NABOKV-L post 0024553, Thu, 5 Sep 2013 21:26:10 -0400

Re: LATH vs. Pushkin's Boris Godunov
Interestingly, this scene is set in a Shakespearean "another part of the

On Wed, Sep 4, 2013 at 4:31 PM, Alexey Sklyarenko <>wrote:

> **
> I thought I had crossed the frontier when a bare-headed Red Army soldier
> with a Mongol face who was picking whortleberries near the trail challenged
> me: "And whither," he asked picking up his cap from a stump, "may you be
> rolling (*kotishsya*), little apple (*yablochko*)? *Pokazyvay-ka
> dokumentiki* (Let me see your papers)." (1.2)
> *Yabloko* (apple) is mentioned at the end of of Pushkin's *Boris Godunov*(1825). A
> man in the crowd quotes the saying *yabloko ot yabloni nedaleko padaet*("like mother, like child"):
> ONE OF THE PEOPLE. Brother and sister--poor children, like birds in a cage.
> SECOND PERSON. Are you going to pity them? Accursed family!
> FIRST PERSON. The father [Boris Godunov] was a villain, but the children
> are innocent.
> SECOND PERSON. The apple does not fall far from the apple-tree. (The
> Kremlin. House of Boris)
> One of the main characters in *Boris Godunov* is Grigoriy Otrepiev, a
> fugitive monk who becomes the Pretender to the Throne of Russia (False
> Dimitry I). Like Pushkin's Grishka, the hero and narrator of LATH, Vadim
> Vadimovich N., is an impostor. His crossing the frontier reminds one of
> Grigoriy's escape from Russia:
> HOSTESS. They will not catch the old devil; as if there were no other road
> into Lithuania than the highway! Just turn to the left from here, then by
> the pinewood or by the footpath as far as the chapel on the Chekansky
> brook, and then straight across the marsh to Khlopin, and thence to
> Zakhariev, and then any child will guide you to the Luyov mountains. (BG,
> "Tavern on the Lithuanian Frontier")
> It is Dagmara, Mstislav Charnetski's young mistress, who shows to Vadim
> a trail leading across the frontier:
> One autumn evening poor Mstislav's young mistress showed me a fairy-tale
> path winding through a great forest where a last aurochs had been speared
> by a first Charnetski under John III (Sobieski). I followed that path with
> a knapsack on my back and--why not confess--a tremor of remorse and anxiety
> in my young heart. Was I right in abandoning my cousin in the blackest hour
> of Russia's black history? Did I know how to exist alone in strange lands?
> (1.2)
> Years later, a line from Bel's poem, *umnitsa tropka* (the intelligent
> trail) serves as a code between Vadim and his daughter. From Dora's letter
> to Vadim:
> In order to convince you that she [Bel] is here, with me, telling me to
> write you and unable to write herself, I am appending a little clue or
> token that only you and she can decode: "...and the intelligent trail (*i
> umnitsa tropka*)." (5.1)
> Bel is the daughter of Vadim and his second wife Annette Blagovo. The
> latter is a namesake of Anyuta Blagovo, a character Chekhov's story *Moya
> zhizn'* (*My Life*, 1896). The story's hero and narrator has a rare name
> Misail. Misail and Varlaam are characters in *Boris Godunov*, the two
> wandering friars with whom Grishka dines in a tavern on the Lithuanian
> frontier.
> Vadim never tells us his family name, but I think it can be guessed.
> Would I despise her [Lyuba Savich] for having an album with reviews of my
> books pasted in--Morozov's and Yablokov's lovely essays as well as the
> trash of such hacks as Boris Nyet, and Boyarski? (2.2)
> Vadim's friend Boris Morozov, the poet, and Boris Nyet are the namesakes
> of Boris Godunov. Ньет (Nyet) is an anagram of тень (shade; shadow). In
> Pushkin's drama Grigoriy tells Marina Mnishek:
> Тень Грозного меня усыновила,
> Димитрием из гроба нарекла...
> The shade of Ivan the Terrible has adopted me,
> has from the grave named me Dimitry ...
> *Boyarskiy* means "of or pertaining to *boyarin *(boyar), a member of the
> old nobility in Russia (before Peter's reforms)." *Prigovor boyarskiy*(the boyar verdict) is mentioned in
> *Boris Godunov*. Yablokov comes from *yabloko* (apple). "The apple does
> not fall far from the apple-tree (*yablonya*)," and it seems to me that
> Vadim's real name is Yablonski. Vadim changes only its initial, when he
> wants us to suppose that his real name is Oblonski:
> Let us suppose my real name to have been "Oblonsky" (a Tolstoyan
> invention); then the false one would be, for example, the mimetic "O. B.
> Long," an oblong blursky, so to speak. (5.1)
> Oblonski is Anna Karenin's maiden name. At the beginning of Tolstoy's
> novel Anna's brother Stepan Arkadievich ("Stiva") Oblonski wakes up and
> realizes that his wife Dolly is about to leave him. When he
> visits Bel (who is to marry soon Charlie Everette with whom she will elope
> to the Soviet Union where she will become Isabella Vadimovna Vetrov) at her
> boarding school in Switzerland, Vadim for some reason calls her "Dolly:"
> "Come and see us at Quirn soon, soon, Dolly," I said, as we all stood on
> the sidewalk with mountains outlined in solid black against an aquamarine
> sky, and choughs jacking harshly, flying in flocks to roost, away, away.
> I cannot explain the slip, but it angered Bel more than anything had ever
> angered her at any time.
> "What is he saying?" she cried, looking in turn at Louise, at her beau,
> and again at Louise. "What does he mean? Why does he call me 'Dolly'? Who
> is she for God's sake? Why, why (turning to me), why did you say that?"
> "*Obmolvka, prosti* (lapse of the tongue, sorry)," I replied, dying,
> trying to turn everything into a dream, a dream about that hideous last
> moment. (4.7)
> Vadim feels that a demon is forcing him to impersonate some other writer
> who was and would always be incomparably greater, healthier, and crueler
> than he (2.3). That other writer is Nabokov, the author of* Lolita*. She
> [Lolita] was *Dolly* at school. Lolita's (Dolly's) full name is Dolores
> Haze. According to John Ray, Jr., 'Haze' only rhymes with the heroine's
> real surname. Similarly, Oblonski rhymes with Vadim's real surname,
> Yablonski.
> Alexey Sklyarenko
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