Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027497, Sun, 3 Sep 2017 16:01:43 +0300

great beaver, Sudarg of Bokay, Italian despot,
consonne d'appui & Pope in Pale Fire
According to Kinbote (one of the three main characters in VN’s novel Pale
Fire, 1962, Shade’s commentator who imagines that he is Charles the
Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla), he was nicknamed “the great
beaver” because of his brown beard:

One day I happened to enter the English Literature office in quest of a
magazine with the picture of the Royal Palace in Onhava, which I wanted my
friend to see, when I overheard a young instructor in a green velvet jacket,
whom I shall mercifully call Gerald Emerald, carelessly saying in answer to
something the secretary had asked: "I guess My Shade has already left with
the great beaver." Of course, I am quite tall, and my brown beard is of a
rather rich tint and texture; the silly cognomen evidently applied to me,
but was not worth noticing, and after calmly taking the magazine from a
pamphlet-cluttered table, I contented myself on my way out with pulling
Gerald Emerald's bow-tie loose with a deft jerk of my fingers as I passed by
him. (Foreword)

Gimn borode (“A Hymn to the Beard,” 1757) is a poem by Lomonosov.
Lomonosov is the author of Pis’mo o pol’ze stekla (“Letter on the Use of
Glass,” 1752). According to Kinbote, Gradus (Shade’s murderer) was in the
glass business:

Gradus never became a real success in the glass business to which he turned
again and again between his win-eselling and pamphlet printing jobs. He
started as a maker of Cartesian devils--imps of bottle glass bobbing up and
down in methylate-filled tubes hawked during Catkin Week on the boulevards.
He also worked as a teazer, and later as a flasher, at governmental
factories--and was, I believe, more or less responsible for the remarkably
ugly red-and-amber windows in the great public lavatory at rowdy but
colorful Kalixhaven where the sailors are. He claimed to have improved the
glitter and rattle of the so-called feuilles-d'alarme used by the grape
growers and orchardmen to scare the birds. I have staggered the notes
referring to him in such a fashion that the first (see
<http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/commentary.html#comline17> note to line
17 where some of his other activities are adumbrated) is the vaguest while
those that follow become gradually clearer as gradual Gradus approaches in
space and time. (note to Line 171)

In his Index to Pale Fire Kinbote mentions Sudarg of Bokay, a mirror maker
of genius:

Sudarg of Bokay, a mirror maker of genius, the patron saint of Bokay in the
mountains of Zembla,
<http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/commentary.html#comline80> 80; life span
not known.

Sudarg of Bokay is Jakob Gradus in reverse. On the other hand, Sudarg
suggest gosudar’ (sovereign) and its feminine form, gosudarynya. Lomonosov
is the author of Oda na den’ vosshestviya na prestol eyo velichestva
gosudaryni imperatritsy Elisavety Petrovny 1748 goda (“Ode on the
Anniversary of the Ascent to the Throne of her Majesty Empress Elizaveta
Petrovna of the Year 1748”). In Eugene Onegin (Five: XXV: 1-4) Pushkin
parodies the opening lines of Lomonosov’s poem:

Но вот багряною рукою 34

Заря от утренних долин

Выводит с солнцем за собою

Весёлый праздник именин.

But lo, with crimson hand 34

Aurora from the morning dales

leads forth, with the sun, after her

the merry name-day festival.

Pushkin’s note 34: Пародия известных стихов Ломо

Заря багряною рукою
От утренних спокойных вод
Выводит с солнцем за собою, ― и проч.

a parody of Lomonosov’s well-known lines:

Aurora with a crimson hand

from the calm morning waters

leads forth with the sun after her, etc.

In Chapter One of EO Pushkin describes Onegin’s day in St. Petersburg and
(in One: XVI: 4) mentions Onegin’s bobrovyi vorotnik (beaver collar):

Уж тёмно: в санки он садится.
"Пади, пади!" - раздался крик;
Морозной пылью серебрится
Его бобровый воротник.

К Talon4 помчался: он уверен,
Что там уж ждёт его Каверин.

