In a letter to V. (the narrator and main character in VN¡¯s novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, 1941) Sebastian Knight (a half-Russian English author who wrote his last letter to his Russian half-brother in the latter¡¯s native tongue) mentioned osskomina (a word used in the phrase nabit¡¯ oskominu, ¡°set the teeth on edge¡±) and vypolziny (¡°shed snake-skins or pupae shed by insects,¡± a rare word that can be found in Dahl¡¯s dictionary):
I am fed up [osskomina] with a number of tortuous things and especially with the patterns of my shed snake-skins [vypolziny] so that now I find a poetic solace in the obvious and the ordinary which for some reason or other I had overlooked in the course of my life. (chapter 19)
Sebastian¡¯s vypolziny bring to mind the opening and closing lines of Gumilyov¡¯s poem Pamyat¡¯ (¡°Memory,¡± 1921):
§´§à§Ý§î§Ü§à §Ù§Þ§Ö§Ú §ã§Ò§â§Ñ§ã§í§Ó§Ñ§ð§ä §Ü§à§Ø§Ú,
§¹§ä§à§Ò §Õ§å§ê§Ñ §ã§ä§Ñ§â§Ö§Ý§Ñ §Ú §â§à§ã§Ý§Ñ.
§®§í, §å§Ó§í, §ã§à §Ù§Þ§Ö§ñ§Þ§Ú §ß§Ö §ã§ç§à§Ø§Ú,
§®§í §Þ§Ö§ß§ñ§Ö§Þ §Õ§å§ê§Ú, §ß§Ö §ä§Ö§Ý§Ñ.
Only snakes shed their skin,
So their souls can age and grow.
We, alas, do not resemble snakes,
We change souls, not bodies.
§¬§â§Ú§Ü§ß§å §ñ... §ß§à §â§Ñ§Ù§Ó§Ö §Ü§ä§à §á§à§Þ§à§Ø§Ö§ä,
§¹§ä§à§Ò §Þ§à§ñ §Õ§å§ê§Ñ §ß§Ö §å§Þ§Ö§â§Ý§Ñ?
§´§à§Ý§î§Ü§à §Ù§Þ§Ö§Ú §ã§Ò§â§Ñ§ã§í§Ó§Ñ§ð§ä §Ü§à§Ø§Ú,
§®§í §Þ§Ö§ß§ñ§Ö§Þ §Õ§å§ê§Ú, §ß§Ö §ä§Ö§Ý§Ñ.
I will cry out... but who can prevent
My soul from dying?
Only snakes shed their skin
We change souls, not bodies.
In one of his last articles, ¡°Bez bozhestva, bez vdokhnoven¡¯ya¡±* (¡°Without Divinity, without Inspiration,¡± 1921), Alexander Blok criticizes Gumilyov and the acmeists who, according to Blok, deliberately hush up what is most significant and precious in them, the soul:
§¬§à§Ô§Õ§Ñ §à§ä§Ò§â§à§ã§Ú§ê§î §Ó§ã§Ö §ï§ä§Ú §Ô§à§â§î§Ü§Ú§Ö §ê§å§ä§Ü§Ú, §ã§ä§Ñ§ß§à§Ó§Ú§ä§ã§ñ §Ô§â§å§ã§ä§ß§à; §Ú§Ò§à §¯. §¤§å§Þ§Ú§Ý§Ö§Ó §Ú §ß§Ö§Ü§à§ä§à§â§í§Ö §Õ§â§å§Ô§Ú§Ö "§Ñ§Ü§Þ§Ö§Ú§ã§ä§í", §ß§Ö§ã§à§Þ§ß§Ö§ß§ß§à §Õ§Ñ§â§à§Ó§Ú§ä§í§Ö, §ä§à§á§ñ§ä §ã§Ñ§Þ§Ú§ç §ã§Ö§Ò§ñ §Ó §ç§à§Ý§à§Õ§ß§à§Þ §Ò§à§Ý§à§ä§Ö §Ò§Ö§Ù§Õ§å§ê§ß§í§ç §ä§Ö§à§â§Ú§Û §Ú §Ó§ã§ñ§é§Ö§ã§Ü§à§Ô§à §æ§à§â§Þ§Ñ§Ý§Ú§Ù§Þ§Ñ; §à§ß§Ú §ã§á§ñ§ä §ß§Ö§á§â§à§Ò§å§Õ§ß§í§Þ §ã§ß§à§Þ §Ò§Ö§Ù §ã§ß§à§Ó§Ú§Õ§Ö§ß§Ú§Û; §à§ß§Ú §ß§Ö §Ú§Þ§Ö§ð§ä §Ú §ß§Ö §Ø§Ö§Ý§Ñ§ð§ä §Ú§Þ§Ö§ä§î §ä§Ö§ß§Ú §á§â§Ö§Õ§ã§ä§Ñ§Ó§Ý§Ö§ß§Ú§ñ §à §â§å§ã§ã§Ü§à§Û §Ø§Ú§Ù§ß§Ú §Ú §à §Ø§Ú§Ù§ß§Ú §Þ§Ú§â§Ñ §Ó§à§à§Ò§ë§Ö; §Ó §ã§Ó§à§Ö§Û §á§à§ï§Ù§Ú§Ú (§Ñ §ã§Ý§Ö§Õ§à§Ó§Ñ§ä§Ö§Ý§î§ß§à, §Ú §Ó §ã§Ö§Ò§Ö §ã§Ñ§Þ§Ú§ç) §à§ß§Ú §Ù§Ñ§Þ§Ñ§Ý§é§Ú§Ó§Ñ§ð§ä §ã§Ñ§Þ§à§Ö §Ô§Ý§Ñ§Ó§ß§à§Ö, §Ö§Õ§Ú§ß§ã§ä§Ó§Ö§ß§ß§à §è§Ö§ß§ß§à§Ö: §Õ§å§ê§å. (3)
In his essay Blok mentions oskomina (one of Blok¡¯s favorite words that also occurs in his diaries):
