NABOKV-L post 0024565, Mon, 9 Sep 2013 14:07:20 +0300

Subject
Esmeralda and her Parandrus in LATH
Date
Body
Vadim's novel Esmeralda and her Parandrus seems to correspond to VN's Bend Sinister. Parandrus is a mythical animal that can change its shape at will.

His [Shakespeare's] name is protean. He begets doubles at every corner. (Bend Sinister, chapter 7)

Proteus is a sea god noted for his ability to assume different forms.
Vadim, whom a demon is forcing to impersonate another writer, is VN's double.

In VN's Ada Van calls Lucette "our Esmeralda and mermaid" and mentions embers:

We are sorry you left so soon. We are even sorrier to have inveigled our Esmeralda and mermaid in a naughty prank. That sort of game will never be played again with you, darling firebird. We apollo [apologize]. Remembrance, embers and membranes of beauty make artists and morons lose all self-control. (2.8)

Van, Ada and Lucette are great-grandchildren of Prince Peter Zemski (1772-1832). In his poem Biblioteka (The Library) Prince Peter Vyazemski calls Voltaire Protey-pisatel' ("the protean writer").

In Shakespeare's Hamlet the Queen compares drowning Ophelia to a mermaid:

Her clothes spread wide,
And mermaid-like awhile they bore her up,
Which time she chanted snatches of old lauds,
As one incapable of her own distress,
Or like a creature native and indued
Unto that element. (4.7.174-79)

The mad scholar in Esmeralda and Her Parandrus wreathes Botticelli and Shakespeare together by having Primavera end as Ophelia with all her flowers. (LATH, 4.2)

In Bend Sinister Ember (the Shakespeare scholar) calls Ophelia "a mermaid of Lethe, a rare water serpent, Russalka letheana of science," and mentions Botticelli:

The uncommon cold of a Botticellian angel tinged her [Ophelia's] nostrils with pink and suffused her underlip - you know, when the rims of her lips merge with the skin. (chapter 7)

Esmeralda is the gypsy street dancer in Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris (1831). She always appears with her clever goat Djali. The goat's name brings to mind zhalo (Russ., sting). In Speak, Memory (Chapter Eleven, 5) VN mentions vospominan'ya zhalo (memory's sting), the phrase used by him in his first poem. In his poem Zhelanie (Desire, 1858) Vyazemski compares Desire to ever diverse Proteus (Protey, vsegda raznoobraznyi) and speaks of Desire's zhalo (sting):

Как в беззащитную обитель
Вошедший нагло тать ночной,
Желанье, хитрый искуситель,
Довольно ты владело мной.

Протей, всегда разнообразный,
Во все приманки красоты,
Во все мечты, во все соблазны
Волшебно облекалось ты...

Довольно раб твой безоружный
Тебе игралищем служил.
В душе усталой и недужной
Уж нет порывов, нет уж сил.

Давно твоё их точит жало,
Давно исчерпан ключ страстей;
Мою ты алчность раздражало,
Но пищи не давало ей.

The epigraph to Desire is the first line of Baratynski's Razuverenie (Dissuasion, 1821), Ne iskushay menya bez nuzhdy... (Do not tempt me without need...)

Btw., in his poem Ferney (1859) Vyazemski calls Voltaire greshnik slavy ("the sinner of fame").

Alexey Sklyarenko

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