NABOKV-L post 0026955, Wed, 20 Apr 2016 16:31:28 +0300

Subject
guinea pig, vivisectional alibi & India in Ada
Date
Body
A formal photograph, on a separate page: Adochka, pretty and impure in her flimsy, and Vanichka in gray-flannel suit, with slant-striped school tie, facing the kimera (chimera, camera) side by side, at attention, he with the shadow of a forced grin, she, expressionless. Both recalled the time (between the first tiny cross and a whole graveyard of kisses) and the occasion: it was ordered by Marina, who had it framed and set up in her bedroom next to a picture of her brother at twelve or fourteen clad in a bayronka (open shirt) and cupping a guinea pig in his gowpen (hollowed hands); the three looked like siblings, with the dead boy providing a vivisectional alibi. (2.7)



At the beginning of VN's novel Kamera Obskura (1932) Cheepy (the guinea pig drawn by Robert Horn, a gifted but unprincipled artist), vivisection and the Cape of Good Hope (cf. Mascodagama, Van’s stage name that hints at Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese navigator who discovered the sea route around to continent of Africa to India) are mentioned:



Приблизительно в 1925 г. размножилось по всему свету милое, забавное существо - существо теперь уже почти забытое, но в своё время, т. е. в течение трёх-четырёх лет, бывшее вездесущим, от Аляски до Патагонии, от Маньчжурии до Новой Зеландии, от Лапландии до Мыса Доброй Надежды, словом, всюду, куда проникают цветные открытки, - существо, носившее симпатичное имя Cheepy.
Рассказывают, что его (или, вернее, её) происхождение связано с вопросом о вивисекции. Художник Роберт Горн, проживавший в Нью-Йорке, однажды завтракал со случайным знакомым - молодым физиологом. Разговор коснулся опытов над живыми зверьми. Физиолог, человек впечатлительный, ещё не привыкший к лабораторным кошмарам, выразил мысль, что наука не только допускает изощренную жестокость к тем самым животным, которые в иное время возбуждают в человеке умиление своей пухлостью, теплотой, ужимками, но еще входит как бы в азарт - распинает живьём и кромсает куда больше особей, чем в действительности ей необходимо. "Знаете что, - сказал он Горну, - вот вы так славно рисуете всякие занятные штучки для журналов; возьмите-ка и пустите, так сказать, на волны моды какого-нибудь многострадального маленького зверя, например, морскую свинку. Придумайте к этим картинкам шуточные надписи, где бы этак вскользь, легко упоминалось о трагической связи между свинкой и лабораторией. Удалось бы, я думаю, не только создать очень своеобразный и забавный тип, но и окружить свинку некоторым ореолом модной ласки, что и обратило бы общее внимание на несчастную долю этой, в сущности, милейшей твари". "Не знаю, - ответил Горн, - они мне напоминают крыс. Бог с ними. Пускай пищат под скальпелем". (Chapter I)



At the party given by Kretschmar Horn speaks of India and mentions bayaderki (dancing girls; btw., bailadeira is a Portuguese word):



Горн, не обращая внимания ни на неё, ни на Дорианну, имя которой его раздражало, спорил наискосок через стол с писателем Брюком о приёмах художественной изобразительности. Он говорил: "Беллетрист толкует, например, об Индии, где вот я никогда не бывал, и только от него и слышно, что о баядерках, охоте на тигров, факирах, бетеле, змеях - всё это очень напряженно, очень пряно, сплошная, одним словом, тайна Востока, - но что же получается? Получается то, что никакой Индии я перед собой не вижу, а только чувствую воспаление надкостницы от всех этих восточных сладостей. Иной же беллетрист говорит всего два слова об Индии: я выставил на ночь мокрые сапоги, а утром на них уже вырос голубой лес (плесень, сударыня, - обьяснил он Дорианне, которая поднимала одну бровь), - и сразу Индия для меня как живая, - остальное я уж сам воображу".

"Йоги, - сказала Дорианна, - делают удивительные вещи. Они умеют так дышать, что..." (Chapter XV)



Marina (Van’s, Ada’s and Lucette’s mother) believes that, in one of her former incarnations, she was a dancing girl in India:



Now Lucette demanded her mother's attention.

'What are Jews?' she asked.

'Dissident Christians,' answered Marina.

'Why is Greg a Jew?' asked Lucette.

'Why-why!' said Marina; 'because his parents are Jews.'

'And his grandparents? His arrière grandparents?'

'I really wouldn't know, my dear. Were your ancestors Jews, Greg?'

