NABOKV-L post 0027198, Mon, 10 Oct 2016 15:43:36 +0300

Subject
Shade's death in Pale Fire; John Ray, Jr. in Lolita
Date
Body
One of the three main characters in VN’s novel Pale Fire (1962), Kinbote believes that, to be completed, Shade’s unfinished poem needs but one line: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain.” But it seems that, like some sonnets, Shade’s poem also needs a coda: “By its own double in the windowpane.”



Shade’s poem remains unfinished, because the author is killed by Gradus. In one of his poems the philosopher Vladimir Solov’yov compares himself to stogradusnyi spirt (the pure alcohol). In his essay Sud’ba Pushkina (“The Fate of Pushkin,” 1897) Solovyov affirms that Pushkin was killed not by Heeckeren’s bullet, but by his own vystrel (the shot he fired) at Heeckeren:



Пушкин убит не пулею Геккерна, а своим собственным выстрелом в Геккерна. (chapter X)



Vystrel (“The Shot”) is one of the stories in Pushkin’s Povesti Belkina (“The Tales of Belkin,” 1830).



выстрел + Ардис + вода + Посейдон + ода = Выра + стрела + Одиссей + Дон/дно + водопад



выстрел – shot

Ардис – Ardis, in VN’s novel Ada (1969) Daniel Veen’s country estate (in Greek ardis means “the point of an arrow”)

вода – water

Посейдон – Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the sea identified by the Romans with Neptune

ода - ode

Выра – the Nabokovs’ country estate in the Province of St. Petersburg

стрела - arrow

Одиссей - Odysseus

Дон – the Don; cf. Onegin’s Don stallion in Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin and Baron d’Onsky (in Ada, Demon Veen’s adversary in a sword duel)

дно – bottom

водопад – waterfall; an ode (1791-94) by Derzhavin



Poor Aqua’s last note in Ada (1.3) is signed “my sister’s sister who teper’ iz ada (now is out of hell).” At the end of his essay Solovyov twice uses the word ada (Gen. of ad, “hell”):



Поэзия сама по себе не есть ни добро, ни зло: она есть цветение и сияние духовных сил - добрых, или злых. У ада есть свой мимолётный цвет и своё обманчивое сияние. Поэзия Пушкина не была и не могла быть таким цветом и сиянием ада, а сохранить и возвести на новую высоту добрый смысл своей поэзии он уже не мог бы, так как ему пришлось бы всю душу свою положить на внутреннее нравственное примирение с потерянным в кровавом деле добром. (chapter XI)



According to V. Solovyov (who defines poetry as “the blossoming and shining of spiritual powers, either good, or evil), ad (hell) has its transient blossom and its deceptive radiance. Pushkin’s poetry was not and could not be such a blossom and radiance of hell. Had Pushkin killed d’Anthès, he would have never reached the new heights of poetry afterwards.



In his essay Solovyov quotes (slightly changing them) the lines from Torzhestvo pobediteley (“The Triumph of Victors,” 1828), a poem by Zhukovski in which Poseidon and Odysseus are mentioned:



Между тем, постоянно возвращаясь мыслью к этому мучительному предмету, останавливаясь на давно известных фактах и узнавая новые подробности, благодаря обнародованным после 1880 и особенно после 1887 года документам, я должен был, наконец, прийти к печальному утешению:



Жизнь его не враг отъял,-

Он своею силой пал,

Жертва гибельного гнева,-



своею силой или, лучше сказать, своим отказом от той нравственной силы, которая была ему доступна и пользование которою было ему всячески облегчено. (chapter II)



Zhukovski’s poem is his Russian version of Das Siegesfest (1803) by Friedrich Schiller. Here are the lines that Solovyov quotes in his essay in the original:



Nicht der Feind hat dich entrafft:
Ajax fiel durch Ajax' Kraft.
Ach, der Zorn verderbt die Besten!



In VN’s novel Lolita (1955) Dolores Haze (Lolita’s “real” name) marries Richard F. Schiller and dies in childbirth. We learn of Lolita’s death from John Ray, Jr., the fictitious author of the Foreword. In Chapter Four of VN’s novel Dar (“The Gift,” 1937), “The Life of Chernyshevski,” Fyodor quotes Strannolyubski, Chernyshevski’s fictitious biographer who mentions pushkinskiy luch (a ray of Pushkin’s light):



И вот, "кружащаяся пылинка, попала в пушкинский луч, проникающий между штор русской критической мысли", по образному и злому выражению биографа. Мы имеем в виду следующую магическую гамму судьбы: в саратовском дневнике Чернышевский применил к своему жениховству цитату из "Египетских ночей", с характерным для него, бесслухого, искажением и невозможным заключительным слогом: "Я принял вызов наслаждения, как вызов битвы принял бы". За это "бы" судьба, союзница муз (сама знающая толк в этой частице), ему и отомстила, -- да с какой изощрённой незаметностью в нарастании кары!



