NABOKV-L post 0027030, Sun, 29 May 2016 20:34:29 +0300

Subject
Lieutenant Starov, Irida Osipovna & Patria in LATH
Date
Body
Nadezhda Gordonovna Starov was the wife of a leytenant Starov (Christian
name unimportant), who had served under General Wrangel and now had some
office job in the White Cross. I had met him in London recently, as fellow
pallbearer at the funeral of the old Count, whose bastard or "adopted
nephew" (whatever that meant), he was said to be. (LATH, 1.11)



In his poem Kinematograf (“Cinematograph,” 1913) Mandelshtam describes a
motion picture and mentions leytenant flota (a navy lieutenant), a
grey-haired Count’s bastard whom beautiful young Countess loves selflessly,
like a brother:



Кинематограф. Три скамейки.
Сентиментальная горячка.
Аристократка и богачка
В сетях соперницы-злодейки.



Не удержать любви полёта:
Она ни в чем не виновата!
Самоотверженно, как брата,
Любила лейтенанта флота.



А он скитается в пустыне ―
Седого графа сын побочный.
Так начинается лубочный
Роман красавицы графини…



It is Lieutenant Starov who kills Iris Black (the first of Vadim
Vadimovich’s three or four successive wives):



The story that appeared among other faits-divers in the Paris dailies after
an investigation by the police--whom Ivor and I contrived to mislead
thoroughly--amounted to what follows--I translate: a White Russian, Wladimir
Blagidze, alias Starov, who was subject to paroxysms of insanity, ran amuck
Friday night in the middle of a calm street, opened fire at random, and
after killing with one pistol shot an English tourist Mrs. [name garbled],
who chanced to be passing by, blew his brains out beside her. (1.13)



It is possible that old Count Starov was the real father of Vadim, his wife
Iris and his wife’s murderer. Perhaps, Nadezhda Gordonovna wanted to tell
this to Vadim:



From somewhere in the Orkneys, Nadezhda Gordonovna and a clerical friend
arrived in Paris only after her husband's burial. Moved by a false sense of
duty, she attempted to see me so as to tell me "everything." I evaded all
contact with her, but she managed to locate Ivor in London before he left
for the States. I never asked him, and the dear funny fellow never revealed
to me what that "everything" was; I refuse to believe that it could have
amounted to much--and I knew enough, anyway. (ibid.)



The editor of Patria calls Vadim’s first wife “Irida Osipovna:”



The editor of Patria, the émigré monthly in which Pawn Takes Queen had
begun to be serialized, invited "Irida Osipovna" and me to a literary
samovar. (1.11)



Iris Black’ Russian patronymic seems to hint at Osip Mandelstam (the poet
whose wife’s name was Nadezhda). In a humorous little poem Mandelshtam (a
friend of the poet and translator Benedikt Lifshits) reverts the Latin
saying ubi bene, ibi patria:



Ubi bene, ibi patria, ―
Но имея другом Бена
Лившица, скажу обратное:
Ubi patria, ibi bene.



According to Vadim, one of his translators, Mr. Kulich, signed his letters
Ben:



I received the typed translations of The Red Topper (sic) and Camera Lucida
virtually at the same time, in the autumn of 1937. They proved to be even
more ignoble than I expected. Miss Haworth, an Englishwoman, had spent three
happy years in Moscow where her father had been Ambassador; Mr. Kulich was
an elderly Russian-born New Yorker who signed his letters Ben. (2.10)



Kulich means “Easter cake.” In his poem Kholodnaya vesna. Beskhlebnyi,
robkiy Krym… (“Cold spring. The breadless, timid Crimea…” 1933)
Mandelshtam mentions Wrangel and paskhal’noy glupost’yu ukrashennyi
mindal’ (almond trees decorated with Easter nonsense):



Холодная весна. Бесхлебный, робкий Крым.
Как был при Врангеле, такой же виноватый.
Колючки на земле, на рубищах заплаты,
Всё тот же кисленький, кусающийся дым.



Всё так же хороша рассеянная даль,
Деревья, почками набухшие на малость,
Стоят, как пришлые, и вызывает жалость
Пасхальной глупостью украшенный миндаль.



Природа своего не узнает лица,
И тени страшные Украйны и Кубани ―
На войлочной земле голодные крестьяне
Калитку стерегут, не трогая кольца...



Lieutenant Starov shoots Iris dead when she returns from a Paris restaurant
where she dined with her husband and her brother Ivor. At the beginning of
his review of Bely’s autobiographical Zapiski chudaka (An Eccentric's
Notes, 1922) Mandelshtam mentions a Moscow restaurant:



Русский символизм жив. Русский символизм
не умер. Пифон клубится. Андрей Белый прод
олжает славные традиции литературной эпо
хи, когда половой, отраженный двойными зе
ркалами ресторана ?Прага?, воспринимался
как мистическое явление, двойник, и поряд
очный литератор стеснялся лечь спать, не
накопив за день пяти или шести ?ужасиков?.



Andrey Bely (whose penname means “white”) is the author of Arlekinada
(“The Harlequinade,” 1906), a poem dedicated to modern harlequins, and of
Masterstvo Gogolya (“Gogol’s Craftsmanship,” 1934). In his Stikhi pamyati
Andreya Belogo (“Verses in Memory of Andrey Bely,” 1934) Mandelshtam
mentions Gogol:



Откуда привезли? Кого? Который умер?
Где ?будут хоронить?? Мне что-то невдомёк.
Скажите, говорят, какой-то Гоголь умер.
Не Гоголь, так себе, писатель-гоголёк.



Ivor Black (an amateur actor and director who moved to Hollywood) wants
Vadim to prepare a script based on Gogol’s play Inspector (1836):



Ivor described his own house in Los Angeles. He proposed discussing with me
after dinner a script he wished me to prepare based on Gogol's Inspector (we
were back at the start, so to speak). Iris asked for another helping of
whatever it was we were eating.

"You will die," said Ivor. "It's monstrously rich. Remember what Miss Grunt
(a former governess to whom he would assign all kinds of gruesome apothegms)
used to say: `The white worms lie in wait for the glutton.' "

"That's why I want to be burned when I die," remarked Iris.

He ordered a second or third bottle of the indifferent white wine I had had
the polite weakness to praise. We drank to his last film--I forget its
title--which was to be shown tomorrow in London, and later in Paris, he
hoped. (1.13)



In Gogol’s Inspector Osip is the name of Khlestakov’s valet. According to
Khlestakov, he is s Pushkinym na druzheskoy noge (on friendly terms with
Pushkin). The name-and-patronymic of Pushkin’s mother was Nadezhda
Osipovna. In Kishinev Pushkin had a pistol duel with Colonel Starov. In his
poem K moryu (“To the Sea,” 1824) Pushkin speaks of Napoleon’s and
Byron’s deaths. Nadezhda Gordonovna Starov’s patronymic seems to hint at
Byron (the poet who had an affair with his half-sister Augusta). Her
husband, Lieutenant Starov, was a naval officer (leytenant was a rank in the
Imperial Russian Navy).



Alexey Sklyarenko


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