'Well, I'm not sure,' said Greg. 'Hebrews, yes - but not Jews in quotes - I mean, not comic characters or Christian businessmen. They came from Tartary to England five centuries ago. My mother's grandfather, though, was a French marquis who, I know, belonged to the Roman faith and was crazy about banks and stocks and jewels, so I imagine people may have called him un juif.'

'It's not a very old religion, anyway, as religions go, is it?' said Marina (turning to Van and vaguely planning to steer the chat to India where she had been a dancing girl long before Moses or anybody was born in the lotus swamp). (1.14)



One of the photographs in Kim Beauharnais' album shows the grave of Marina’s housekeeper:



Then the cross and the shade of boughs above the grave of Marina's dear housekeeper, Anna Pimenovna Nepraslinov (1797-1883). (2.7)



The name and patronymic of Marina’s housekeeper seem to hint at Anna Akimovna and Pimenov, the characters in Chekhov’s story Bab’ye tsarstvo (“A Woman’s Kingdom,” 1894). The action in it begins on the Christmas Eve. Describing the family dinner in “Ardis the Second” (summer of 1888), Van mentions the Christmas party at the Praslin’s:



The man sitting at the head of the table and joined to her by a pair of cheerful youngsters, the ‘juvenile' (in movie parlance) on her right, the ‘ingenue' on her left, differed in no way from the same Demon in much the same black jacket (minus perhaps the carnation he had evidently purloined from a vase Blanche had been told to bring from the gallery) who sat next to her at the Praslin's last Christmas. (1.38)



Praslin is an island in the Indian Ocean. It was named in honor of the French diplomat César Gabriel de Choiseul, duc de Praslin. In his article Sobranie sochineniy Georgiya Koniskogo, arkhiepiskopa Belorusskogo (“The Collected Works of Georgiy Konisky, the Archbishop of Belorussia,” 1836) Pushkin mentions Choiseul whose politics supported the Polish Bar Confederation:



Между тем Барская конфедерация, поддерживаемая политикою Шуазеля, воспламенила новую войну. Следствием оной был первый раздел Польши.



Barskaya konfederatsiya (the Bar Confederation) that had sparked off a new war that led to the first partition of Poland brings to mind barskie krest’yane (the serfs) mentioned in Chapter Four (“The Life of Chernyshevski”) of VN’s novel Dar (“The Gift”):



Тут дело шло гладко и обещало многое, но с Костомаровым приходилось поднажать, так как требовались кое-какие определенные доказательства вины, а Чернышевский продолжал обстоятельно кипеть и издеваться, обзывая комиссию "шалунами" и "бестолковым омутом, который совершенно глуп". Поэтому Костомарова повезли в Москву, и там мещанин Яковлев, его бывший переписчик, пьяница и буян, дал важное показание (получил за это пальто, которое пропил так шумно в Твери, что был посажен в смирительный дом): переписывая по случаю летнего времени в беседке сада, он будто бы слышал, как Николай Гаврилович и Владислав Дмитриевич, ходя между собой подруку (чёрточка верная!), говорили о поклоне от их доброжелателей барским крестьянам (трудно разобраться в этой смеси правды и подсказки). На втором допросе, в присутствии заново заряженного Костомарова, Чернышевский не совсем удачно сказал, что только раз был у него, да не застал; потом добавил с силой: "Поседею, умру, не изменю моего показания". Показание о том, что не он автор воззвания, написано им дрожащим почерком, -- скорее не с перепуга, а от бешенства.



The business went smoothly and promised a great deal, but it was necessary to put pressure on Kostomarov since one or two definite proofs of guilt were needed, while Chernyshevski continued to boil and jeer in great detail, branding the commission as "clowns" and "an incoherent quagmire which is completely stupid." Therefore Kostomarov was taken to Moscow and there the citizen Yakovlev, his former copyist, a drunkard and a rowdy, gave important testimony (for this he received an overcoat which he drank away so noisily in Tver that he was put in a strait-jacket): while doing his copying "on account of the summer weather in a garden pavilion," he allegedly heard Nikolay Gavrilovich and Vladislav Dmitrievich as they were strolling arm-in-arm (a not implausible detail), talking about greetings from well-wishers to the serfs (it is difficult to find one's way in this mixture of truth and promptings). At a second interrogation in the presence of a replenished Kostomarov, Chernyshevski said somewhat unfortunately that he had visited him only once and not found him in; then he added forcefully: "I'll go gray, I'll die, but I will not change my testimony." The testimony of his not being the author of the proclamation is written by him in a trembling hand-trembling with rage rather than fright.



