Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020722, Sun, 12 Sep 2010 22:03:06 -0400

Re: Uranograd and Einstein

The smaller person in the drawing couldn't possibly be Albert Einstein. No resemblance whatever.

Date: Sun, 12 Sep 2010 13:36:10 +0400
From: skylark05@MAIL.RU
Subject: [NABOKV-L] Uranograd and Einstein

I focused, in my previous post, on Ehrenburg and overlooked the fact that Einstein (who is also mentioned in Amfiteatrov's story) was one of the scientists who were responsible for making the atomic bomb (in the American Uranograd). Here is one of the three illustrations by Leonid Golubev-Bagryanorodnyi to Amfiteatrov's story, Eynshteyn, verkhom na Il'e Erenburge ("Einstein straddling Ilya Ehrenburg"). I thought that the artist's double-barrelled name was also of interest. While Golubev (another "avian" name) comes from golub', "pigeon, dove", Bagryanorodnyi means "Purple-born" reminding one of Konstantin Bagryanorodnyi (Constantine Porphyrogenitus, 905-59), the Byzantine Emperor. His nickname alludes to the Purple Room of the imperial palace, decorated with the stone porphyry, where legitimate children of reigning emperors were normally born.

L. N. Golubev-Bagryanorodnyi (1890-1934) also illustrated Maximilian Voloshin's book Stikhi o terrore ("Verses about Terror", 1923). From 1922 to his death he lived in Berlin where he portrayed (in pencil) many emigre artists. I wonder if he also did a portrait of VN? Did VN ever meet him? May be, he served as a model of the painter Troshcheykin, the snobbish hero of VN's play Sobytie ("The Event", 1938)? Most of G-B.'s paintings are now in Russkiy Kul'turno-Istoricheskiy musey in Prague. G-B is also the author of six books of poetry.

Speaking of Einstein, note that Eystein (btw., Eystein was the name of several kings of Norway) is a Zemblan court portraitist, master of trompe l'oeil (see Kinbote's note to line 130).

The title of Amfiteatrov's story, Tochka opory ("The Point of Rest"), reminds one of the term "Archimedean point" (Archimedes is among the great geniuses of the past who are mentioned in Tochka opory), a hypothetical vantage point from which an observer can objectively perceive the subject of inquiry, with a view of totality. One remembers Tyutchev's lines: Schastliv v nash vek, komu pobeda / Dalas' ne krov'yu, a umom, / Schastliv, kto tochku Arkhimeda / Syskat' umel v sebe samom ("In our days happy's he who managed to gain victory using his brain, without spilling a drop of blood; happy's he who managed to find in himself the Archimedean point") from his poem Da, Vy sderzhali Vashe slovo ("Yes, you have kept your word...", 1870).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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