And now “a revolving speck of dust has got caught in a ray of Pushkin’s light, which has penetrated between the blinds of Russian critical thought,” to use Strannolyubski’s caustic metaphor. We have in mind the following magic gamut of fate: in his Saratov diary Chernyshevski applied two lines from Pushkin’s “The Egyptian Nights” to his courtship, completely misquoting the second one, with a characteristic (for him who had no ear) distortion: “I [he] met the challenge of delight / As warfare’s challenge met I’d have (instead of “As he would meet in days of war / The challenge of a savage battle”). For this “I’d have,” fate—the ally of the muses (and herself an expert in conditional forms), took revenge on him—and with what refined stealth in the evolution of the punishment!



Note магическая гамма судьбы (the magic gamut of fate) mentioned by Fyodor. Much to Fyodor’s regret, his father refused to detect in the modern poetry the long, life-giving ray of Pushkin:



Его ошибка заключалась не в том, что он свально охаял всю «поэзию модерн», а в том, что он в ней не захотел высмотреть длинный животворный луч любимого своего поэта.

His mistake was not that he ran down all “modern poetry” indiscriminately, but that he refused to detect in it the long, life-giving ray of his favorite poet. (Chapter Three)



One of the characters of “The Gift,” Alexander Yakovlevich Chernyshevski went mad after the suicide of his son Yasha. Shade’s, Kinbote’s and Gradus’ “real” name seems to be Botkin. An American scholar of Russian descent, Professor Vsevolod Botkin went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus after the suicide of his daughter Nadezhda (Hazel Shade of her father’s poem). In his essay Bryusov (1924) included in his memoirs Necropolis (1939) Khodasevich speaks of the suicide of Bryusov’s mistress Nadezhda Lvov and quotes (not quite correctly) the last lines of Zhukovski’s poem “The Triumph of Victors:”



Сам Брюсов на другой день после надиной смерти бежал в Петербург, а оттуда - в Ригу, в какой-то санаторий. Через несколько времени он вернулся в Москву, уже залечив душевную рану и написав новые стихи, многие из которых посвящались новой, уже санаторной "встрече"... На ближайшей среде "Свободной Эстетики", в столовой Литературно-Художественого Кружка, за ужином, на котором присутствовала "вся Москва" - писатели с женами, молодые поэты, художники, меценаты и меценатки - он предложил прослушать его новые стихи. Все затаили дыхание - и не напрасно: первое же стихотворение оказалось декларацией. Не помню подробностей, помню только, что это была вариация на тему



Мёртвый, в гробе мирно спи,

Жизнью пользуйся живущий,



а каждая строфа начиналась словами: "Умершим - мир!" Прослушав строфы две, я встал из-за стола и пошёл к дверям. Брюсов приостановил чтение. На меня зашикали: все понимали, о чём идет речь, и требовали, чтобы я не мешал удовольствию.



Khodasevich mentions a sanatorium in Riga where Bryusov stayed after Nadya’s death. According to Kinbote, Gradus’ father Martin was a Protestant minister in Riga.



Khodasevich describes Bryusov’s first appearance in public after his return from Riga when he read his new verses. In his Commentary Kinbote describes his visit to the Shades (in the moment when Shade is reading his new poem to his wife) and says that “victors are generous:”



I crept back to me cheerless domicile with a heavy heart and a puzzled mind. The heart remained heavy but the puzzle was solved a few days later, very probably on St. Swithin's Day, for I find in my little diary under that date the anticipatory "promnad vespert mid J.S.," crossed out with a petulance that broke the lead in midstroke. Having waited and waited for my friend to join me in the lane, until the red of the sunset turned to the ashes of dusk, I walked over to his front door, assessed the gloom and the silence, and started to walk around the house. This time not a glint came from the back parlor, but by the bright prosaic light in the kitchen I distinguished one end of a whitewashed table and Sybil sitting at it with so rapt a look on her face that one might have supposed she had just thought up a new recipe. The back door was ajar, and as I tapped it open and launched upon some gay airy phrase, I realized that Shade, sitting at the other end of the table, was in the act of reading to her something that I guessed to be part of his poem. They both started. An unprintable oath escaped from him and he slapped down on the table the stack of index cards he had in his hand. Later he was to attribute this temperamental outburst ot his having mistaken, with his reading glasses on, a welcome friend for an intruding salesman; but I must say it shocked me, it shocked me greatly, and disposed me at the time to read a hideous meaning into everything that followed. "Well, sit down," said Sybil, "and have some coffee" (victors are generous). I accepted, as I wanted to see if the recitation would be continued in my presence. It was not. "I thought," I said to my friend, "you were coming out with me for a stroll." He excused himself saying he felt out of sorts, and continued to clean the bowl of his pipe as fiercely as if it were my heart he was hollowing out. (note to Lines 47-48)



John Francis Shade has the same first name as John Ray, Jr.



Alexey Sklyarenko


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