§®§í §á§â§Ú§Ó§í§Ü§Ý§Ú §Ü §à§Ü§â§à§ê§Ü§Ö, §Ò§à§ä§Ó§Ú§ß§î§Ö §Ú §Ò§Ý§Ú§ß§Ñ§Þ, §Ú §æ§â§Ñ§ß§è§å§Ù§ã§Ü§Ñ§ñ §ä§â§Ñ§Ó§Ü§Ñ §ã §å§Ü§ã§å§ã§à§Þ §Ó §Ó§Ú§Õ§Ö §à§ä§Õ§Ö§Ý§î§ß§à§Ô§à §Ò§Ý§ð§Õ§Ñ §Þ§à§Ø§Ö§ä §á§à§ß§â§Ñ§Ó§Ú§ä§î§ã§ñ §Ý§Ú§ê§î §Ô§å§â§Þ§Ñ§ß§Ñ§Þ. §´§Ñ§Ü §Ú "§é§Ú§ã§ä§Ñ§ñ §á§à§ï§Ù§Ú§ñ" §Ý§Ú§ê§î §ß§Ñ §Þ§Ú§ß§å§ä§å §Ó§à§Ù§Ò§å§Ø§Õ§Ñ§Ö§ä §Ú§ß§ä§Ö§â§Ö§ã §Ú §ã§á§à§â§í §ã§â§Ö§Õ§Ú "§ã§á§Ö§è§Ú§Ñ§Ý§Ú§ã§ä§à§Ó"; §ã§á§à§â§í §ï§ä§Ú §á§à§ä§å§ç§Ñ§ð§ä §ä§Ñ§Ü §Ø§Ö §Ò§í§ã§ä§â§à, §Ü§Ñ§Ü §Ó§ã§á§í§ç§ß§å§Ý§Ú, §Ú §á§à§ã§Ý§Ö §ß§Ú§ç §à§ã§ä§Ñ§×§ä§ã§ñ §à§Õ§ß§Ñ §à§ã§Ü§à§Þ§Ú§ß§Ñ; §Ñ "§Ò§à§Ý§î§ê§Ñ§ñ §á§å§Ò§Ý§Ú§Ü§Ñ", §ß§Ú§Ü§Ñ§Ü§à§Ô§à §å§é§Ñ§ã§ä§Ú§ñ §Ó §ï§ä§à§Þ §ß§Ö §á§â§Ú§ß§Ú§Þ§Ñ§ð§ë§Ñ§ñ §Ú §ß§Ö §à§Ò§ñ§Ù§Ñ§ß§ß§Ñ§ñ §á§â§Ú§ß§Ú§Þ§Ñ§ä§î, §Ñ §ä§â§Ö§Ò§å§ð§ë§Ñ§ñ §ä§à§Ý§î§Ü§à §ß§Ñ§ã§ä§à§ñ§ë§Ú§ç, §Ø§Ú§Ó§í§ç §ç§å§Õ§à§Ø§Ö§ã§ä§Ó§Ö§ß§ß§í§ç §á§â§à§Ú§Ù§Ó§Ö§Õ§Ö§ß§Ú§Û, §Ó§Ö§â§ç§ß§Ú§Þ §é§å§ä§î§×§Þ §Õ§à§Ô§Ñ§Õ§í§Ó§Ñ§Ö§ä§ã§ñ, §é§ä§à §Ó §Ý§Ú§ä§Ö§â§Ñ§ä§å§â§Ö §ß§Ö §ã§à§Ó§ã§Ö§Þ §Ò§Ý§Ñ§Ô§à§á§à§Ý§å§é§ß§à, §Ú §ß§Ñ§é§Ú§ß§Ñ§Ö§ä §à§ä§ß§à§ã§Ú§ä§î§ã§ñ §Ü §Ý§Ú§ä§Ö§â§Ñ§ä§å§â§Ö §ß§à§Ó§Ö§Û§ê§Ö§Û §ã§à§Ó§ã§Ö§Þ §Ú§ß§Ñ§é§Ö, §é§Ö§Þ §Ü §Ý§Ú§ä§Ö§â§Ñ§ä§å§â§Ö §ã§ä§Ñ§â§à§Û. (1)
In his letter to V. Sebastian Knight used the word prednaznachalos¡¯ (had been destined):
This letter was begun almost a week ago, and up to the word "life" it had been destined [prednaznachalos] to quite a different person. (chapter 19)
Blok¡¯s famous Pushkinskaya rech¡¯ (speech on Pushkin) written for the 84th anniversary of Pushkin¡¯s death is entitled O naznachenii poeta (¡°About the Destination of a Poet,¡± 1921).
In his letter to V. Sebastian mentions old Dr Starov:
Lately I have been seeing a good deal of old Dr Starov, who treated maman [so Sebastian called my mother]. I met him by chance one night in the street, when I was taking a forced rest on the running-board of somebody's parked car. He seemed to think that I had been vegetating in Paris since maman's death, and I have agreed to his version of my ¨¦migr¨¦ existence, because [eeboh] any explanation seemed to me far too complicated. (ibid.)
Dr Starov brings to mind Dr Startsev, the main character in Chekhov¡¯s story Ionych (1898). On the other hand, old Dr Starov has the same name-and-patronymic as Alexander Alexandrovich Blok:
Doctor Starov. Alexander Alexandrovich Starov. The train clattered over the points, repeating those x's. (chapter 20)
The surname Starov comes from staryi (old). In his poem Dvenadtsat¡¯ (¡°The Twelve,¡± 1918) Blok mentions staryi mir (the old world) and compares it to a mongrel dog:
§³§ä§à§Ú§ä §Ò§å§â§Ø§å§Û, §Ü§Ñ§Ü §á§×§ã §Ô§à§Ý§à§Õ§ß§í§Û,
§³§ä§à§Ú§ä §Ò§Ö§Ù§Þ§à§Ý§Ó§ß§í§Û, §Ü§Ñ§Ü §Ó§à§á§â§à§ã.
§ª §ã§ä§Ñ§â§í§Û §Þ§Ú§â, §Ü§Ñ§Ü §á§×§ã §Ò§Ö§Ù§â§à§Õ§ß§í§Û,
§³§ä§à§Ú§ä §Ù§Ñ §ß§Ú§Þ, §á§à§Õ§Ø§Ñ§Ó§ê§Ú §ç§Ó§à§ã§ä.
