NABOKV-L post 0027595, Mon, 13 Nov 2017 13:36:30 +0300

Subject
Buddhism,
Fra Karamazov & roofs of Paris in Pale Fire; Felis tigris
goldsmithi in Lolita
Date
Body
According to Shade (one of the three main characters in VN’s novel Pale Fire, 1962), his God died young:



My God died young. Theolatry I found
Degrading, and its premises, unsound.
No free man needs a God; but was I free?
How fully I felt nature glued to me
And how my childish palate loved the taste
Half-fish, half-honey, of that golden paste! (ll. 99-104)



In Canto Three of his poem Shade describes IPH (a lay Institute of Preparation for the Hereafter) and mentions Buddhism:



In later years it started to decline:
Buddhism took root. A medium smuggled in
Pale jellies and a floating mandolin.
Fra Karamazov, mumbling his inept
All is allowed, into some classes crept;
And to fulfill the fish wish of the womb,
A school of Freudians headed for the tomb. (ll. 638-644)



In Die fröhliche Wissenschaft (“The Gay Science,” 1882) Nietzsche says:



Nachdem Buddha tot war, zeigte man noch jahrhundertelang seinen Schatten in einer Höhle – einen ungeheuren schauerlichen Schatten. Gott ist tot: aber so wie die Art der Menschen ist, wird es vielleicht noch jahrtausendelang Höhlen geben, in denen man seinen Schatten zeigt. – Und wir – wir müssen auch noch seinen Schatten besiegen!



- After Buddha was dead, they still showed his shadow in a cave for centuries - a tremendous, gruesome shadow. God is dead; but given the way people are, there may still for millennia be caves in which they show his shadow. - And we - we must still defeat his shadow as well!



Kinbote (Shade’s mad commentator who imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla) calls the place in which he works on Shade’s poem “my cave in Cedarn:”



Instead of answering a month-old letter from my cave in Cedarn, listing some of my most desperate queries, such as the real name of "Jim Coates," etc., she [Sybil Shade] suddenly shot me a wire, requesting me to accept Prof. H. (!) and Prof. C. (!!) as co-editors of her husband's poem. How deeply this surprised and pained me! Naturally, it precluded collaboration with my friend's misguided widow. (Foreword)



One of Buddha’s names is Shakyamuni Buddha. It brings to mind Hodasevich’s friend Muni (the penname of Samuil Kissin, 1885-1916). In Hodasevich’s memoir essay Muni (1926) one of the chapters is entitled Semipudovaya kupchikha (“A Seven-Pood Merchant’s Wife”). The allusion is to Dostoevski’s novel Brothers Karamazov (1880) in which the devil tells Ivan Karamazov (who affirms that, if God does not exist, all is allowed) that he would like to take fleshy form in the person of a seven-pood merchant’s wife (one pood is equal to sixteen kilograms). In the “Seven-Pood Merchant’s Wife” chapter of his memoir essay Hodasevich mentions a story by Muni whose main character, tormented by various passions and troubles, decides to turn into another, quieter and better off, person. According to Hodasevich, Muni himself had attempted a similar transformation and indeed had become a different man, Alexander Alexandrovich Beklemishev:



В одном из его рассказов главный герой, Большаков, человек незадачной жизни, мучимый разными страстями и неприятностями, решает "довоплотиться" в спокойного и благополучного Переяславцева. Сперва это ему удается, но потом он начинает бунтовать, и наконец Переяславцев убивает его.

После одной тяжелой любовной истории, в начале 1908 года, Муни сам вздумал довоплотиться в особого человека, Александра Александровича Беклемишева (рассказ о Большакове был написан позже, именно на основании опыта с Беклемишевым). Месяца три Муни не был похож на себя, иначе ходил, говорил, одевался, изменил голос и самые мысли. Существование Беклемишева скрывалось, но про себя Муни знал, что, наоборот, - больше нет Муни, а есть Беклемишев, принужденный лишь носить имя Муни "по причинам полицейского, паспортного порядка".