On the other hand, it reminds one of the Night of the Burning Barn in Ada. In the hope that everybody will leave the house and go to see the fire, Ada (who wanted to spend the night with Van) bribed Kim Beauharnais (the kitchen boy and photographer at Ardis) to set the ‘baronial barn’ near Ardis on fire:



He had started to stroke her, shivering, staring ahead, following with a blind man's hand the dip of her spine through the batiste.

'Look, gipsies,' she whispered, pointing at three shadowy forms - two men, one with a ladder, and a child or dwarf - circumspectly moving across the gray lawn. They saw the candlelit window and decamped, the smaller one walking à reculons as if taking pictures.

'I stayed home on purpose, because I hoped you would too - it was a contrived coincidence,' she said, or said later she'd said - while he continued to fondle the flow of her hair, and to massage and rumple her nightdress, not daring yet to go under and up, daring, however, to mold her nates until, with a little hiss, she sat down on his hand and her heels, as the burning castle of cards collapsed. She turned to him and next moment he was kissing her bare shoulder, and pushing against her like that soldier behind in the queue. (1.19)



In Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (1823-31) Princess N. mentions the humble churchyard where there’s a cross and the shade of branches over her poor nurse (Eight: XLVI: 12-14). In the next stanza Tatiana tells Onegin that she loves him; "but to another I've been given away: to him I shall be faithful all my life" (XLVII: 13-14).



In her essay Moy Pushkin ("My Pushkin," 1937) Marina Tsvetaev says that there is not a shade of vindictiveness in Tatiana's lesson:



Ведь в отповеди Татьяны - ни тени мстительности. Потому и получается полнота возмездия, поэтому-то Онегин и стоит "как громом поражённый". Все козыри были у неё в руках, чтобы отмстить и свести его с ума, все козыри - чтобы унизить, втоптать в землю той скамьи, сравнять с паркетом той залы, она всё это уничтожила одной только обмолвкой: Я вас люблю (к чему лукавить?)



But the retribution is complete, and Onegin stands “as if by thunder struck” (XLVIII: 1-2). When Demon (Van’s and Ada’s father who just learnt of his children’s affair) tells Van to give up Ada, Van wants to shoot himself with his Thunderbolt pistol:



Van sealed the letter, found his Thunderbolt pistol in the place he had visualized, introduced one cartridge into the magazine and translated it into its chamber. Then, standing before a closet mirror, he put the automatic to his head, at the point of the pterion, and pressed the comfortably concaved trigger. Nothing happened - or perhaps everything happened, and his destiny simply forked at that instant, as it probably does sometimes at night, especially in a strange bed, at stages of great happiness or great desolation, when we happen to die in our sleep, but continue our normal existence, with no perceptible break in the faked serialization, on the following, neatly prepared morning, with a spurious past discreetly but firmly attached behind. Anyway, what he held in his right hand was no longer a pistol but a pocket comb which he passed through his hair at the temples. It was to gray by the time that Ada, then in her thirties, said, when they spoke of their voluntary separation:

'I would have killed myself too, had I found Rose wailing over your corpse. "Secondes pensées sont les bonnes," as your other, white, bonne used to say in her pretty patois. As to the apron, you are quite right. And what you did not make out was that the artist had about finished a large picture of your meek little palazzo standing between its two giant guards. Perhaps for the cover of a magazine, which rejected that picture. But, you know, there's one thing I regret,' she added: 'Your use of an alpenstock to release a brute's fury - not yours, not my Van's. I should never have told you about the Ladore policeman. You should never have taken him into your confidence, never connived with him to burn those files - and most of Kalugano's pine forest. Eto unizitel'no (it is humiliating).'

'Amends have been made,' replied fat Van with a fat man's chuckle. 'I'm keeping Kim safe and snug in a nice Home for Disabled Professional People, where he gets from me loads of nicely brailled books on new processes in chromophotography.' (2.11)



Unlike Pushkin’s Tatiana, Van Veen is vindictive and blinds Kim for spying on him and Ada and attempting to blackmail Ada (2.11). In Kamera Obskura Kretschmar loses his eyesight as a result of a car accident.



One of the guests at the party given by Kretschmar is the writer Brück who just finished a novel in which the action takes place in Ceylon:



"Но позвольте, господин Горн, - взволнованно кричал Брюк, написавший только что роман, действие коего протекало на Цейлоне, - нужно же осветить всеесторонне, основательно, чтобы всякий читатель понял. Если же я описываю, например, плантацию, то обязан, конечно, подойти с самой важной стороны эксплуатации, жестокости белого колониста. Таинственная, огромная мощь Востока..."