The bourgeois stands, like a hungry dog,
Wordless he stands, like a question mark.
And the old world stands, like a mongrel dog,
Right behind him, its tail between its legs. (9)
(transl. Maria Carlson)
Pyos golodnyi (a hungry dog) and pyos bezrodnyi (a mongrel dog) bring to mind lokhmatyi pyos (a shaggy dog) that accompanies the visitor (¡°that gentleman¡±) and that remains with the author in Blok¡¯s poem Osenniy vecher byl¡ (¡°It was an autumnal evening...¡± 1912). On the other hand, Bol¡¯shoy Pyos is the Russian name of the Greater Dog, a constellation painted on the bald brow of Alexis Pan (a futurist poet with whom Sebastian in the summer of 1917 traveled to the East) when he appeared on the stage:
Alexis Pan generally appeared on the stage dressed in a morning coat, perfectly correct but for its being embroidered with huge lotus flowers. A constellation (the Greater Dog) was painted on his bald brow. (Chapter 3)
The Russian name Starov has the English star in it.
In his poem V oktyabre (¡°In October,¡± 1906) Blok twice uses the phrase po staromu, byvalomu (in the old usual way):
§£§ã§×, §Ó§ã§× §á§à §ã§ä§Ñ§â§à§Þ§å, §Ò§í§Ó§Ñ§Ý§à§Þ§å,
§ª §Ò§å§Õ§Ö§ä §Ü§Ñ§Ü §Ó§ã§Ö§Ô§Õ§Ñ:
§§à§ê§Ñ§Õ§Ü§Ö §Ú §Þ§Ñ§Ý§î§é§Ú§ê§Ü§Ö §Þ§Ñ§Ý§à§Þ§å
§¯§Ö §ã§Ý§Ñ§Õ§Ü§Ú §ç§à§Ý§à§Õ§Ñ¡
Everything, everything is in the old usual way,
And will be as ever:
To the little horse and to the little boy
Cold times are not pleasant.
§§Ö§é§å, §Ý§Ö§é§å §Ü §Þ§Ñ§Ý§î§é§Ú§ê§Ü§Ö §Þ§Ñ§Ý§à§Þ§å,
§³§â§Ö§Õ§î §Ó§Ú§ç§â§ñ §Ú §à§Ô§ß§ñ¡
§£§ã§×, §Ó§ã§× §á§à §ã§ä§Ñ§â§à§Þ§å, §Ò§í§Ó§Ñ§Ý§à§Þ§å,
§¥§Ñ §ä§à§Ý§î§Ü§à ¡ª §Ò§Ö§Ù §Þ§Ö§ß§ñ!
I fly, I fly to the little boy,
amidst the whirlwind and fire¡
Everything, everything in the old usual way
But only ¨C without me!
Blok¡¯s poem begins as follows:
§°§ä§Ü§â§í§Ý §à§Ü§ß§à. §¬§Ñ§Ü§Ñ§ñ §ç§Þ§å§â§Ñ§ñ
§³§ä§à§Ý§Ú§è§Ñ §Ó §à§Ü§ä§ñ§Ò§â§Ö!
§©§Ñ§Ò§Ú§ä§Ñ§ñ §Ý§à§ê§Ñ§Õ§Ü§Ñ §Ò§å§â§Ñ§ñ
§¤§å§Ý§ñ§Ö§ä §ß§Ñ §Õ§Ó§à§â§Ö.
I opened my window. How dull
Is the capital in October!
A downtrodden little horse
Walks to and fro in the courtyard.
At the end of his letter to V. Sebastian mentioned those bare branches and twigs which he saw from his window:
So forgive me if I bore you [dokoochayou], but somehow I don't much like those bare branches and twigs which I see from my window. (chapter 19)
In Pushkin¡¯s Eugene Onegin (One: III: 12) Monsieur l¡¯Abb¨¦ (Onegin¡¯s French tutor) ne dokuchal (bothered not) the child with stern moralization. In Chapter Five of EO (II: 1-14), the stanza that often appears in Russian schoolbooks as a separate poem entitled Winter, Pushkin mentions a peasant¡¯s loshadka (little horse) and dvorovyi mal¡¯chik (a household lad) who has frozen a finger. In Chapter Four ( XXVI: 9-14) of EO Lenski plays chess with Olga and with a pawn takes in abstraction his own rook:
§µ§Ö§Õ§Ú§ß§ñ§ã§î §à§ä §Ó§ã§Ö§ç §Õ§Ñ§Ý§×§Ü§à,
§°§ß§Ú §ß§Ñ§Õ §ê§Ñ§ç§Þ§Ñ§ä§ß§à§Û §Õ§à§ã§Ü§à§Û,
§¯§Ñ §ã§ä§à§Ý §à§Ò§Ý§à§Ü§à§ä§ñ§ã§î, §á§à§â§à§Û
§³§Ú§Õ§ñ§ä, §Ù§Ñ§Õ§å§Þ§Ñ§Ó§ê§Ú§ã§î §Ô§Ý§å§Ò§à§Ü§à,
§ª §§Ö§ß§ã§Ü§à§Û §á§Ö§ê§Ü§à§ð §Ý§Ñ§Õ§î§ð
§¢§Ö§â§×§ä §Ó §â§Ñ§ã§ã§Ö§ñ§ß§î§Ú §ã§Ó§à§ð.
Secluded far from everybody,
over the chessboard they,
their elbows on the table, sometimes
sit deep in thought,
and Lenski with a pawn
takes in abstraction his own rook.
Sebastian Knight wrote his letter to V. and died in a sanatorium in St Damier (near Paris). Damier is French for ¡°chess board:¡±
Would I never get to Sebastian? Who were those idle idiots who wrote on the wall 'Death to the Jews' or 'Vive le front populaire', or left obscene drawings? Some anonymous artist had begun blacking squares ¨C a chess board, ein Schachbrett, un damier¡. There was a flash in my brain and the word settled on my tongue: St Damier! (chapter 20)
The name of Blok¡¯s family estate in the Province of Moscow, Shakhmatovo, comes from shakhmaty (chess). On the other hand, it brings to mind Anna Akhmatova, Gumilyov¡¯s first wife whose poem Seroglazyi korol¡¯ (¡°The Gray-Eyed King,¡± 1910) begins as follows:
§³§Ý§Ñ§Ó§Ñ §ä§Ö§Ò§Ö, §Ò§Ö§Ù§í§ã§ç§à§Õ§ß§Ñ§ñ §Ò§à§Ý§î!