Александр Беклемишев был человек, отказавшийся от всего, что было связано с памятью о Муни, и в этом отказе обретающий возможность жить дальше. Чтобы уплотнить реальность своего существования, Беклемишев писал стихи и рассказы; под строгой тайной посылал их в журналы. Но редакторы, только что печатавшие Муни, неведомому Беклемишеву возвращали рукописи не читая. Только Ю.И. Айхенвальд, редактировавший тогда литературный отдел "Русской мысли", взял несколько стихотворений незнакомого автора.

Двойное существование, конечно, не облегчало жизнь Муни, а усложняло её в геометрической прогрессии. Создалось множество каких-то совсем уж невероятных положений. Наши "смыслы" становились уже не двойными, а четверными, восьмерными и т. д. Мы не могли никого видеть и ничего делать. Отсюда возникали бездействие и безденежье. Случалось, что за день, за два, а однажды и за три дня мы вдвоем выпивали бутылку молока и съедали один калач. В довершение всего Муни бунтовал против Беклемишева ("лез из кожи", как мы называли), и дело могло кончиться так, как впоследствии кончилось у Большакова с Переяславцевым. И вот однажды я оборвал все это - довольно грубо. Уехав на дачу, я написал и напечатал в одной газете стихи за подписью - Елисавета Макшеева. (Такая девица в восемнадцатом столетии существовала, жила в Тамбове; она замечательна только тем, что однажды участвовала в представлении какой-то державинской пьесы.) Стихи посвящались Александру Беклемишеву и содержали довольно прозрачное и насмешливое разоблачение беклемишевской тайны. Впоследствии они вошли в мою книгу "Счастливый домик" под заглавием "Поэту". Прочтя их в газете, Муни не тотчас угадал автора. Я его застал в Москве, на бульварной скамейке, подавленным и растерянным. Между нами произошло объяснение. Как бы то ни было, разоблаченному и ставшему шуткою Беклемишеву оставалось одно - исчезнуть. Тем дело тогда и кончилось. Муни вернулся "в себя", хоть не сразу. К несчастию, "беклемишевская история" и попытки "воплотиться в семипудовую купчиху" повлекли за собой другие, более житейские события, о которых сейчас рассказывать не время. Однако мы жили в такой внутренней близости и в ошибках Муни было столько участия моего, что я не могу не винить и себя в этой смерти.



It was Hodasevich who exposed Muni’s secret in his poem Poetu (“To a Poet”). In the second stanza Hodasevich says that he looks forward to a sonnet that the frustrated poet will write:



Ты кличешь смерть - а мне смешно и нежно:
Как мил изменницей покинутый поэт!
Предчувствую написанный прилежно,
Мятежных слов исполненный сонет.



Poetu (“To a Poet,” 1830) is a sonnet by Pushkin. In its second quatrain Pushkin tells to a poet: ty tsar’: zhivi odin (“you are a king, live alone”). Pushkin’s sonnet ends in the lines:



Всех строже оценить умеешь ты свой труд.
Ты им доволен ли, взыскательный художник?



Доволен? Так пускай толпа его бранит
И плюет на алтарь, где твой огонь горит,
И в детской резвости колеблет твой треножник.



More strictly than anyone can you appraise your work.
Are you satisfied with it, exacting artist?



Satisfied? Then let the crowd scold it
And spit on the altar, where your fire burns
And shake your tripod in childish playfulness.



Koleblemyi trenozhnik (“The Shaken Tripod,” 1921) is the title of Hodasevich’s pushkinskaya rech’ (Pushkin speech). One of the speakers at the Pushkin evening in February, 1921, was Alexander Alexandrovich Blok. According to G. Ivanov, when he asked Blok “does a sonnet need a coda,” the poet replied that he did not know what a coda is.



Kinbote believes that, to be completed, Shade’s poem needs but one line (Line 1000, identical to Line 1: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain”). But, like some sonnets, it also seems to need a coda (Line 1001: “By its own double in the windowpane”). Dvoynik (“The Double,”) is a short novel (1846) by Dostoevski and a poem (1909) by Blok. It is possible, though, that the last line of Shade’s poem should be: “By its reflection in the windowpane.”