Вошёл: и пробка в потолок,
Вина кометы брызнул ток,
Пред ним roast-beef окровавленный,
И трюфли, роскошь юных лет,
Французской кухни лучший цвет,
И Стразбурга пирог нетленный
Меж сыром Лимбургским живым
И ананасом золотым.

It’s already dark. He gets into a sleigh.

The cry “Way, way!” resounds.

With frostdust silvers

his beaver collar.

To Talon's
a-read-343746-361.html#puskin_en_4> 4 he has dashed off: he is certain

that there already waits for him [Kaverin];

has entered \xa8C and the cork goes ceilingward,

the flow of comet wine has spurted,

a bloody roast beef is before him,

and truffles, luxury of youthful years,

the best flower of French cookery,

and a decayless Strasbourg pie

between a living Limburg cheese

and a golden ananas.

Pushkin’s note 4: Well-known restaurateur.

In his Foreword to Shade’s poem Kinbote says that he is a strict vegetarian
and likes to cook his own meals:

A few days later, however, namely on Monday, February 16, I was introduced
to the old poet at lunch time in the faculty club. "At last presented
credentials," as noted, a little ironically, in my agenda. I was invited to
join him and four or five other eminent professors at his usual table, under
an enlarged photograph of Wordsmith College as it was, stunned and shabby,
on a remarkably gloomy summer day in 1903. His laconic suggestions that I
"try the pork" amused me. I am a strict vegetarian, and I like to cook my
own meals. Consuming something that had been handled by a fellow creature
was, I explained to the rubicund convives, as repulsive to me as eating any
creature, and that would include--lowering my voice--the pulpous pony-tailed
girl student who served us and licked her pencil. Moreover, I had already
finished the fruit brought with me in my briefcase, so I would content
myself, I said, with a bottle of good college ale. My free and simple
demeanor set everybody at ease. The usual questions were fired at me about
eggnogs and milkshakes being or not being acceptable to one of my
persuasion. Shade said that with him it was the other way around: he must
make a definite effort to partake of a vegetable. Beginning a salad, was to
him like stepping into sea water on a chilly day, and he had always to brace
himself in order to attack the fortress of an apple.

According to Kinbote, he became a vegetarian after reading a story about an
Italian despot:

When the fallen tyrant is tied, naked and howling, to a plank in the public
square and killed piecemeal by the people who cut slices out, and eat them,
and distribute his living body among themselves (as I read when young in a
story about an Italian despot, which made of me a vegetarian for life),
Gradus does not take part in the infernal sacrament: he points out the right
instrument and directs the carving. (note to Line 171)

In VN’s story Krug (“The Circle,” 1936) Tanya mentions the despot:

Беседа не ладилась; Таня, что-то спутав, ув
еряла, что он её когда-то учил революционн
ым стихам о том, как деспот пирует, а грозн
ые буквы давно на стене уж чертит рука рок
овая. "Другими словами, первая стенгазета
",-- сказал Кутасов, любивший острить. Ещё в
ыяснилось, что танин брат живёт в Берлине,
и Елизавета Павловна принялась рассказыв
ать о нём...

The Leshino topic was falling apart; Tanya, getting it all wrong, insisted
that he used to teach her the pre-Revolution songs of radical students, such
as the one about “the despot who feasts in his rich palace hall while
destiny’s hand has already begun to trace the dread words on the wall.”
“In other words, our first stengazeta” (Soviet wall gazette), remarked
Kutaysov, a great wit. Tanya’s brother was mentioned: he lived in Berlin,
and the Countess started to talk about him.

Tanya’s brother, Fyodor Konstantinovich Godunov-Cherdyntsev, is the
narrator and main character in VN’s novel Dar (“The Gift,” 1937). The
novel’s characters include the Chernyshevski couple: Alexander Yakovlevich
and Alexandra Yakovlevna. After the suicide of their son Yasha (who neatly
defined the mutual relationship between him, Rudolf and Olya as “a triangle
inscribed in a circle”) poor Alexander Yakovlevich went mad. After the
tragic death of his daughter Nadezhda (Hazel Shade of Kinbote’s Commentary)
Professor Vsevolod Botkin (an American scholar of Russian descent) went mad
and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus. There is a hope (nadezhda) that, when
Kinbote completes his work on Shade’s poem and commits suicide, Botkin will
be “full” again.

