Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027323, Wed, 15 Mar 2017 13:17:55 +0300

Vanya, Ben Sirine & Lenore Colline in Ada; Andronnikov,
Niagarin & Zemblan crown jewels in PF
Nirvana, Nevada, Vaniada. By the way, should I not add, my Ada, that only at the very last interview with poor dummy-mummy, soon after my premature - I mean, premonitory - nightmare about, 'You can, Sir,' she employed mon petit nom, Vanya, Vanyusha - never had before, and it sounded so odd, so tend... (voice trailing off, radiators tinkling). (5.6)

Vanya + bene = banya + Veen/even

e sempre bene + Irina + Ivan = peremena + Ben Sirine + iva

Vanya is a diminutive of Ivan. “Uncle Vanya” (1890) is a play by Chekhov. On the other hand, in Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (Three: XVIII: 6) Tatiana’s nurse mentions her husband Vanya:

— И полно, Таня! В эти лета

Мы не слыхали про любовь;

А то бы согнала со света

Меня покойница свекровь.—

«Да как же ты венчалась, няня?»

— Так, видно, бог велел. Мой Ваня

Моложе был меня, мой свет,

А было мне тринадцать лет.

Недели две ходила сваха

К моей родне, и наконец

Благословил меня отец.

Я горько плакала со страха,

Мне с плачем косу расплели,

Да с пеньем в церковь повели.

“Oh, come, come, Tanya! In those years

we never heard of love;

elsewise my late mother-in-law

would have chased me right off the earth.”

“But how, then, were you wedded, nurse?"

“It looks as if God willed it so. My Vanya

was younger than myself, my sweet,

and I was thirteen years of age.

For some two weeks came a matchmaking woman

to see my kinsfolk, and at last

my father blessed me.

Bitterly I cried for fear;

crying, my braid they unplaited

and, chanting, churchward led me.

In one of the next stanzas of EO (Three: XXII: 9) nadpis’ ada (Hell’s inscription) is mentioned:

Я знал красавиц недоступных,

Холодных, чистых, как зима,

Неумолимых, неподкупных,

Непостижимых для ума;

Дивился я их спеси модной,

Их добродетели природной,

И, признаюсь, от них бежал,

И, мнится, с ужасом читал

Над их бровями надпись ада:

Оставь надежду навсегда. 20

Внушать любовь для них беда,

Пугать людей для них отрада.

Быть может, на брегах Невы

Подобных дам видали вы.

I’ve known belles inaccessible,

cold, winter-chaste;

inexorable, incorruptible,

unfathomable to the minds

I marveled at their modish morgue,

at their natural virtue,

and, to be frank, I fled from them,

and I, meseems, with terror read

above their eyebrows Hell’s inscription:

“Abandon hope for evermore!”20

To inspire love is bale for them,

to frighten folks for them is joy.

Perhaps, on the banks of the Neva

similar ladies you have seen.

20 Lasciate ogni speranza voi ch’entrate. Our modest author has translated only the first part of the famous verse. [Pushkin’s note]

Nadezhda (hope) in line 10 brings to mind Nadezhda Botkin, the “real” name of Hazel Shade in VN’s novel Pale Fire (1962). An American scholar of Russian descent, Professor Vsevolod Botkin went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus after the suicide of his daughter Nadezhda. According to Shade, his daughter always nursed a small mad hope (l. 383). There is a hope that, after Kinbote completes his work on Shade’s poem and commits suicide (on Oct. 19, 1959, the Lyceum anniversary), Botkin, like Count Vorontsov (a target of Pushkin’s epigrams), will be “full” again.

Botkin + land = Bland + nikto (nobody)

In PF Baron Bland is the Keeper of the Treasure who succeeded in hiding the crown jewels before he jumped or fell from the North Tower (note to Line 681).

In Chapter Five (X: 1-4) of EO Tatiana, on the nurse’s advice, plans to conjure v banye (in the bathhouse):

Татьяна, по совету няни
Сбираясь ночью ворожить,
Тихонько приказала в бане
На два прибора стол накрыть;
Но стало страшно вдруг Татьяне..
И я — при мысли о Светлане
Мне стало страшно — так и быть,
С Татьяной нам не ворожить.
Татьяна поясок шелковый
Сняла, разделась и в постель
Легла. Над нею вьется Лель,
А под подушкою пуховой
Девичье зеркало лежит.
Утихло всё. Татьяна спит.