In his memoir essay Hodasevich describes a dinner at Prague (a restaurant in Moscow) and quotes Muni’s words a vot i otrazhenie prishlo (and here comes the reflection):



Мы были только неопытные мальчишки, лет двадцати, двадцати с небольшим, нечаянно зачерпнувшие ту самую каплю запредельной стихии, о которой писал поэт. Но и другие, более опытные и ответственные люди блуждали в таких же потемках. Маленькие ученики плохих магов (а иногда и попросту шарлатанов), мы умели вызывать мелких и непослушных духов, которыми не умели управлять. И это нас расшатывало. В "лесу символов" мы терялись, на "качелях соответствий" нас укачивало. "Символический быт", который мы создали, то есть символизм, ставший для нас не только методом, но и просто (хоть это вовсе не просто!) образом жизни, играл с нами неприятные шутки. Вот некоторые из них, ради образчика.

Мы с Муни сидели в ресторане "Прага", зал которого разделялся широкой аркой. По бокам арки висели занавеси. У одной из них, спиной к нам, держась правой рукой за притолоку, а левую заложив за пояс, стоял половой в своей белой рубахе и белых штанах. Немного спустя из-за арки появился другой, такого же роста, и стал лицом к нам и к первому половому, случайно в точности повторив его позу, но в обратном порядке: левой рукой держась за притолоку, а правую заложив за пояс и т. д. Казалось, это стоит один человек - перед зеркалом. Муни сказал, усмехнувшись:

- А вот и отражение пришло.

Мы стали следить. Стоящий спиною к нам опустил правую руку. В тот же миг другой опустил левую. Первый сделал ещё какое-то движение - второй опять с точностью отразил его. Потом ещё и ещё. Это становилось жутко. Муни смотрел, молчал и постукивал ногой. Внезапно второй стремительно повернулся и исчез за выступами арки. Должно быть, его позвали. Муни вскочил, побледнев как мел. Потом успокоился и сказал:

- Если бы ушёл наш, а отражение осталось, я бы не вынес. Пощупай, что с сердцем делается.



By otrazhenie (the reflection) Muni means polovoy (a waiter) who came and repeated the pose of another waiter, his vis-à-vis. An obsolete word for “waiter,” polovoy means “sexual.” Kinbote (who asks God to rid him of his love for little boys) is a sexual pervert.



According to Hodasevich, he and Muni were inexperienced boys who accidentally scooped a drop of the other-worldly matter about which the poet had written. The allusion is to Fet’s poem Lastochki (“Swallows,” 1884) that ends in the lines:



Не так ли я, сосуд скудельный,
Дерзаю на запретный путь,
Стихии чуждой, запредельной,
Стремясь хоть каплю зачерпнуть?



Thus I, frail vessel, am forbidden
To take the foreign road, and dip
To scoop a drop; the ways are hidden
Of alien streams I may not sip.



The poem’s first line, Prirody prazdnyi soglyadatay (“The idle spy of nature”), brings to mind VN’s story Soglyadatay (“The Eye,” 1930) and Shade’s words that he felt nature glued to him. The author of Alter ego (1878), Afanasiy Fet-Shenshin was married to Maria Botkin. The “real” name of Sybil Shade (the poet’s wife whom Kinbote calls “Sybil Swallow”) seems to be Sofia Botkin, née Lastochkin.



Hodasevich says that he and Muni were malen’kie ucheniki plokhikh magov (little pupils of bad magicians). Uchenik is the Russian title of Bourget’s novel Le Disciple (1889). In a letter of May 7, 1889, to Suvorin Chekhov discusses Bourget’s novel and mentions psikhologicheskie opyty (the psychological experiments):



Я прочёл «Ученика» Бурже в Вашем изложении и в русском переводе («Северный вестник»)…

I have read Bourget’s “Disciple” in your exposition and in the Russian translation (Northern Messenger)...



Что касается «психологических опытов», прививок детям пороков и самой фигуры Сикста, то всё это донельзя утрировано.

As to “the psychological experiments,” the vaccines of vices for children and the Sixte figure himself, all this is terribly exaggerated.