In his EO Commentary (note to One: XVI: 5-6) VN discusses the rhyme uveren
(certain) \xa8C Kaverin and mentions the consonne d’appui (intrusive

As in French orthometry, the punctilious spangle of the consonne d’appui
(reckoned tawdry in English) increases the acrobatic brilliance of the
Russian rhyme.

In Canto Four of his poem Shade mentions his sensual love for the consonne
d’appui, Echo’s fey child:

Maybe my sensual love for the consonne
D'appui, Echo's fey child, is based upon
A feeling of fantastically planned,
Richly rhymed life. (ll. 967-970)

In Pushkin’s poem Rifma (“Rhyme,” 1830) Rhyme is the daughter of Phoebus
(Apollo as the sun god) and Echo, a sleepless nymph:

Эхо, бессонная нимфа, скиталась по брегу П
Феб, увидев её, страстию к ней воспыла
Нимфа плод понесла восторгов влюблённого
Меж говорливых наяд, мучась, она роди
Милую дочь. Её прияла сама Мнемозина.
Резвая дева росла в хоре богинь-аони
Матери чуткой подобна, послушна памяти ст

Музам мила; на земле Рифмой зовётся о

In an earlier poem, Rifma, zvuchnaya podruga… (“Rhyme, the sonorous
friend…” 1828), Rhyme turns out to be the daughter of Apollo and Mnemosyne
(who is the mid-wife in “Rhyme”). In one of his poems addressed to Zina
Mertz (a character in “The Gift”) Fyodor calls her polu-Mnemozina

In the above quoted stanza of EO (One: XVI: 8) Pushkin mentions vino komety
(vin de la comète, champagne of the comet year, 1811). There is vino (wine)
in vinograd (grapes). Vinograd (1824) and Vino (1833) are poems by Pushkin.
At the end of his note to Line 171 Kinbote calls Gradus “Vinogradus” and

All this is as it should be; the world needs Gradus. But Gradus should not
kill things. Vinogradus should never, never provoke God. Leningradus should
not aim his peashooter at people even in dreams, because if he does, a pair
of colossally thick, abnormally hairy arms will hug him from behind and
squeeze, squeeze, squeeze.

Lenin is the author of Lev Tolstoy kak zerkalo russkoy revolyutsii (“Leo
Tolstoy as the Mirror of the Russian Revolution,” 1908). A strict
vegetarian, Leo Tolstoy had a beard. In Tolstoy’s novel Voyna i mir (“War
and Peace,” 1869) Pierre Bezukhov watches the Great Comet of 1811-12.

In his poem Portret (“The Portrait,” 1828) Pushkin compares Agrafena
Zakrevski (portrayed as “Cleopatra of the Neva” in Chapter Eight of EO) to
bezzakonnaya kometa v krugu raschislennom svetil (a lawless comet in the
circle of calculated planets):

С своей пылающей душой,
С своими бурными страстями,
О жёны Севера, меж вами
Она является порой
И мимо всех условий света
Стремится до утраты сил,
Как беззаконная комета
В кругу расчисленном светил.

A comet has a tail. In his fragment Rim (“Rome,” 1842) Gogol mentions the
Italian sonnetto colla coda (sonnet with the coda) and in a footnote
explains that in Italian coda means “tail.” Chapter Four of “The Gift,”
Fyodor’s book Zhizn’ Chernyshevskogo (“The Life of Chernyshevski”),
begins and ends with the sonnet. Coda rhymes with oda (“ode”) and with
goda (Gen. of god, “year”). In the title of Lomonosov’s Oda na den’
vosshestviya na prestol eyo velichestva gosudaryni imperatritsy Elisavety
Petrovny 1748 goda the first word is oda and the last word is goda.