"Вот это и скверно", - сказал Горн. (Chapter XV)



In a letter of Dec. 10, 1890, to Ivan Leontiev-Shcheglov Chekhov compares Sakhalin to ad (Hell) and Ceylon (the island in the Indian Ocean that Chekhov visited on his way back from Sakhalin, the former place of penal servitude), to ray (Paradise):



Я был и в аду, каким представляется Сахалин, и в раю, т. е. на острове Цейлоне. Какие бабочки, букашки, какие мушки, таракашки!

Chekhov quotes Krylov’s fable Lyubopytnyi (“A Curious Man”) and mentions babochki (butterflies) that he saw in Ceylon.



At the end of Chekhov's story Gusev (1890) set in the Indian Ocean akula (a shark) appears:



After that another dark body appeared. It was a shark. It swam under Gusev with dignity and no show of interest, as though it did not notice him, and sank down upon its back, then it turned belly upwards, basking in the warm, transparent water and languidly opened its jaws with two rows of teeth. The harbour pilots are delighted, they stop to see what will come next. After playing a little with the body the shark nonchalantly puts its jaws under it, cautiously touches it with its teeth, and the sailcloth is rent its full length from head to foot; one of the weights falls out and frightens the harbour pilots, and striking the shark on the ribs goes rapidly to the bottom.
Overhead at this time the clouds are massed together on the side where the sun is setting; one cloud like a triumphal arch, another like a lion, a third like a pair of scissors. . . . From behind the clouds a broad, green shaft of light pierces through and stretches to the middle of the sky; a little later another, violet-coloured, lies beside it; next that, one of gold, then one rose-coloured. . . . The sky turns a soft lilac. Looking at this gorgeous, enchanted sky, at first the ocean scowls, but soon it, too, takes tender, joyous, passionate colours for which it is hard to find a name in human speech.



In Kamera Obskura the writer Segelkranz (a friend of Kretschmar) compares Horn to akula (a shark):



«Никто меня не посылал! — крикнул Зегелькранц. — Почему вы такой тон со мной берете? Странно, право. Вы ведь не знаете самого главного. С ним путешествовал его приятель, художник, фамилью в данную минуту забыл — Берг, нет не Берг, — Беринг, Геринг…»

«Не Горн ли?» — мрачно спросил Макс.

«Да-да, конечно, Горн! Вы его…?»

«…Знаменитость — пустил моду на морских свинок. Препротивный господин. Я его раза два видел. Но при чём это всё?»

«Я же вижу, что вы не в курсе дела. Поймите: выяснилось, что эта женщина и этот художник, за спиною Бруно…»

«Мерзость. Свинарник», — проговорил Макс.

«И вот представьте себе: Бруно это узнаёт. Я не стану вам говорить, как именно узнает, — слишком страшно, художественный донос, но факт тот, что он узнает, и дальше следует неописанное, неописуемое, — он сажает её в автомобиль и мчится сломя голову, мчится по зигзагам шоссе, сто вёрст в час, над обрывами, и нарочно метит в пропасть — самоубийство, двойное самоубийство… Но не удалось: она цела, он слеп. Вы теперь понимаете?…»

Пауза.

«Да, это для меня новость, — сказал наконец Макс. — Это для меня новость. А что сталось с тем прохвостом?»

«Неизвестно, но есть все основания думать, что он, подобно акуле, последовал и дальше за ними. И вот теперь вообразите: человек слеп, физически слеп, но этого мало, он знает, что кругом измена, а сделать ничего не может. Ведь это пытка, застенок! Надо что-нибудь предпринять, нельзя это так оставить». (Chapter XXXVI)



Before jumping into the Atlantic from Admiral Tobakoff Lucette gulps down three ‘Cossack ponies’ of Klass vodka. After the third pony her head begins to swim like hell and she remembers the sharks that michman Tobakoff, when he got shipwrecked off Gavaille, frightened away with snatches of old songs:



She drank a 'Cossack pony' of Klass vodka - hateful, vulgar, but potent stuff; had another; and was hardly able to down a third because her head had started to swim like hell. Swim like hell from sharks, Tobakovich!... (3.5)



Btw., Gusev (or Gusinykh, or Gusiadi) was Chekhov's name for his brother Alexander who suffered from alcoholism and had an enlarged liver (the names Gusev, Gusinykh and Gusiadi come from gus', "goose," and bring to mind foie gras), father of the great actor and stage director Mikhail Chekhov.