§µ§Þ§Ö§â §Ó§é§Ö§â§Ñ §ã§Ö§â§à§Ô§Ý§Ñ§Ù§í§Û §Ü§à§â§à§Ý§î.
Glory to you, inescapable pain!
The gray-eyed king died yesterday.
In terms of chess, Sebastian Knight (who used to draw a black knight to sign his writings) is korol¡¯ (the king) and Nina Lecerf (Sebastian¡¯s mistress), ferz¡¯ (the queen). It seems that, before turning towards V., Sebastian¡¯s letter (that can be compared to a castling made after an inordinately long meditation) ¡°had been destined¡± to the woman he loved (and who, like V., is Russian). In her conversation with V. (who does not suspect that his interlocutor is Russian) Mme Lecerf uses the French idiom bonne comme le bon pain (as good as good bread):
We were silent for quite a long time. Alas, I had no more doubts, though the picture of Sebastian was atrocious ¨C but then, too, I had got it second-hand.
'Yes,' I said, 'I shall see her at all costs. And this for two reasons. Firstly, because I want to ask her a certain question ¨C one question only. And secondly '
'Yes?' said Madame Lecerf sipping her cold tea. 'Secondly?'
'Secondly, I am at a loss to imagine how such a woman could attract my brother; so I want to see her with my own eyes.'
'Do you mean to say,' asked Madame Lecerf, 'that you think she is a dreadful, dangerous woman? Une femme fatale? Because, you know, that's not so. She's good as good bread.' (chapter 16)
In his poem Shestoe chuvstvo (¡°The Sixth Sense,¡± 1920) Gumilyov mentions dobryi khleb (the good bread) baked for our sake:
§±§â§Ö§Ü§â§Ñ§ã§ß§à §Ó §ß§Ñ§ã §Ó§Ý§ð§Ò§Ý§×§ß§ß§à§Ö §Ó§Ú§ß§à
§ª §Õ§à§Ò§â§í§Û §ç§Ý§Ö§Ò, §é§ä§à §Ó §á§Ö§é§î §Õ§Ý§ñ §ß§Ñ§ã §ã§Ñ§Õ§Ú§ä§ã§ñ,
§ª §Ø§Ö§ß§ë§Ú§ß§Ñ, §Ü§à§ä§à§â§à§ð §Õ§Ñ§ß§à,
§³§á§Ö§â§Ó§Ñ §Ú§Ù§Þ§å§é§Ú§Ó§ê§Ú§ã§î, §ß§Ñ§Þ §ß§Ñ§ã§Ý§Ñ§Õ§Ú§ä§î§ã§ñ.
Fine is the wine enamored of us,
and the good bread baked for our sake,
and the woman who delights us
when she's finished her tweaking games.
(transl. Burton Raffel)
It must have been some ¡°sixth sense¡± (or, perhaps, the spirit of his Russian step-mother) that made Sebastian change his mind and write to his brother instead of writing to his mistress. In his book Na vesakh Iova (¡°In Job¡¯s Balances,¡± 1929) Lev Shestov (the philosopher whose pseudonym comes from shest¡¯, ¡°six¡±) quotes a Russian saying sprosi ne starogo, sprosi byvalogo (ask not the aged, ask him who knows about life):
§¦§ã§ä§î §Ù§Ñ§Þ§Ö§é§Ñ§ä§Ö§Ý§î§ß§Ñ§ñ §â§å§ã§ã§Ü§Ñ§ñ §á§à§Ô§à§Ó§à§â§Ü§Ñ: §ã§á§â§à§ã§Ú §ß§Ö §ã§ä§Ñ§â§à§Ô§à, §ã§á§â§à§ã§Ú §Ò§í§Ó§Ñ§Ý§à§Ô§à. §¥§å§Þ§Ñ§ð, §é§ä§à §æ§Ú§Ý§à§ã§à§æ§Ñ§Þ, §ä§Ñ§Ü §Þ§ß§à§Ô§à §ã§á§à§â§Ú§Ó§ê§Ú§Þ §à§Ò §Ñ§á§â§Ú§à§â§ß§à§Þ §Ú §Ñ§á§à§ã§ä§Ö§â§Ú§à§â§ß§à§Þ §Ù§ß§Ñ§ß§Ú§Ú, §ß§Ö §Þ§Ö§ê§Ñ§Ý§à §Ò§í §á§â§Ú§ã§Ý§å§ê§Ñ§ä§î§ã§ñ §Ú§ß§à§Û §â§Ñ§Ù §Ü §Ô§à§Ý§à§ã§å §ß§Ñ§â§à§Õ§ß§à§Û §Þ§å§Õ§â§à§ã§ä§Ú. §³§ä§Ñ§â§í§Û, §Õ§à§Ý§Ô§à §Ø§Ú§Ó§ê§Ú§Û, §ß§à §Þ§Ñ§Ý§à §Ó§Ú§Õ§Ö§Ó§ê§Ú§Û §é§Ö§Ý§à§Ó§Ö§Ü §ã§Ü§Ý§à§ß§Ö§ß §Ü §Ñ§á§â§Ú§à§â§ß§à§Þ§å §Þ§í§ê§Ý§Ö§ß§Ú§ð. §°§ß §Ó§Ö§â§Ú§ä §Ó §ß§Ö§Ú§Ù§Þ§Ö§ß§ß§í§Ö §á§â§Ú§ß§è§Ú§á§í, §Ó §á§â§à§é§ß§í§Û §ã§ä§â§à§Û §Ø§Ú§Ù§ß§Ú ¨C §ä§Ñ§Ü §Ó§Ö§â§Ú§ä, §é§ä§à §ã§Ü§Ý§à§ß§Ö§ß §ã§é§Ú§ä§Ñ§ä§î §ã§Ó§à§Ú §å§Ò§Ö§Ø§Õ§Ö§ß§Ú§ñ §Ñ§á§â§Ú§à§â§ß§í§Þ§Ú, §Õ§Ñ§Ø§Ö §Ó§â§à§Ø§Õ§Ö§ß§ß§í§Þ§Ú, §Ó§ß§å§ê§Ö§ß§ß§í§Þ§Ú §Ò§à§Ô§Ñ§Þ§Ú. «§°§á§í§ä§à§Þ» §à§ß §á§â§Ö§ß§Ö§Ò§â§Ö§Ô§Ñ§Ö§ä ¨C §Ö§Þ§å §Ü§Ñ§Ø§Ö§ä§ã§ñ, §é§ä§à §á§à§Õ §ã§à§Ý§ß§è§Ö§Þ §ß§Ö §Ò§í§Ó§Ñ§Ö§ä §ß§Ú§é§Ö§Ô§à §ß§à§Ó§à§Ô§à, §é§ä§à §Ó§ã§Ö §ä§à, §é§ä§à §Ö§ã§ä§î, §å§Ø§Ö §Þ§ß§à§Ô§à §â§Ñ§Ù §Ò§í§Ý§à §Ú §Þ§ß§à§Ô§à §â§Ñ§Ù §Ö§ë§Ö §Ò§å§Õ§Ö§ä. §¢§í§Ó§Ñ§Ý§í§Û §Ù§ß§Ñ§Ö§ä §Õ§â§å§Ô§à§Ö: §à§ß §Ó §Ü§Ñ§é§Ö§ã§ä§Ó§Ö §Ò§í§Ó§Ñ§Ý§à§Ô§à §ã§Ñ§Þ, §ã§Ó§à§Ú§Þ§Ú §Ô§Ý§Ñ§Ù§Ñ§Þ§Ú §Ó§Ú§Õ§Ö§Ý §ä§Ñ§Ü§à§Ö, §é§Ö§Þ§å §Ò§í §ß§Ú§Ü§à§Ô§Õ§Ñ §ß§Ö §á§à§Ó§Ö§â§Ú§Ý, §Ö§ã§Ý§Ú §Ò§í §Ú§Þ§Ö§ß§ß§à §ã§Ñ§Þ §ß§Ö §Ó§Ú§Õ§Ö§Ý. §¬§Ñ§ß§ä §Ø§Ú§Ý §Õ§à 80 §Ý§Ö§ä. §¯§Ú§è§ê§Ö §ä§à§Ý§î§Ü§à §Õ§à 44. §¯§à §ß§Ñ§ã§Ü§à§Ý§î§Ü§à §¯§Ú§è§ê§Ö §à§á§í§ä§ß§Ö§Ö §¬§Ñ§ß§ä§Ñ!
There is an excellent Russian proverb: "Ask not the aged, ask him who knows about life." I think that it would not hurt philosophers, who have argued so much about a priori and a posteriori knowledge, to listen now and then to the voice of popular wisdom. An aged man who, in his many days, has yet seen little of life, inclines to a priori thinking. He believes in unalterable principles, in a rigid construction of life - believes so firmly that he is inclined to hold his convictions for a priori, even innate, given by the gods. He despises "experience", thinks that there is nothing new under the sun, that all that is has often been and will often happen again. The knowledge of the experienced in life is different: as a man experienced in life, he has seen with his own eyes things that he would never have believed if he had not seen them himself. Kant lived to eighty, Nietzsche only to forty-four. But how much more experienced was Nietzsche than Kant! (23)
In Pushkin¡¯s EO (Two: VI: 8) Lenski is poklonnik Kanta i poet (Kant¡¯s votary, and a poet). Lenski is only eighteen, when he is killed in his duel with Onegin. In the description of the Onegin-Lenski duel in Chapter Six of EO Pushkin predicted his own fatal duel with d¡¯Anth¨¨s. Pushkin died in January (OS) of 1837, aged thirty-seven. Sebastian Knight (who was born on December 31, 1899, and died in the very beginning of 1936) was thirty-six. Lev Shestov (who was born in 1866 and died on November 19, 1938) was twice as old. VN began writing TRLSK in December of 1938, soon after Shestov¡¯s death.
Like Nietzsche, Chekhov lived only to forty-four. Nina Lecerf (alias Mme de Rechnoy) brings to mind Nina Zarechnyi, a character in Chekhov¡¯s play Chayka (¡°The Seagull,¡± 1896). In his essay on Chekhov, Tvorchestvo iz nichego (¡°Creation from Nothing,¡± 1905) Shestov says that one of Chekhov¡¯s most remarkable works is his play Chayka (¡°The Seagull,¡± 1896):
§°§Õ§ß§Ú§Þ §Ú§Ù §ã§Ñ§Þ§í§ç §ç§Ñ§â§Ñ§Ü§ä§Ö§â§ß§í§ç §Õ§Ý§ñ §¹§Ö§ç§à§Ó§Ñ, §Ñ §á§à§ä§à§Þ§å §Ú §Ù§Ñ§Þ§Ö§é§Ñ§ä§Ö§Ý§î§ß§í§ç §Ö§Ô§à §á§â§à§Ú§Ù§Ó§Ö§Õ§Ö§ß§Ú§Û §Õ§à§Ý§Ø§ß§Ñ §ã§é§Ú§ä§Ñ§ä§î§ã§ñ §Ö§Ô§à §Õ§â§Ñ§Þ§Ñ ¡°§¹§Ñ§Û§Ü§Ñ¡±. §£ §ß§Ö§Û §ã §ß§Ñ§Ú§Ò§à§Ý§î§ê§Ö§Û §á§à§Ý§ß§à§ä§à§Û §á§à§Ý§å§é§Ú§Ý§à §ã§Ó§à§× §Ó§í§â§Ñ§Ø§Ö§ß§Ú§Ö §Ú§ã§ä§Ú§ß§ß§à§Ö §à§ä§ß§à§ê§Ö§ß§Ú§Ö §ç§å§Õ§à§Ø§ß§Ú§Ü§Ñ §Ü §Ø§Ú§Ù§ß§Ú. (VIII)
According to Shestov, in ¡°The Seagull¡± the artist¡¯s real attitude to life was expressed most fully.
