Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027540, Fri, 29 Sep 2017 12:29:04 +0300

Uranograd & the Shadows in Pale Fire; Zhorzhik Uranski in Pnin;
Captain Tapper in Ada
In VN's novel Pale Fire (1962) Kinbote (Shade's mad commentator who imagines
that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla)
mentions Amphitheatricus, a writer of fugitive poetry who dubbed Onhava (the
capital of Zembla) "Uranograd:"

Alfin the Vague (1873-1918; regnal dates 1900-1918, but 1900-1919 in most
biographical dictionaries, a fumble due to the coincident calendar change
from Old Style to New) was given his cognomen by Amphitheatricus, a not
unkindly writer of fugitive poetry in the liberal gazettes (who was also
responsible for dubbing my capital Uranograd!). (note to Line 71)

Amphitheatricus hints at Alexander Amfiteatrov (1862-1938), a journalist and
novelist. In his memoir essay Dom iskusstv ("House of Arts," 1925) G. Ivanov
describes a banquet in DISK (a house in Petrograd, at the corner of Nevsky
Avenue and Moyka Canal, where poets and artists lived in 1919-23) in honor
of H. G. Wells and mentions Amfiteatrov's suggestion to unbutton one's
clothes and to demonstrate to the guest one's dessous (in order to show him
"what they have done to us"):

Банкет был позорный. Уэллс с видимым усилием ел <роскошный завтрак>, плохо
слушал ораторов и изредка невпопад им отвечал. Ораторы... некоторые из них
выказали большое гражданское мужество - например Амфитеатров, предложивший
присутствующим, чтобы показать высокому гостю, <что они с нами сделали>,-
расстегнуться и продемонстрировать ему свой <дессу>.

Это смелое предложение принято не было. Но Амфитеатров был наказан: Уэллс,
обратившись к нему, назвал его мистером Шкловским.

This bold suggestion was not accepted, but Amfiteatrov was punished:
addressing him, H. G. Wells called him "Mr. Shklovsky." Shklovsky is the
author of Zoo ili Pis'ma ne o lyubvi ("Zoo, or Letters not about Love,"
1923), a book whose title brings to mind Zoorlandiya (Zoorland). A
totalitarian country invented by Martin Edelweiss and Sonya Zilanov, the
characters in VN's novel Podvig ("Glory," 1932), Zoorland has a lot in
common with Kinbote's Zembla.

H. G. Wells described his trip to Soviet Russia (and his meeting in Kremlin
with Lenin) in the fall of 1920 in his book Russia in the Shadows (1921).
Shade's murderer is a member of the Shadows, a regicidal organization which
commissioned Gradus to assassinate the self-banished king of Zembla. Jakob
Gradus is the son of Martin Gradus, a Protestant minister in Riga (note to
Line 17). At the end of "Glory" Martin gets into Zoorland crossing the
Latvian border. Gradus' first name, Jakob, seems to hint at Yakobson, the
investigator who, according to G. Ivanov, was responsible for Gumilyov's

Допросы Гумилёва больше походили на диспуты, где обсуждались самые
разнообразные вопросы - от "Принца" Макиавелли до "красоты православия".
Следователь Якобсон, ведший таганцевское дело, был, по словам Дзержибашева,
настоящим инквизитором, соединявшим ум и блестящее образование с
убеждённостью маниака. Более опасного следователя нельзя было бы выбрать,
чтобы подвести под расстрел Гумилёва. Если бы следователь испытывал его
мужество или честь, он бы, конечно, ничего от Гумилёва не добился. Но
Якобсон Гумилева чаровал и льстил ему. Называл его лучшим русским поэтом,
читал наизусть гумилёвские стихи, изощрённо спорил с Гумилевым и потом
уступал в споре, сдаваясь или притворяясь, что сдался, перед умственным
превосходством противника:

G. Ivanov calls Yakobson "a real inquisitor." The name of one of the
Zoorland chiefs in "Glory," Savan-na-rylo (Shroud-on-Mug), hints at
Savonarola (an Italian friar and preacher, 1452-98). In his poem Florentsiya
("Florence," 1913) Gumilyov mentions Leonardo's Leda, Savonarola and the
poor exile, Alighieri, who slowly descends to Hell:

:Один, как шкура леопарда,
Разнообразьем вечно нов.
Там гибнет <Леда> Леонардо
Средь благовоний и шелков.

Другой, зловещий и тяжёлый,
Как подобравшийся дракон,
Шипит: <Вотще Савонароллой
Мой дом державный потрясён>.

Они ликуют, эти звери,
А между них, потупя взгляд,
Изгнанник бедный, Алигьери,
Стопой неспешной сходит в Ад.