On the nurse’s advice, Tatiana,

planning that night to conjure,

has on the quiet ordered in the bathhouse

a table to be laid for two.

But suddenly Tatiana is afraid. . . .

And I—at the thought of Svetlana¾

I am afraid; so let it be . . .

we’re not to conjure with Tatiana.

Her little silken sash Tatiana

has taken off, undressed, and to bed

has gone. Lel hovers over her,

while under her pillow of down

there lies a maiden's looking glass.

All has grown still. Tatiana sleeps.

As I pointed out in my previous post (“Zembre & Uncle Van in Ada; Baron Bland & Zemblan crown jewels in Pale Fire”), Kishinyovskaya krovavaya banya (“The Kishinev Blood-Bath,” 1903) is an article by V. D. Nabokov (VN’s father who was assassinated in Berlin in March, 1922). Pushkin began writing EO in Kishinev in May, 1823. Van Veen writes his essay The Texture of Time in the summer of 1922.

In one of the next stanzas of EO (Five: XIV: 5) Tatiana’s zlatye ser’gi (golden pendants) are mentioned:

Татьяна в лес; медведь за нею;
Снег рыхлый по колено ей;
То длинный сук её за шею
Зацепит вдруг, то из ушей
Златые серьги вырвет силой;
То в хрупком снеге с ножки милой
Увязнет мокрый башмачок;
То выронит она платок;
Поднять ей некогда; боится,
Медведя слышит за собой,
И даже трепетной рукой
Одежды край поднять стыдится;
Она бежит, он все вослед,
И сил уже бежать ей нет.

Tatiana enters wood; bear follows;

up to her knee comes porous snow;

now by the neck a long branch

suddenly catches her, or out of her ears

tears by force their golden pendants;

now in the crumbly snow, off her winsome foot,

small sticks fast a small wet shoe;

now she lets fall her 'handkerchief—

she has no time to pick it up, is scared,

can hear the bear behind her,

and even, with a tremulous hand,

is shy to raise the border of her dress;

she runs; he keeps behind her;

and then she has no force to run.

In his poem On Translating "Eugene Onegin" (1955) written after the meter and rhyme scheme of the EO stanza VN says that he still picks up Tatiana’s earring:

Reflected words can only shiver

Like elongated lights that twist

In the black mirror of a river

Between the city and the mist.

Elusive Pushkin! Persevering,

I still pick up your damsel’s earring,

Still travel with your sullen rake.

I find another man's mistake,

I analyze alliterations

That grace your feasts and haunt the great

Fourth stanza of your Canto Eight.

This is my task -- a poet's patience

And scholiastic passion blent:

Dove-droppings on your monument.

Irina is a character in Chekhov’s play “The Three Sisters” (1901) known on Antiterra (aka Demonia, Earth’s twin planet on which Ada is set) as Four Sisters (2.1 et passim). In the film version of Four Sisters Irina (whom Ada played in the Yakima stage version of Chekhov's play) was played by Lenore Colline:

'In fact, I'm sure I played it your psychological way, but what does it matter, what did it matter? - the performance was perfectly odious, my baron kept fluffing every other line - but Marina, Marina was marvelous in her world of shadows! "Ten years and one have gone by-abye since I left Moscow"' - (Ada, now playing Varvara, copied the nun's 'singsongy devotional tone' (pevuchiy ton bogomolki, as indicated by Chekhov and as rendered so irritatingly well by Marina). '"Nowadays, Old Basmannaya Street, where you (turning to Irina) were born a score of yearkins (godkov) ago, is Busman Road, lined on both sides with workshops and garages (Irina tries to control her tears). Why, then, should you want to go back, Arinushka? (Irina sobs in reply)." Naturally, as would-every fine player, mother improvised quite a bit, bless her soul. And moreover her voice - in young tuneful Russian! - is substituted for Lenore's corny brogue.'

Van had seen the picture and had liked it. An Irish girl, the infinitely graceful and melancholy Lenore Colline -

Oh! qui me rendra ma colline

Et le grand chêne and my colleen!

