NABOKV-L post 0027132, Tue, 2 Aug 2016 13:20:33 +0300

Subject
Shade's, Kinbote's & Gradus' years of birth in Pale Fire
Date
Body
Shade, Kinbote and Gradus have the same birthday: July 5. But, while Shade was born in 1898, Kinbote and Gradus were born in 1915.



V. Solovyov’s essay Zhiznennaya drama Platona (“Plato’s Life-Drama”), a preface to his Russian translation of Plato’s Dialogues, appeared in 1898.



According to G. Ivanov, he was fifteen when he visited Alexander Blok for the first time. In his memoirs Peterburgskie zimy (“The St. Petersburg Winters,” 1931) G. Ivanov quotes an entry in Blok’s diary:



В дневнике Блока 1909 г. есть запись: "говорил с Георгием Ивановым о Платоне. Он ушёл от меня другим человеком". В этой записи, быть может, объяснение и писем и разговоров. Должно быть, Блок не замечал моего возраста и не слушал моих наивных реплик. Должно быть, он говорил не столько со мной, сколько с самим собой. Случай — я был перед ним, в его орбите, — и он посылал мне свои туманные лучи, почти не видя меня.



“I talked with Georgiy Ivanov about Plato. When he left me, he was a different man.” According to G. Ivanov, Blok did not notice his young age and ignored his naïve remarks and spoke to himself rather than to his visitor: “I was in front of him, in his orbit and he sent me his misty rays, almost without seeing me.” (In the paragraph that immediately precedes the one quoted above G. Ivanov mentions his question “does a sonnet need a coda” and his surprise when Blok, a celebrated maitre, replied that he did not know what a coda was.)



In his poem Est’ igra: ostorozhno voyti… (“There is a play: carefully enter…” 1913) Blok mentions taynye syshchiki (secret sleuths) who are present almost in every company and who can change people by just looking at them:



Не корысть, не влюблённость, не месть;

Так — игра, как игра у детей:

И в собрании каждом людей

Эти тайные сыщики есть.



Ты и сам иногда не поймёшь,

Отчего так бывает порой,

Что собою ты к людям придёшь,

А уйдёшь от людей — не собой.



Sometimes you are at a loss to understand

why it happens to you:

you come to people as yourself

and leave people not as yourself.



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 (the poet’s daughter) committed suicide in March of 1957. According to Kinbote, he arrived in America in October of 1958:



John Shade's heart attack (Oct. 17, 1958) practically coincided with the disguised king's arrival in America where he descended by parachute from a chartered plane piloted by Colonel Montacute, in a field of hay-feverish, rank-flowering weeds, near Baltimore whose oriole is not an oriole. (note to Line 691)



G. Ivanov died in 1958. One of the main themes in G. Ivanov’s poetry is suicide. There is a hope (nadezhda) that, after Kinbote completes his work on Shade’s poem and commits suicide, Botkin will be “full” again. In Canto Two of his poem, in which he speaks of his daughter (whose name is withhold), Shade mentions the talks with Socrates and Proust in cypress walks:



So why join in the vulgar laughter? Why
Scorn a hereafter none can verify:
The Turk's delight, the future lyres, the talks
With Socrates and Proust in cypress walks,
The seraph with his six flamingo wings,
And Flemish hells with porcupines and things?
It isn't that we dream too wild a dream:
The trouble is we do not make it seem
Sufficiently unlikely; for the most
We can think up is a domestic ghost. (ll. 221-230)



According to V. Solovyov, at the center of Plato’s life-drama was Socrates’ suicide:



Сократ должен был умереть как преступник. Вот трагический удар в самом начале жизненной драмы Платона. Подобно некоторым древним трагедиям, а также шекспировскому Гамлету, эта драма не только кончается, но и начинается трагической катастрофой. (XII)



Solovyov compares Plato’s life-drama to ancient tragedies and to Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In the Index entry on Botkin, V. Kinbote mentions botkin or bodkin, a Danish stiletto:



Botkin, V., American scholar of Russian descent, <http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/commentary.html#comline894> 894; king-bot, maggot of extinct fly that once bred in mammoths and is thought to have hastened their phylogenetic end, <http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/commentary.html#comline247> 247; bottekin-maker, <http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/commentary.html#comline71> 71; bot, plop, and boteliy, big-bellied (Russ.); botkin or bodkin, a Danish stiletto.



