with a slight smile). 'Yes, lots of cream and three lumps of sugar.'

'Ada and I share your extravagant tastes. Dostoevski liked it with raspberry syrup.'

'Pah,' uttered Ada. (1.5)



The characters of Dostoevski’s Idiot (1869) include old dame Belokonski. The novel’s main character, Prince Myshkin, ends up in a Swiss mad house. Pushkin’s poem Ne day mne Bog soyti s uma… (“The Lord Forbid my Going Mad…” 1833) brings to mind Sumarokov-Elston. In his poem Est’ tsennostey nezyblemaya skala… (“There is an unshakeable scale of values…” 1914) Mandelshtam mentions wretched Sumarokov (an ancestor of Sumarokov-Elston) and Ozerov (a poet and playwright who, like poor Batyushkov, went mad). The name Ozerov comes from ozero (lake) and brings to mind VN’s story Oblako, ozero, bashnya (“Cloud, Castle, Lake,” 1937). Bashnya is Russian for “tower” (an important concept in Ada’s philosophy, 1.12). The story’s English title brings to mind ‘She Yawns Castle.’



At the end of the dinner in Bellevue Hotel Van is so bored that his clenched jaws begin to ache. (3.8)



Marina + Ada + Stalin = malina + ad/da + starina



malina – raspberry

ad – Hell

da – yes

starina – antiquity, olden times; antiques; old fellow, old chap



Colonel St Alin, a scoundrel, is one of two seconds in Demon’s duel with Baron d’Onsky (nicknamed Skonky, 1.2).



Alexey Sklyarenko


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