- harrowingly resembled Ada Ardis as photographed with her mother in Belladonna, a movie magazine which Greg Erminin had sent him, thinking it would delight him to see aunt and cousin, together, on a California patio just before the film was released. (2.9)

In “the great fourth stanza of his Canto Eight” [of EO] Pushkin compares his Muse to Lenore (the heroine of Bürger’s ballad Lenore, 1773):

Но я отстал от их союза

И вдаль бежал... Она за мной.

Как часто ласковая муза

Мне услаждала путь немой

Волшебством тайного рассказа!

Как часто по скалам Кавказа

Она Ленорой, при луне,

Со мной скакала на коне!

Как часто по брегам Тавриды

Она меня во мгле ночной

Водила слушать шум морской,

Немолчный шёпот Нереиды,

Глубокий, вечный хор валов,

Хвалебный гимн отцу миров.

But I dropped out of their alliance–
and fled afar…she followed me.
How often the caressive Muse
for me would sweeten the mute way
with the bewitchment of a secret tale!
How often on Caucasia’s crags,
Lenorelike, by the moon,
with me she’d gallop on a steed!
How often on the shores of Tauris
she in the murk of night
led me to listen the sound of the sea,
Nereid’s unceasing murmur,
the deep eternal chorus of the billows,
the praiseful hymn to the sire of the worlds.

In Canto Four of his poem Shade calls his odd muse “my versipel:”

And that odd muse of mine
My versipel, is with me everywhere,
In carrel and in car, and in my chair. (ll. 946-948)

In French colline means “hill” and, in the verses composed by Van and Ada in “Ardis the First,” rhymes with Aline:

Oh! qui me rendra mon Aline

Et le grand chêne et ma colline?

In Pushkin’s EO knyazhna Alina (Princess Aline) is the Moscow cousin of Tatiana’s and Olga’s mother. The name Alina rhymes with malina (raspberry). During Van’s first tea-party at Ardis Marina (Van’s, Ada’s and Lucette’s mother) says that Dostoevski loved tea with raspberry syrup:

‘Slivok (some cream)? I hope you speak Russian?’ Marina asked Van, as she poured him a cup of tea.

‘Neohotno no sovershenno svobodno (reluctantly but quite fluently),’ replied Van, slegka ulïbnuvshis’ (with a slight smile). ‘Yes, lots of cream and three lumps of sugar.’

‘Ada and I share your extravagant tastes. Dostoevski liked it with raspberry syrup.’

‘Pah,’ uttered Ada. (1.5)

The characters of Dostoevski’s novel Podrostok (“The Adolescent,” 1875) include Andronnikov (Versilov's trustee who gave Arkadiy Dolgorukiy a letter that could compromise a beautiful young lady). In PF Andronnikov and Niagarin are the two Soviet experts whom the new Zemblan government hired to find the crown jewels (note to Line 130, et passim). In his speech Dostoevskiy, kak khudozhnik i myslitel’ ("Dostoevski as an Artist and Thinker," 1921) delivered on the centenary of Dostoevski's birth Lunacharski (the Education Minister in Lenin’s government) mentions Niagara (the Niagara Falls):

Чтобы понять, что делает Достоевский с психикой - возьмём хотя бы такой пример - вода. Для того, чтобы дать человеку полное представление о воде, заставить его объять все её свойства, надо ему показать воду, пар, лёд, разделить воду на составные части, показать, что такое тихое озеро, величаво катящая свои волны река, водопад, фонтан и проч. Словом - ему нужно показать все свойства, всю внутреннюю динамику воды. И, однако, этого всё-таки будет мало. Может быть, для того, чтобы понять динамику воды, нужно превысить данные возможности и фантастически представить человеку Ниагару, в сотню раз грандиознейшую, чем подлинная. Вот Достоевский и стремится превозмочь реальность и показать дух человеческий со всеми его неизмеримыми высотами и необъяснимыми глубинами со всех сторон. Как Микель Анджело скручивает человеческие тела в конвульсиях, в агонии, так Достоевский дух человеческий то раздувает до гиперболы, то сжимает до полного уничтожения, смешивает с грязью, низвергает его в глубины ада, то потом вдруг взмывает в самые высокие эмпиреи неба. Этими полётами человеческого духа Достоевский не только приковывает наше внимание, захватывает нас, открывает нам новые неизведанные красоты, но даёт очень много и нашему познанию, показывая нам неподозреваемые нами глубины души.

To demonstrate what Dostoevski makes with a man’s psyche Lunacharski takes the example of water. Marina’s mad twin sister Aqua imagined that she could understand the language of her namesake, water (1.3).