In a letter of November 25, 1892, to Suvorin Chekhov says that the works of contemporary writers lack the alcohol that would intoxicate the reader and modestly compares his story Palata ¡í 6 (¡°Ward Six,¡± 1892) to lemonade. In Blok¡¯s poem Neznakomka (¡°Incognita,¡± 1906) the drunks with the eyes of rabbits cry out: ¡°In vino veritas!¡± At the beginning of his essay ¡°Bez bozhestva, bez vdokhnoven¡¯ya¡± Blok mentions Leo Tolstoy (the writer who lived to the age of eighty-two) and Chekhov:
§³§â§Ö§Õ§Ú §ê§Ú§â§à§Ü§à§Û §á§å§Ò§Ý§Ú§Ü§Ú §à§é§Ö§ß§î §â§Ñ§ã§á§â§à§ã§ä§â§Ñ§ß§Ö§ß§à §Þ§ß§Ö§ß§Ú§Ö, §é§ä§à §ß§à§Ó§Ñ§ñ §â§å§ã§ã§Ü§Ñ§ñ §Ú§Ù§ñ§ë§ß§Ñ§ñ §Ý§Ú§ä§Ö§â§Ñ§ä§å§â§Ñ §ß§Ñ§ç§à§Õ§Ú§ä§ã§ñ §Ó §å§á§Ñ§Õ§Ü§Ö. §±§à§ã§Ý§Ö§Õ§ß§Ö§Ö §Ú§Þ§ñ, §Ü§à§ä§à§â§à§Ö §á§â§à§Ú§Ù§ß§à§ã§Ú§ä§ã§ñ §ã §å§Ò§Ö§Ø§Õ§Ö§ß§Ú§Ö§Þ §Ý§ð§Õ§î§Þ§Ú, §ã§ä§à§ñ§ë§Ú§Þ§Ú §ã§à§Ó§Ö§â§ê§Ö§ß§ß§à §Ó§ß§Ö §Ý§Ú§ä§Ö§â§Ñ§ä§å§â§í, §Ö§ã§ä§î §Ú§Þ§ñ §§î§Ó§Ñ §´§à§Ý§ã§ä§à§Ô§à. §£§ã§× §á§à§Ù§Õ§ß§Ö§Û§ê§Ö§Ö - §å§Ó§í, §Õ§Ñ§Ø§Ö §Ú §¹§Ö§ç§à§Ó, - §á§à §Þ§Ö§ß§î§ê§Ö§Û §Þ§Ö§â§Ö §ã§á§à§â§ß§à; §Ò§à§Ý§î§ê§Ñ§ñ §Ø§Ö §é§Ñ§ã§ä§î §á§Ú§ã§Ñ§ä§Ö§Ý§Ö§Û, §à §Ü§à§ä§à§â§í§ç §Þ§ß§à§Ô§à §Ô§à§Ó§à§â§Ú§Ý§Ñ §Ü§â§Ú§ä§Ú§Ü§Ñ, §Ù§Ñ §Ü§à§ä§à§â§í§Þ§Ú §é§Ú§ã§Ý§ñ§ä§ã§ñ §Õ§Ö§ã§ñ§ä§Ü§Ú §Ý§Ö§ä §Ý§Ú§ä§Ö§â§Ñ§ä§å§â§ß§à§Û §â§Ñ§Ò§à§ä§í, §á§â§à§ã§ä§à §ß§Ö§Ú§Ù§Ó§Ö§ã§ä§ß§í §á§à §Ú§Þ§Ö§ß§Ú §Ù§Ñ §á§â§Ö§Õ§Ö§Ý§Ñ§Þ§Ú §ä§à§Ô§à §ã§â§Ñ§Ó§ß§Ú§ä§Ö§Ý§î§ß§à §å§Ù§Ü§à§Ô§à §Ü§â§å§Ô§Ñ §Ý§ð§Õ§Ö§Û, §Ü§à§ä§à§â§í§Û §ã§à§ã§ä§Ñ§Ó§Ý§ñ§Ö§ä "§Ú§ß§ä§Ö§Ý§Ý§Ú§Ô§Ö§ß§è§Ú§ð". §±§à§Ø§Ñ§Ý§å§Û, §ß§Ö§Ý§î§Ù§ñ §ã§Ü§Ñ§Ù§Ñ§ä§î §Õ§Ñ§Ø§Ö §ï§ä§à§Ô§à; §Ö§ã§ä§î §Ý§ð§Õ§Ú, §ã§é§Ú§ä§Ñ§ð§ë§Ú§Ö §ã§Ö§Ò§ñ §Ú§ß§ä§Ö§Ý§Ý§Ú§Ô§Ö§ß§ä§ß§í§Þ§Ú §Ú §Ú§Þ§Ö§ð§ë§Ú§Ö §ß§Ñ §ï§ä§à §á§â§Ñ§Ó§à, §Ü§à§ä§à§â§í§Ö §Ó§à§Ó§ã§Ö §ß§Ö §Ù§ß§Ñ§ð§ä, §à§Õ§ß§Ñ§Ü§à, §Ú§Þ§×§ß §Þ§ß§à§Ô§Ú§ç "§Ú§Ù§Ó§Ö§ã§ä§ß§í§ç" §ã§à§Ó§â§Ö§Þ§Ö§ß§ß§í§ç §á§Ú§ã§Ñ§ä§Ö§Ý§Ö§Û. (1)
Shestov¡¯s book ¡°In Job¡¯s Balances¡± brings to mind na pushkinskikh vesakh (on Pushkin¡¯s scales), a phrase used by VN at the end of his poem Neokonchennyi chernovik** (¡°An Unfinished Draft,¡± 1931):
§±§à§ï§ä, §á§Ö§é§Ñ§Ý§î§ð §á§â§à§Þ§í§ê§Ý§ñ§ñ,
§ä§Ó§Ö§â§Õ§Ú§ä §á§â§Ö§Ü§â§Ñ§ã§ß§à§Þ§å: §á§â§à§ã§ä§Ú!