The word utrirovano (exaggerated) used by Chekhov comes from tri (three). The three main characters in Pale Fire, Shade, Kinbote and Gradus (the poet’s murderer) seem to represent three different aspects of Botkin’s personality. An American scholar of Russian descent, Professor Vsevolod Botkin went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus after the tragic death of his daughter Nadezhda (Hazel Shade of Kinbote’s Commentary). There is a hope (nadezhda) that, when Kinbote completes his work on Shade’s poem and commits suicide (on Oct. 19, 1959, the anniversary of Pushkin’s Lyceum), Botkin, like Count Vorontsov (a target of Pushkin’s epigrams, “half-milord, half-merchant, etc.”) will be “full” again.



Hodasevich’s Ballada (“A Ballad,” 1925) begins:



Мне невозможно быть собой,
Мне хочется сойти с ума…



It is impossible for me to be myself,

I would like to go mad…



In his poem Hodasevich says that for him the world is as transparent as steklo (glass). Shade’s murderer, Gradus was in the glass business. In his Commentary and Index Kinbote mentions Sudarg of Bokay (Jakob Gradus in reverse), a mirror maker of genius.



At the beginning of his poem Pered zerkalom (“In Front of the Mirror,” 1924) Hodasevich repeats the word ya (“I”) three times. The first word in Shade’s poem is “I.” Hodasevich’s poem has for epigraph the first line of Dante’s Inferno:



Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita.



At the end of his poem Ravenna (1909) Blok mentions Dante’s shade with aquiline profile that sings to him about the New Life:



Лишь по ночам, склонясь к долинам,
Ведя векам грядущим счёт,
Тень Данта с профилем орлиным
О Новой Жизни мне поёт.



Only at night, bending over the valleys,
counting the centuries to come,
Dante's shade with aquiline profile
sings to me about the New Life.



Pushkin’s Sonet (“The Sonnet,” 1830) begins:



Суровый Дант не презирал сонета.

Severe Dante did not scorn the sonnet.



The epigraph to Pushkin’s “Sonnet” is from Wordsworth: “Scorn not the sonnet, critic.” In Canto One of his poem Shade mentions his frame house between Goldsworth and Wordsmith (Lines 47-48). “Goldsworth and Wordsmith” hint at Oliver Goldsmith (c. 1730-74) and William Wordsworth (1770-1850). In VN’s novel Lolita (1955) Humbert Humbert (the narrator and main character who was born in Paris) mentions Felis tigris goldsmithi:



I remember as a child in Europe gloating over a map of North America that had “Appalachian Mountains” boldly running from Alabama up to New Brunswick, so that the whole region they spanned Tennessee, the Virginias, Pennsylvania, New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine, appeared to my imagination as a gigantic Switzerland or even Tibet, all mountain, glorious diamond peak upon peak, giant conifers, le montagnard émigré in his bear skin glory, and Felis tigris goldsmithi, and Red Indians under the catalpas. (2.16)



In his poem The Deserted Village (1770) Goldsmith mentions crouching tigers who wait their hapless prey. Hodasevich’s poem “In Front of the Mirror” ends in the lines:



Да, меня не пантера прыжками
На парижский чердак загнала.
И Виргилия нет за плечами, -
Только есть одиночество - в раме
Говорящего правду стекла.



Well, there was no leaping panther
chasing me up to my Paris garret,
and there's no Virgil at my shoulder -
there's only Solitude in the frame
of the talking, truthtelling looking-glass.