It seems that, to be completed, Shade’s unfinished poem needs not only Line
1000 (identical to Line 1: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain”), but
also a coda (Line 1001: “By its own double in the windowpane”).

Kinbote’s Foreword to Shade’s poem is dated Oct. 19, 1959 (on this day
Kinbote completes his work on Shade’s poem and commits suicide). In a
letter of October 19, 1836, to Chaadaev Pushkin says that the only
difference between the Roman Catholic and Russian Orthodox priests is that
the latter are bearded:

Je conviens que notre clergé actuel est en retard. En voulez-vous savoir la
raison? c’est qu’il est barbu; voilà tout.

In a letter of August 24, 1831, to Pushkin Vyazemski wonders if he should
write a treatise about the Greek faith of our old grammarians or botanists
who attributed the rose to masculine gender:

При человеке известного вкуса хвалили од
ну девушку и говорили: она хороша как роз
а. Что Вы говорите, как роза, она даже хоро
ша как розан, отвечал человек известного
вкуса. Чтобы ты не подумал, что повторяю т
ебе анекдот, спешу заявить, что это моего
сочинения. Не написать ли трактат и о греч
еском исповедании наших старинных грамат
еев или ботаников, которые отнесли розу к
мужескому роду?

In the presence of a man of certain tastes a girl was praised: “she is as
beautiful as roza (a rose).” The man of certain tastes replied: “she is
even as beautiful as rozan.”

A masculine form of roza, rozan (accented on the second syllable) brings to
mind Rozanov, the author of Lyudi lunnogo sveta (“People of the
Moonlight,” 1912). By “people of the moonlight” Rozanov (who argues that
Leo Tolstoy and the philosopher Vladimir Solovyov, another bearded
vegetarian, displayed the features of “urningists”) means homosexuals.
Shade’s alter ego, Kinbote is gay.

In his review of Koncheyev’s Communication Christopher Mortus (a loathsome
critic in “The Gift”) quotes Rozanov:

Не помню кто - кажется, Розанов, говорит гд
е-то", - начинал, крадучись, Мортус; и, приве
дя сперва эту недостоверную цитату, потом
какую-то мысль, кем-то высказанную в париж
ском кафе после чьей-то лекции, начинал су
живать эти искусственные круги вокруг "Со
общения" Кончеева, причём до конца так и н
е касался центра, а только изредка направ
лял к нему месмерический жест с внутренне
го круга - и опять кружился. Получалось не
что вроде тех чёрных спиралей на картонны
х кругах, которые, в безумном стремлении о
братиться в мишень, бесконечно вращаются
в витринах берлинских мороженников.

“I do not remember who said―perhaps Rozanov said it somewhere,” began
Mortus stealthily; and citing first this unauthentic quotation and then some
thought expressed by somebody in a Paris café after someone’s lecture, he
began to narrow these artificial circles around Koncheyev’s Communication;
but even so, to the very end he never touched the center, but only directed
now and then a mesmeric gesture toward it from the circumference―and again
revolved. The result was something in the nature of those black spirals on
cardboard circles which are everlastingly spinning in the windows of Berlin
ice-cream parlors in a crazy effort to turn into bull’s-eyes. (Chapter

The Russian word mortus comes from Latin mortuus (dead) and denotes “a
hospital attendant who took away corpses during the epidemics,
particularly, during the plague.” Such an attendant appears at the end of
Pushkin’s little tragedy Pir vo vremya chumy (“A Feast in Time of
Plague,” 1830). In Pushkin's little tragedy "Mozart and Salieri" (1830)
Salieri says that he cut up music like a corpse and Mozart uses the phrase
nikto b (none would). Nikto b is Botkin (Shade's, Kinbote's and Gradus'
"real" name) backwards.