§°§ß §Ô§à§Ó§à§â§Ú§ä, §é§ä§à §Ø§Ú§Ù§ß§î §Ù§Ö§Þ§ß§Ñ§ñ -
§ã§Ý§à§Ó§Ñ §ß§Ñ §á§à§Õ§ß§ñ§ä§à§Û §Ó §á§å§ä§Ú -
§à§ä§Ü§å§Õ§Ñ §Ó§í§â§Ó§Ñ§ß§ß§à§Û? - §ã§ä§â§Ñ§ß§Ú§è§Ö
(§ß§Ö §Ù§ß§Ñ§Ö§Þ §Ú §ê§Ó§í§â§ñ§Ö§Þ §á§â§à§é§î),
§Ú§Ý§Ú §á§â§à§Ý§×§ä §Þ§Ô§ß§à§Ó§Ö§ß§ß§í§Û §á§ä§Ú§è§í
§é§â§Ö§Ù §ã§Ó§Ö§ä§Ý§í§Û §Ù§Ñ§Ý §Ú§Ù §ß§à§é§Ú §Ó §ß§à§é§î.
§©§à§Ú§Ý (§á§â§à§Û§Õ§à§ç§Ñ §Ó§Ö§Ý§Ú§é§Ñ§Ó§í§Û,
§Ü§à§â§í§ã§ä§î§ð §Ù§Ñ§ß§ñ§ä§í§Û §à§Õ§ß§à§Û)
§Ú §Ý§Ú§ä§Ö§â§Ñ§ä§à§â §á§Ý§à§ë§Ñ§Õ§ß§à§Û
(§ä§â§Ö§Ó§à§Ø§ß§í§Û §Ñ§â§Ö§ß§Õ§Ñ§ä§à§â §ã§Ý§Ñ§Ó§í)
§Þ§Ö§ß§ñ §ã§ä§â§Ñ§ê§Ñ§ä§ã§ñ §á§à§ä§à§Þ§å,
§é§ä§à §Ù§à§Ý §ñ, §ç§à§Ý§à§Õ§Ö§ß §Ú §Ó§Ö§ã§Ö§Ý,
§é§ä§à §ß§Ö §ã§Ý§å§Ø§å §ñ §ß§Ú§Ü§à§Þ§å,
§é§ä§à §Ø§Ú§Ù§ß§î §Ú §é§Ö§ã§ä§î §Þ§à§ð §ñ §Ó§Ù§Ó§Ö§ã§Ú§Ý
§ß§Ñ §á§å§ê§Ü§Ú§ß§ã§Ü§Ú§ç §Ó§Ö§ã§Ñ§ç, §Ú §é§Ö§ã§ä§î
According to VN, he has weighed his life and his honor on Pushkin¡¯s scales and dares to prefer honor.
At the end of TRLSK Sebastian¡¯s brother discovers that a soul is but a manner of being and that any soul may be yours:
So I did not see Sebastian after all, or at least I did not see him alive. But those few minutes I spent listening to what I thought was his breathing changed my life as completely as it would have been changed, had Sebastian spoken to me before dying. Whatever his secret was, I have learnt one secret too, and namely: that the soul is but a manner of being ¨C not a constant state ¨C that any soul may be yours, if you find and follow its undulations. The hereafter may be the full ability of consciously living in any chosen soul, in any number of souls, all of them unconscious of their interchangeable burden. Thus ¨C I am Sebastian Knight. I feel as if I were impersonating him on a lighted stage, with the people he knew coming and going ¨C the dim figures of the few friends he had, the scholar, and the poet, and the painter ¨C smoothly and noiselessly paying their graceful tribute; and here is Goodman, the flat-footed buffoon, with his dicky hanging out of his waistcoat; and there ¨C the pale radiance of Clare's inclined head, as she is led away weeping by a friendly maiden. They moved round Sebastian ¨C round me who am acting Sebastian ¨C and the old conjuror waits in the wings with his hidden rabbit: and Nina sits on a table in the brightest corner of the stage, with a wineglass of fuchsined water, under a painted palm. And then the masquerade draws to a close. The bald little prompter shuts his book, as the light fades gently. The end, the end. They all go back to their everyday life (and Clare goes back to her grave) ¨C but the hero remains, for, try as I may, I cannot get out of my part: Sebastian's mask clings to my face, the likeness will not be washed off. I am Sebastian, or Sebastian is I, or perhaps we both are someone whom neither of us knows. (chapter 20)
At the beginning of VN¡¯s novel the narrator is a black pawn that on an imaginary chess board occupies the white square B7 (in front of the black knight on the black square B8). At the end of the novel he reaches the first rank (presumably, ending up on the black square A1) and turns into a knight (as often happens in chess problems). In his poem Vozmezdie (¡°Retribution,¡± 1910-21) Blok mentions all those people who ceased to be peshki (the pawns) and whom the authorities hasten v tur prevrashchat¡¯ ili v koney (to promote to the rooks or to the knights):
§ª §Ó§Ý§Ñ§ã§ä§î §ä§à§â§à§á§Ú§ä§ã§ñ §ã§Ü§à§â§Ö§Û
§£§ã§Ö§ç §ä§Ö§ç, §Ü§ä§à §á§Ö§â§Ö§ã§ä§Ñ§Ý §Ò§í§ä§î §á§Ö§ê§Ü§à§Û,