In his famous monologue (“To be or not to be…”) in Shakespeare’s play Hamlet mentions a bare bodkin:



For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Th' oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despis'd love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office, and the spurns
That patient merit of th' unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? (3.1)



Among Russian translators of Hamlet was KR (the Grand Duke Konstantin Romanov, 1858-1915). A pupil of Afanasiy Fet (the poet who was married to Maria Botkin), KR was born one hundred years before G. Ivanov’s death and died in the year of Kinbote’s and Gradus’ birth. In VN’s story Admiralteyskaya igla (“The Admiralty Spire,” 1933) the narrator mentions Hamlet, KR (Grand Duke Constantine) and Blok:



И всё-таки я буду, как Гамлет, спорить,-- и переспорю Вас…

Nevertheless, like Hamlet, I will argue, and, in the end will, out-argue you.



По-вашему выходит так, что мы с Катей вращались в каком-то изысканно культурном бо-монде. Ошибка на параллакс, сударыня. В среде -- пускай светской,-- к которой Катя принадлежала, вкусы были по меньшей мере отсталые. Чехов считался декадентом, К. Р.-- крупным поэтом, Блок -- вредным евреем, пишущим футуристические сонеты об умирающих лебедях и лиловых ликёрах.

Your version gives the impression that Katya and I inhabited a kind of exquisitely cultured beau monde. You have your parallax wrong, dear lady. That upper-class milieu—the fashionable set, if you will—to which Katya belonged, had backward tastes, to put it mildly. Chekhov was considered an “impressionist,” the society rhymester Grand Duke Constantine a major poet, and the arch-Christian Alexander Blok a wicked Jew who wrote futuristic sonnets about dying swans and lilac liqueurs.



In VN’s novel Ada (1969) Van quotes KR’s most famous poem, Uzh gasli v komnatakh ogni… (“Lights in the rooms were going out,” 1883), in his translation:



‘One of these days,’ he said, ‘I will ask you for a repeat performance. You will sit as you did four years ago, at the same table, in the same light, drawing the same flower, and I shall go through the same scene with such joy, such pride, such — I don’t know — gratitude! Look, all the windows are dark now. I, too, can translate when I simply have to. Listen to this:



Lights in the rooms were going out.

Breathed fragrantly the rozï.

We sat together in the shade

Of a wide-branched beryozï.’



‘Yes, "birch" is what leaves the translator in the "lurch," doesn’t it? That’s a terrible little poem by Konstantin Romanov, right? Just elected president of the Lyascan Academy of Literature, right? Wretched poet and happy husband. Happy husband!’ (1.38)



“The shade of a wide-branched birch” in KR’s poem brings to mind the name of one of the three main characters in PF.



The characters of VN’s novel Camera Obscura (1932) include the German writer Dietrich von Segelkranz, whose name hints at Rosencrantz, Guildenstern’s friend in Hamlet. Segelkranz used to know personally the late Marcel Proust and imitated him and some other innovators. In his insulting article on VN in the Paris review Chisla (Numbers #1, 1930) G. Ivanov accuses Sirin (VN’s Russian nom de plume) of imitating French and German examples:



В «Короле, даме, валете» старательно скопирован средний немецкий образец. В «Защите Лужина» — французский. Это очевидно, это бросается в глаза — едва перелистаешь книги. И секрет того, что главным образом пленило в Сирине некоторых критиков, — объясняется просто. «Так по-русски ещё не писали». Совершенно верно — но по-французски и по-немецки так пишут почти все…



crown + Plato/tolpa = crow + Platon = clown + tropa



tolpa – crowd; cf. Poet i tolpa (“The Poet and the Mob,” 1828), a poem by Pushkin

Platon – Plato in Russian spelling

tropa - path



Alexey Sklyarenko


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