Lunacharski compares Dostoevski to Michelangelo. At the end of Pushkin’s little tragedy Mozart and Salieri (1830) Salieri mentions Buonarroti:

Ты заснёшь
Надолго, Моцарт! Но ужель он прав,
И я не гений? Гений и злодейство
Две вещи несовместные. Неправда:
А Бонаротти? Или это сказка
Тупой, бессмысленной толпы — и не был
Убийцею создатель Ватикана?

Your sleep
Will be a long one, Mozart. But is he right,
And I’m no genius? Genius and villainy
Are two things incompatible. Not true:
What about Buonarroti? Or is that just
A fable of stupid, senseless crowd,
And the Vatican’s creator was no murderer?

(scene II, transl. A. Shaw)

In Pushkin’s little tragedy Mozart uses the phrase nikto b:

Когда бы все так чувствовали силу
Гармонии! Но нет: тогда б не мог
И мир существовать; никто б не стал
Заботиться о нуждах низкой жизни;
Все предались бы вольному искусству.

If all could feel like you the power of harmony!
But no: the world could not go on then. None
Would bother with the needs of lowly life;
All would surrender to spontaneous art. (ibid.)

Nikto b (none would) is Botkin backwards.

The name Lunacharski has luna (moon) and Charski (a character in Pushkin’s story “The Egyptian Nights,” 1835) in it. In Pushkin’s EO (Three: V: 11-12) Onegin compares Olga’s face to a Vandyke Madonna and to eta glupaya luna na etom glupom nebosklone (that silly moon up in that silly sky):

Скажи: которая Татьяна?»
— Да та, которая, грустна
И молчалива, как Светлана,
Вошла и села у окна.—
«Неужто ты влюблён в меньшую?»
— А что? — «Я выбрал бы другую,
Когда б я был, как ты, поэт.
В чертах у Ольги жизни нет.
Точь-в-точь в Вандиковой Мадоне:
Кругла, красна лицом она,
Как эта глупая луна
На этом глупом небосклоне».
Владимир сухо отвечал
И после во весь путь молчал.

Tell me, which was Tatiana?”

“Oh, she's the one who, melancholy

and silent like Svetlana,

entered and sat down by the window.”

“How come you're with the younger one in love?”

“Why, what's the matter?” “I’d have chosen the other

if I had been like you a poet.

In Olga’s features there’s no life,

just as in a Vandyke Madonna:

She’s round and fair of face

as is that silly moon

up in that silly sky.”

Vladimir answered curtly

and thenceforth the whole way was silent.

Madona (“Madonna,” 1830) is a sonnet by Pushkin. It seems that, like some sonnets, Shade’s poem needs a coda (Line 1001: “By its own double in the windowpane”). In his story Rim (“Rome,” 1842) Gogol explains that coda is an Italian word and means “tail.” According to Ivan Karamazov (a character in Dostoevski’s “Brothers Karamazov,” 1880), the devil who visits him has a tail, long and smooth like a Danish dog's. Dostoevski is the author of Dvoynik (“The Double,” 1846) and Netochka Nezvanov (1848). In PF Netochka is the nickname of Dr Oscar Nattochdag, head of the department to which Botkin is attached (Foreword).

peremena – change, alteration; interval, break

Ben Sirine – an obscure ancient Arab, expounder of anagrammatic dreams, mentioned by Van in Ada (2.2): Herr Mispel, who liked to air his authors, discerned in Letters from Terra the influence of Osberg (Spanish writer of pretentious fairy tales and mystico-allegoric anecdotes, highly esteemed by short-shift thesialists) as well as that of an obscene ancient Arab, expounder of anagrammatic dreams, Ben Sirine, thus transliterated by Captain de Roux, according to Burton in his adaptation of Nefzawi’s treatise on the best method of mating with obese or hunchbacked females (The Perfumed Garden, Panther edition, p.187, a copy given to ninety-three-year-old Baron Van Veen by his ribald physician Professor Lagosse).

iva – willow

It seems to me that the golden earrings in Tatiana’s dream in Chapter Five of EO and nebo v almazakh (the sky swarming with diamonds) at the end of Chekhov’s play Uncle Vanya are metamorphosed into the Zemblan crown jewels in Pale Fire.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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