§£ §ä§å§â §á§â§Ö§Ó§â§Ñ§ë§Ñ§ä§î, §Ú§Ý§Ú §Ó §Ü§à§ß§Ö§Û¡ (Chapter One, ll. 211-213)
According to Pahl Pahlich Rechnoy (Mme Lecerf¡¯s former husband), when he first met his wife, her name was Nina Toorovetz:
'Well, when I met her her name was Nina Toorovetz ¨C but whether ¨C No, I think, you won't find her. As a matter of fact, I often catch myself thinking that she has never existed. I told Varvara Mitrofanna about her, and she said it was merely a bad dream after seeing a bad cinema film. Oh, you are not going yet, are you? She'll be back in a minute¡.' He looked at me and laughed (I think he had had a little too much of that brandy). (chapter 15)
The surname Toorovets seems to hint at tura (obs., rook), a chessman mentioned by Blok in ¡°Retribution,¡± and at Turati, a grandmaster in VN¡¯s novel Zaschita Luzhina (¡°The Luzhin Defense,¡± 1931). At the end of VN¡¯s novel Luzhin commits suicide by falling to his death from the bathroom window. The ground on which Luzhin is about to fall resembles a chess board:
§±§à§ã§Ý§Ö §Þ§ß§à§Ô§Ú§ç §å§ã§Ú§Ý§Ú§Û §à§ß §à§Ü§Ñ§Ù§Ñ§Ý§ã§ñ §Ó §ã§ä§â§Ñ§ß§ß§à§Þ §Ú §Þ§å§é§Ú§ä§Ö§Ý§î§ß§à§Þ §á§à§Ý§à§Ø§Ö§ß§Ú§Ú: §à§Õ§ß§Ñ §ß§à§Ô§Ñ §Ó§Ú§ã§Ö§Ý§Ñ §ã§ß§Ñ§â§å§Ø§Ú, §Ô§Õ§Ö §Ò§í§Ý§Ñ §Õ§â§å§Ô§Ñ§ñ ¨C §ß§Ö§Ú§Ù§Ó§Ö§ã§ä§ß§à, §Ñ §ä§Ö§Ý§à §ß§Ú§Ü§Ñ§Ü §ß§Ö §ç§à§ä§Ö§Ý§à §á§â§à§ä§Ú§ã§ß§å§ä§î§ã§ñ. §²§å§Ò§Ñ§ê§Ü§Ñ §ß§Ñ §á§Ý§Ö§é§Ö §á§à§â§Ó§Ñ§Ý§Ñ§ã§î, §Ó§ã§Ö §Ý§Ú§è§à §Ò§í§Ý§à §Þ§à§Ü§â§à§Ö. §µ§è§Ö§á§Ú§Ó§ê§Ú§ã§î §â§å§Ü§à§Û §Ù§Ñ §é§ä§à-§ä§à §Ó§Ó§Ö§â§ç§å, §à§ß §Ò§à§Ü§à§Þ §á§â§à§Ý§Ö§Ù §Ó §á§â§à§Û§Þ§å §à§Ü§ß§Ñ. §´§Ö§á§Ö§â§î §à§Ò§Ö §ß§à§Ô§Ú §Ó§Ú§ã§Ö§Ý§Ú §ß§Ñ§â§å§Ø§å, §Ú §ß§Ñ§Õ§à §Ò§í§Ý§à §ä§à§Ý§î§Ü§à §à§ä§á§å§ã§ä§Ú§ä§î §ä§à, §Ù§Ñ §é§ä§à §à§ß §Õ§Ö§â§Ø§Ñ§Ý§ã§ñ, ¨C §Ú §ã§á§Ñ§ã§×§ß. §±§â§Ö§Ø§Õ§Ö §é§Ö§Þ §à§ä§á§å§ã§ä§Ú§ä§î, §à§ß §Ô§Ý§ñ§ß§å§Ý §Ó§ß§Ú§Ù. §´§Ñ§Þ §ê§Ý§à §Ü§Ñ§Ü§à§Ö-§ä§à §ä§à§â§à§á§Ý§Ú§Ó§à§Ö §á§à§Õ§Ô§à§ä§à§Ó§Ý§Ö§ß§Ú§Ö: §ã§à§Ò§Ú§â§Ñ§Ý§Ú§ã§î, §Ó§í§â§Ñ§Ó§ß§Ú§Ó§Ñ§Ý§Ú§ã§î §à§ä§â§Ñ§Ø§Ö§ß§Ú§ñ §à§Ü§à§ß, §Ó§ã§ñ §Ò§Ö§Ù§Õ§ß§Ñ §â§Ñ§ã§á§Ñ§Õ§Ñ§Ý§Ñ§ã§î §ß§Ñ §Ò§Ý§Ö§Õ§ß§í§Ö §Ú §ä§Ö§Þ§ß§í§Ö §Ü§Ó§Ñ§Õ§â§Ñ§ä§í, §Ú §Ó §ä§à§ä §Þ§Ú§Ô, §é§ä§à §§å§Ø§Ú§ß §â§Ñ§Ù§Ø§Ñ§Ý §â§å§Ü§Ú, §Ó §ä§à§ä §Þ§Ú§Ô, §é§ä§à §ç§Ý§í§ß§å§Ý §Ó §â§à§ä §ã§ä§â§Ö§Þ§Ú§ä§Ö§Ý§î§ß§í§Û §Ý§Ö§Õ§ñ§ß§à§Û §Ó§à§Ù§Õ§å§ç, §à§ß §å§Ó§Ú§Õ§Ö§Ý, §Ü§Ñ§Ü§Ñ§ñ §Ú§Þ§Ö§ß§ß§à §Ó§Ö§é§ß§à§ã§ä§î §å§Ô§à§Õ§Ý§Ú§Ó§à §Ú §ß§Ö§å§Þ§à§Ý§Ú§Þ§à §â§Ñ§ã§Ü§Ú§ß§å§Ý§Ñ§ã§î §á§Ö§â§Ö§Õ §ß§Ú§Þ.
After many efforts he found himself in a strange and mortifying position: one leg hung outside, and he did not know where the other one was, while his body would in no wise be squeezed through. His shirt had torn at the shoulder, his face was wet. Clutching with one hand at something overhead, he got through the window sideways. Now both legs were hanging outside and he had only to let go of what he was holding on to ¡ª and he was saved. Before letting go he looked down. Some kind of hasty
preparations were under way there: the window reflections gathered together and leveled themselves out, the whole chasm was seen to divide into dark and pale squares, and at the instant when Luzhin unclenched his hand, at the instant when icy air gushed into his mouth, he saw exactly what kind of eternity was obligingly and inexorably spread out before him. (Chapter XIV)
According to Sebastian Knight, he did not much like the view in the window of his room in the St Damier hospital.
*a line in Pushkin¡¯s poem K*** (¡°To***,¡± 1825)
**included in Poems and Problems (1970)