Gumilyovs poem Shestoe chuvstvo (The Sixth Sense, 1920) begins: Prekrasno v nas vlyublyonnoe vino (Fine is the wine that is in love with us). In my post of Feb. 15, Baudelaire & furniture in Ada, I said that I never saw a liquor that would be in love with a person. But a few days ago I came across the following passage in Anatole Frances Penguin Island (1908):


St. Augustine began to speak. There was a great silence.

"I am going," said the ardent bishop of Hippo, "to show you, by an example, the power of formulas. It deals, it is true, with a diabolical operation. But if it be established that formulas taught by the Devil have effect upon unintelligent animals or even on inanimate objects, how can we longer doubt that the effect of the sacramental formulas extends to the minds of beasts and even to inert matter?

"This is the example. There was during my lifetime in the town of Madaura, the birthplace of the philosopher Apuleius, a witch who was able to attract men to her chamber by burning a few of their hairs along with certain herbs upon her tripod, pronouncing at the same time certain words. Now one day when she wished by this means to gain the love of a young man, she was deceived by her maid, and instead of the young man's hairs, she burned some hairs pulled from a leather bottle, made out of a goatskin that hung in a tavern. During the night the leather bottle, full of wine, capered through the town up to the witch's door. This fact is undoubted. And in sacraments as in enchantments it is the form which operates. The effect of a divine formula cannot be less in power and extent than the effect of an infernal formula." (Book One, chapter 6 An Assembly in Paradise)


In his essay The Texture of Time (begun 1922) Van Veen (the narrator and main character in VNs novel Ada, 1969) mentions St. Augustine:


Such a drought affected Hippo in the most productive months of Augustines bishopric that clepsydras had to be replaced by sandglasses. He defined the Past as what is no longer and the future as what is not yet (actually the future is a fantasm belonging to another category of thought essentially different from that of the Past which, at least, was here a moment ago where did I put it? Pocket? But the search itself is already past). (Part Four)


Anatole France is the author of La Rvolte des anges (The Revolt of the Angels, 1914). In his essay Van mentions Engelwein (an invented philosopher; in German, Engel means angel and Wein, wine):


One especially grotesque inference, drawn (I think by Engelwein) from Relativity Theory and destroying it, if drawn correctly is that the galactonaut and his domestic animals, after touring the speed spas of Space, would return younger than if they had stayed at home all the time. Imagine them filing out of their airark rather like those Lions, juvenilified by romp suits, exuding from one of those huge chartered buses that stop, horribly blinking, in front of a mans impatient sedan just where the highway wizens to squeeze through the narrows of a mountain village. (ibid)


Gumilyov (who almost shares with Anatole France his birthday) was executed in August of 1921. In his poem Zabludivshiysya tramvay (The Lost Tram, 1921) Gumilyov compares the executioners face to an udder (cf. Mr Goodmans face in TRLSK and the face of Falstaff in VNs poem Shakespeare):


ӧ֧ܧ... ܧӧ ߧѧݧڧ ҧܧӧ

ݧѧ: "֧ݧ֧ߧߧѧ",- ٧ߧѧ,

ާ֧ ܧѧ ӧާ֧ ҧܧӧ

קӧ ԧݧӧ էѧ.


ܧѧߧ ҧѧܧ ݧڧ, ܧѧ ӧާ,

ݧӧ ֧٧ѧ ѧݧѧ ާߧ,

ߧ ݧ֧اѧݧ ӧާ֧ էԧڧާ

է֧ ڧܧ ܧݧ٧ܧ, ߧ ѧާ էߧ.


A sign... Blood-filled letters

Announce: "Zelennaya," - I know that here

Instead of cabbages and rutabagas

The heads of the dead are for sale.


In a red shirt, with a face like an udder,

The executioner cuts my head off, too,

It lies together with the others

Here, in a slippery box, at the very bottom.


In VNs novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941) Pahl Pahlich Rechnoy mentions Anatole, the Parisian executioner:


'Look here,' he said, 'what are you driving at? Are the police after her? Because, you know, I shouldn't be surprised if she turned out to be an international spy. Mata Hari! That's her type. Oh, absolutely. And then. Well, she's not a girl you can easily forget once she's got into your system. She sucked me dry, and in more ways than one. Money and soul, for instance. I would have killed her if it had not been for Anatole.'

'And who's that?' I asked.

'Anatole? Oh, that's the executioner. The man with the guillotine here (chapter 15)


In Russia St. Augustine is known as Blazhennyi Avgustin. The epithet blazhennyi (blessed) brings to mind sobor Vasiliya Blazhennogo (Saint Basils Cathedral) in the Red Square in Moscow. In Pahl Pahlich Rechnoys flat there is a portrait of a famous general who was moscowed a few years ago:  


While they were arguing over the position, with White trying to take his move back, I looked round the room. I noted the portrait of what had been in the past an Imperial Family. And the moustache of a famous general, moscowed a few years ago. (ibid.)


I suspect that in TRLSK the narrators first name is Vasiliy. When he visits Pahl Pahlych Rechnoy, V. mentions his full name:


The door at which I rang was opened by a lean, tall, shock-headed man in his shirtsleeves and with a brass stud at his collarless throat. He held a chessman a black knight in his hand. I greeted him in Russian.
'Come in, come in,' he said cheerfully, as if he had been expecting me.
My name is so-and-so,' I said.
'And mine,' he cried, 'is Pahl Pahlich Rechnoy' and he guffawed heartily as if it were a good joke. 'If you please,' he said, pointing with the chessman to an open door. (ibid.)


One is tempted to assume that so-and-so stands for Vasiliy Shishkov. At the beginning of VNs story Vasiliy Shishkov (1939) the hero tells to the narrator:


-- ֧ߧ ٧ӧ ѧڧݧڧ ڧܧ, .

My name is Vasiliy Shishkov. Im a poet.


Btw., Pingvin (Penguin) is a poem by VN written in September of 1917:


ѧݧڧ ҧ֧٧ܧڧ ӧ ѧܧ,

ԧݧ, ߧ֧ݧӧܧڧ ڧߧԧӧڧ,

ާߧڧ ڧߧ ӧ ާѧܧ,

ڧߧڧ ӧ ݧէڧ?


ާߧڧ ٧ѧߧڧ ߧߧ,

ܧݧ ܧݧѧէܧ ԧߧ?

ާߧڧ ާѧߧ ֧է

էݧڧߧߧԧ, էݧڧߧߧԧ էߧ?


ߧѧ ڧ, ާ֧ߧѧ,

ԧݧէ ߧ ߧѧ, ߧ ݧէ֧,

ݧѧ֧ ݧ , ӧާڧߧѧ

ݧѧܧӧ קߧ ާا֧?


ާߧڧ ݧ ڧ-էԧ,

ӧ֧ ߧ ӧ֧ ܧѧݧ,

ӧԧ, ӧݧ֧ҧߧ ӧԧ,

ߧ֧اߧ ӧڧ ӧ ާԧݧ...


, ӧ֧! ߧߧ:

էߧ, ڧܧӧ֧ߧߧ ԧ,

ڧާ ӧ -ݧѧߧ,

ڧѧݧߧߧ ٧ ӧ...


Alexey Sklyarenko

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