In Uzhasnye muzhiki (“Terrible Peasants,” 1897), an article on Chekhov's story Muzhiki (“Peasants,” 1897), N. Ladozhski (V. K. Peterson’s penname derived from Ladoga) compares Chekhov to vivisektor (a vivisectionist):



сам автор как личность вполне отсутствует, изображая “полнейшее спокойствие вивисектора”

person of the author is completely absent from his story, demonstrating “the full composure of a vivisectionist.”



At Kingston (Van’s American University) Lucette calls Van “Dr V. V. Sector:”



Van noticed a long, blue, violet-sealed envelope protruding from the bag.

'Lucette, don't cry. That's too easy.'

She walked back, dabbing her nose, curbing her childishly humid sniffs, still hoping for the decisive embrace.

'Here's some brandy,' he said. 'Sit down. Where's the rest of the family?'

She returned the balled handkerchief of many an old romance to her bag, which, however, remained unclosed. Chows, too, have blue tongues.

'Mamma dwells in her private Samsara. Dad has had another stroke. Sis is revisiting Ardis.'

'Sis! Cesse, Lucette! We don't want any baby serpents around.'

'This baby serpent does not quite know what tone to take with Dr V.V. Sector. You have not changed one bit, my pale darling, except that you look like a ghost in need of a shave without your summer Glanz.'

And summer Mädel. He noticed that the letter, in its long blue envelope, lay now on the mahogany sideboard. He stood in the middle of the parlor, rubbing his forehead, not daring, not daring, because it was Ada's notepaper. (2.5)



In Hinduism and Buddhism Samsara is the repeating cycle of birth, life and death (reincarnation) as well as one's actions and consequences in the past, present, and future.



Vladimir Nabokov + Ada = invalid + mrak/mark/Mark + ab ovo + ad = vino/voin/ovin + milk/Klim + arab/arba/raba + voda + da = alibi + roman/norma/Maron + vodka + dva

Nabokov + babochka = ab ovo + bank + bochka



mrak – darkness

ab ovo – from the very beginning (literally: “from the egg”); the phrase used by Pushkin in Ezerski (II: 1), an unfinished poem (1832) written in the Onegin stanza; the name Ezerski comes from ezero (obs., lake); in the lounge of Les Trois Cygnes (Van’s hotel in Mont Roux) there was once an oil showing three ample-haunched Ledas swapping lacustrine impressions: In the lounge, as seen through its entrance, the huge memorable oil - three ample-haunched Ledas swapping lacustrine impressions - had been replaced by a neoprimitive masterpiece showing three yellow eggs and a pair of plumber's gloves on what looked like wet bathroom tiling. (Part Four); Cygne is French for “swan;” Lucette's jeweled head (3.5) makes one think of beautiful tsarevna Lebed' (the Swan Princess) who in Pushkin's "Fairy Tale about Tsar Saltan" (1831) has the moon under her plait and a star in her forehead

ad – hell

vino – wine

voin – soldier, warrior

ovin – barn

Klim – Baron Klim Avidov (Marina’s former lover who gave her children a set Flavita, 1.36, anagram of Vladimir Nabokov)

arab – Arab; according to a German reviewer of Van’s novel Letters from Terra, Van was influenced by an obscene ancient Arab, expounder of anagrammatic dreams, Ben Sirine, thus transliterated by Captain de Roux, according to Burton in his adaptation of Nefzawi's treatise on the best method of mating with obese or hunchbacked females (The Perfumed Garden, Panther edition, p.187, a copy given to ninety-three-year-old Baron Van Veen by his ribald physician Professor Lagosse). (2.2)

arba – bullock-cart

raba – female slave

voda – water

da – yes; from Ada’s letter to Van: 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); another letter of Ada to Van ends as follows: Take the fastest flying machine you can rent straight to El Paso, your Ada will be waiting for you there, waving like mad, and we'll continue, by the New World Express, in a suite I'll obtain, to the burning tip of Patagonia, Captain Grant's Horn, a Villa in Verna, my jewel, my agony. Send me an aerogram with one Russian word - the end of my name and wit. (ibid.); an allusion to a Jules Verne novel, Captain Grant’s Horn also brings to mind Robert Horn

roman – novel; romance

norma – norm

Maron – Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro), an ancient Roman poet (70-19 BC)

dva – 2

babochka – butterfly

bochka – barrel, cask; in Pushkin's "Fairy Tale about Tsar Saltan" Prince Gvidon and his mother cross the sea in a barrel



Alexey Sklyarenko


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