In his Commentary Kinbote mentions the roofs of Paris:



But to return to the roofs of Paris. Courage was allied in Oswin Bretwit with integrity kindness, dignity, and what can be euphemistically called endearing naïveté. When Gradus telephoned from the airport, and to whet his appetite read to him Baron B.'s message (minus the Latin tag), Bretwit's only thought was for the treat in store for him. Gradus had declined to say over the telephone what exactly the "precious papers" were, but it so happened that the ex-consul had been hoping lately to retrieve a valuable stamp collection that his father had bequeathed years ago to a now defunct cousin. The cousin had dwelt in the same house as Baron B., and with all these complicated and entrancing matters uppermost in his mind, the ex-consul, while awaiting his visitor, kept wondering not if the person from Zembla was a dangerous fraud, but whether he would bring all the albums at once or would do it gradually so as to see what he might get for his pains. Bretwit hoped the business would be completed that very night since on the following morning he was to be hospitalized and possibly operated upon (he was, and died under the knife). (note to Line 286)



Sous les toits de Paris (Under the Roofs of Paris, 1930) is a French film directed by René Clair. The characters of Pale Fire include Odon, a Zemblan actor and patriot who helps the king to escape from Zembla and who directs a movie in Paris:



Then, in the spring of the following year, a stunning piece of news came from abroad. The Zemblan actor Odon was directing the making of a cinema picture in Paris!

It was now correctly conjectured that if Odon had fled, the King had fled too. At an extraordinary session of the Extremist government there was passed from hand to hand, in grim silence, a copy of a French newspaper with the headline: L'EX-ROI DE ZEMBLA EST-IL À PARIS? (note to Line 171)



At the end of his Commentary Kinbote says that he may join forces with Odon in a new motion picture:



God will help me, I trust, to rid myself of any desire to follow the example of the other two characters in this work. I shall continue to exist. I may assume other disguises, other forms, but I shall try to exist. I may turn up yet, on another campus, as an old, happy, health heterosexual Russian, a writer in exile, sans fame, sans future, sans audience, sans anything but his art. I may join forces with Odon in a new motion picture: Escape from Zembla (ball in the palace, bomb in the palace square). I may pander to the simple tastes of theatrical critics and cook up a stage play, an old-fashioned melodrama with three principles: a lunatic who intends to kill an imaginary king, another lunatic who imagines himself to be that king, and a distinguished old poet who stumbles by chance into the line of fire, and perishes in the clash between the two figments. Oh, I may do many things! History permitting, I may sail back to my recovered kingdom, and with a great sob greet the gray coastline and the gleam of a roof in the rain. I may huddle and groan in a madhouse. But whatever happens, wherever the scene is laid, somebody, somewhere, will quietly set out--somebody has already set out, somebody still rather far away is buying a ticket, is boarding a bus, a ship, a plane, has landed, is walking toward a million photographers, and presently he will ring at my door--a bigger, more respectable, more competent Gradus. (note to Line 1000)



In Chapter Two (XIV: 6-7) of Eugene Onegin Pushkin mentions dvunogikh tvarey milliony (the millions of two-legged creatures) who for us are orudie odno (only tools).



Odon = Nodo (Odon’s half-brother, a cardsharp and despicable traitor) = odno (neut. of odin, “one). Odinochestvo (solitude), the word used by Hodasevich at the end of his poem “In Front of the Mirror,” comes from odin.



The last chapter of Hodasevich’s memoir essay “Muni” is entitled Oburevaemyi negr (“The Obsessed Negro”). According to Hodasevich, in his play Oburevaemyi negr Muni (who committed suicide in March of 1916) had predicted his own death. It is Kinbote’s black gardener, Balthasar, Prince of Loam, who disarms Gradus and saves Kinbote’s life (note to Line 1000). Balthasar was the name of one of the three magi who visited the infant Jesus after he was born. Like Jesus Christ (and Muni, and Pushkin, the poet who had African blood), Shade’s god died young.



Alexey Sklyarenko


Search archive with Google:
http://www.google.com/advanced_search?q=site:listserv.ucsb.edu&HL=en

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,dana.dragunoiu@gmail.com,shvabrin@humnet.ucla.edu
Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
Nabokov Studies: https://muse.jhu.edu/journal/257
Chercheurs Enchantes: http://www.vladimir-nabokov.org/association/chercheurs-enchantes/73
Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com
AdaOnline: "http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada: http://vnjapan.org/main/ada/index.html
The VN Bibliography Blog: http://vnbiblio.com/
Search the archive with L-Soft: https://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?A0=NABOKV-L

Manage subscription options :http://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=NABOKV-L