In Chapter Three of “The Gift” Fyodor describes his juvenile metromania
and mentions his collection of rhymes:

Рифмы по мере моей охоты за ними сложилис
ь у меня в практическую систему несколько
картотечного порядка. Они были распредел
ены по семейкам, получались гнезда рифм, п
ейзажи рифм. "Летучий" сразу собирал тучи
над кручами жгучей пустыни и неминучей су
дьбы. "Небосклон" направлял музу к балкону
и указывал ей на клен. "Цветы" подзывали ме
чты, на ты, среди темноты. Свечи, плечи, вст
речи и речи создавали общую атмосферу ста
росветского бала, Венского конгресса и гу
бернаторских именин. "Глаза" синели в обще
стве бирюзы, грозы и стрекоз - и лучше было
их не трогать. "Деревья" скучно стояли в па
ре с "кочевья", - как в наборной игре "город
ов", Швеция была представлена только двум
я городами (а Франция, та, - двенадцатью!). "
Ветер" был одинок - только вдали бегал неп
ривлекательный сеттер, - да пользовалась
его предложным падежом крымская гора, а р
одительный - приглашал геометра. Были и ре
дкие экземпляры - с пустыми местами, остав
ляемыми для других представителей серии,
вроде "аметистовый", к которому я не сразу
подыскал "перелистывай" и совершенно непр
именимого неистового пристава. Словом, эт
о была прекрасно размеченная коллекция, в
сегда у меня бывшая под рукой.

As my hunt for them progressed, rhymes settled down into a practical system
somewhat on the order of a card index. They were distributed in little
families―rhyme-clusters, rhymescapes. Letuchiy (flying) immediately grouped
tuchi (clouds) over the kruchi (steeps) of the zhguchey (burning) desert and
of neminuchey (inevitable) fate. Nebosklon (sky) let the muse onto the
balkon (balcony) and showed her a klyon (maple). Tsvety (flowers) and ty
(thou) summoned mechty (fancies) in the midst of temnoty (darkness). Svechi,
plechi, vstrechi, and rechi (tapers, shoulders, meetings, and speeches)
created the old-world atmosphere of a ball at the Congress of Vienna or on
the town governor’s birthday. Glaza (eyes) shone blue in the company of
biryuza (turquoise), groza (thunderstorm), and strekoza (dragonfly), and it
was better not to get involved in the series. Derevya (trees) found
themselves dully paired with kochevya (nomad encampments) as happens in the
game in which one has to collect cards with the names of cities, with only
two representing Sweden (but a dozen in the case of France!). Veter (wind)
had no mate, except for a not very attractive setter running about in the
distance, but by shifting into the genitive, one could get words ending in
“meter” to perform (vetra-geometra). There were also certain treasured
freaks, rhymes to which, like rare stamps in an album, were represented by
blanks. Thus it took me a long time to discover that ametistovyy
(amethystine) could be rhymed with perelistyvay (turn the pages), with
neistovyy (furioso), and with the genitive case of an utterly unsuitable
pristav (police constable). In short, it was a beautifully labeled
collection that I had always close to hand.

In Chapter Four of EO (XLII: 1-4) Pushkin rhymes rozy (roses) with morozy

И вот уже трещат морозы
И серебрятся средь полей...
(Читатель ждет уж рифмы розы;
На, вот возьми её скорей!)

And there the frosts already crackle

and silver midst the fields

(the reader now expects the rhyme “froze-rose \xa8C

here you are, take it quick!).

In his EO Commentary (vol. II, pp. 470-471) VN points out that morozy \xa8C
rozy is a Russian example of what Pope calls (in his Essay on Criticism, ll.
349-351) “sure returns still-expected rhymes:”

Where-e’er you find the cooling western breeze,

In the next line, it whispers thro’ the trees…

Shade is an authority on Pope. In Canto Two of his poem Shade speaks of his
daughter and mentions his book on Pope:

I think she always nursed a small mad hope.

I'd finished recently my book on Pope. (ll. 383-384)

Alexey Sklyarenko

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,dana.dragunoiu@gmail.com,shvabrin@humnet.ucla.edu
Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com
AdaOnline: "http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada: http://vnjapan.org/main/ada/index.html
The VN Bibliography Blog: http://vnbiblio.com/
Search the archive with L-Soft: https://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?A0=NABOKV-L

Manage subscription options :http://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=NABOKV-L