NABOKV-L post 0021969, Wed, 31 Aug 2011 01:45:32 +0300

Subject
Chose/shtuchka
Date
Body
Van begins to perform as Mascodagama at Chose. On his last tour he dances tango on his hands to the tune Pod znoynym nebom Argentiny (Ada: 1.30). The same tango Ostap Bender dances in Ilf & Petrov's "The Golden Calf" (Chapter XX: "The Commodore is Dancing a Tango"). In the same novel (Chapter II: “The Thirty Sons of Lieutenant Shmidt”) Bender mentions a Charleston U moey devochki est’ odna malen’kaya shtuchka (“My girl has one little thing”) said to be popular in Rio de Janeiro, the city of Ostap’s dreams. We can only guess what is this malen'kaya shtuchka (little thing; Fr. petite chose) possessed by the girl in the song.*

Similarly, we can not see from the context what little thing (malen'kaya shtuchka) Tolstoy has in mind in a letter of January 1-3, 1864, to his sister-in-law, Tatiana Baehrs (who had a romance with Tolstoy's brother Sergey who left Tatiana for his old mistress, a gypsy singer Maria Shishkin):

Всякое слово обдуманно и прочувствованно, может быть, оно неправда для тебя покажется, но я сказал всё, что я думаю и чувствую об этом, исключая одной маленькой штучки, которую я скажу как-нибудь после.**

In a letter of May 14, 1868, to P. I. Bartenev Tolstoy asks to insert a new paragraph in the text of "War and Peace" (Volume 3, Part 3, chapter VII) with the phrase noven'kaya shtuchka (new little thing or, rather, "new little trick") in it.

Только М. Д. Ахросимова, приезжавшая в это время в Петербург для свидания с одним из своих сыновей, не одобрила поведения Элен и с свойственной ей грубостью, встретив графиню Безухую на вечере у очень важного лица, через всю залу прокричала ей, как будто для кулачного боя засучивая свои широкие рукава (это была её привычка): "А ты, говорят, матушка, новенькую штучку выдумала. За двух мужей сразу идти хочешь. Напрасно, мать моя, напрасно. Да и не ты первая выдумала. Это уже давно придумано во всех..."
И Марья Дмитриевна сказала такое грубое слово, которое не могло быть понято и услышано тем высоким обществом, в котором она находилась. Слово это было принято comme non avenu.

Noven'kaya shtuchka devised by Helene Bezukhov is bigamy (двоемужие, of a woman) and the dirty word (marked by dots) used by Maria Dmitrievna was probably bardakakh ("brothels," Prepositional case).

In a letter of August 22, 1871, to Prince V. P. Meshchersky (the editor of the Grazhdanin newspaper who was sexually left-handed) Tolstoy compares the work in newspapers and magazines to intellectual brothel: Газетная и журнальная деятельность есть умственный бордель, из которого возврата не бывает.

In Ada (2.3), Eric Veen devised his Villa Venus project (a chain of "floramors," palatial brothels) after reading too many erotic works found in a furnished house his grandfather bought from Count Tolstoy.

After she failed to seduce Van in Kingston (Van's American University: 2.5) Lucette tells him that she imitated all her [Ada's] shtuchki (little stunts).

When Van, Ada and Lucette return from the picnic site in Ardis the Second, with Lucette clad in shorts sitting in Van's lap, Van recalls Ada's indulgent skirt, "so swoony-balloony as the Chose young things [Шозские юные штучки] said." (1.39)

Shtuchka is a diminutive of shtuka (thing; trick; item; piece). Shtuka is an anagram of shutka (joke).

*see also my article "The Naked Truth, or The Reader's Sentimental Education in Ada's Quelque Chose University" in Zembla
**In a letter of January 9 to her sister Tolstoy's wife Sofia Andreevna explains: Штучка та, что он боится в обоих случаях, что будешь несчастлива (I hope there is a good annotated English edition of Tolstoy's letters).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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