Duchess of Payn, of Great Payn and Moan, Queen Disa (the wife of Charles the
Beloved) seems to blend Leonardo's Mona Lisa with Desdemona, Othello's wife
in Shakespeare's Othello.

In Canto Three of his poem Shade describes IPH (a lay Institute of
Preparation for the Hereafter) and mentions Fra Karamazov who crept into
some classes, mumbling his inept All is allowed (ll. 641-642). In
Dostoevski's "Brothers Karamazov" (1880) Ivan Karamazov (who affirms that,
if God does not exist, all is allowed) is the author of "The Legend of the
Grand Inquisitor." Dostoevski's mistress Apollinaria Suslov married Rozanov,
the author of Lyudi lunnogo sveta ("People of the Moonlight," 1912) and
Apokalipsis nashego vremeni ("The Apocalypse of Our Time," 1918). By "people
of the moonlight" Rozanov means Urnings (as the author calls homosexuals).
The characters of "Glory" include Archibald Moon, a Cambridge Professor who,
according to Darwin (a friend of Martin), predan uranizmu (is addicted to
Urningism). "Uranograd" seems to blend Urningism (a word derived from
Aphrodite Urania) with Petrograd (St. Petersburg's name in 1914-24). In his
Index to PF Kinbote mentions Uran the Last (an ancestor of Alfin the Vague):

Uran the Last, Emperor of Zembla, reigned 1798-1799; an incredibly
brilliant, luxurious and cruel monarch whose whistling whip made Zembla spin
like a rainbow top; dispatched one night by a group of his sister's united
favorites, <http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/commentary.html#comline681>

Uran the Last seems to correspond to Paul I, the tsar who was assassinated
on a March night of 1801. In the opening lines of his "Ode to Liberty"
(1817), in which he describes the murder of Paul I (ll. 65-88), Pushkin
addresses delicate Queen of Cythera (Aphrodite):

Беги, сокройся от очей,
Цитеры слабая царица!

Begone, be hidden from my eyes,

Delicate Queen of Cythera!

One of G. Ivanov's collections of poetry is entitled Otplytie na ostrov
Tsiteru ("The Embarkment for Cythera," 1937). In his novel Pnin (1957) VN
satirizes G. Ivanov and his friend G. Adamovich (also known as Sodomovich)
as Zhorzhik Uranski, an influential literary critic:

One of her admirers, a banker, and straightforward patron of the arts,
selected among the Parisian Russians an influential literary critic,
Zhorzhik Uranski, and for a champagne dinner at the Ougolok had the old boy
devote his next feuilleton in one of the Russian--language newspapers to an
appreciation of Liza's muse on whose chestnut curls Zhorzhik calmly placed
Anna Akhmatov's coronet, whereupon Liza burst into happy tears--for all the
world like little Miss Michigan or the Oregon Rose Queen. Pnin, who was not
in the know, carried about a folded clipping of that shameless rave in his
honest pocket-book, naively reading out passages to this or that amused
friend until it got quite frayed and smudgy. Nor was he in the know
concerning graver matters, and in fact was actually pasting the remnants of'
the review in an album when, on a December day in 1938, Liza telephoned from
Meudon, saying that she was going to Montpellier with a man who understood
her 'organic ego', a Dr Eric Wind, and would never see Timofey again. An
unknown French woman with red hair called for Liza's things and said, well,
you cellar rat, there is no more any poor lass to taper dessus--and a month
or two later there dribbled in from Dr Wind a German letter of sympathy and
apology assuring lieber Herr Pnin that he, Dr Wind, was eager to marry 'the
woman who has come out of your life into mine.' (Chapter Two, 5)

A city in South France, Montpellier is also mentioned in VN's story That in
Aleppo Once (1943). The story's title is a reference to Othello's last words
in Shakespeare's tragedy. Anna Akhmatov (whose coronet Zhorzhik placed on
Liza Bogolepov's head) was Gumilyov's first wife. Taper dessus (a phrase
used by Liza's French friend) brings to mind dessous (underwear) mentioned
by Amfiteatrov at the banquet with H. G. Wells and Captain Tapper, of Wild
Violet Lodge (in VN's novel Ada, 1969, Van's adversary in a pistol duel).
The name of Tapper's second, Arwin Birdfoot, seems to hint at Darwin. On the
other hand, it brings to mind a pheasant's feet mentioned by Shade in Canto
One of his poem:

And then the gradual and dual blue
As night unites the viewer and the view,
And in the morning, diamonds of frost
Express amazement: Whose spurred feet have crossed
From left to right the blank page of the road?
Reading from left to right in winter's code:
A dot, an arrow pointing back; repeat:
Dot, arrow pointing back... A pheasant's feet!
Torquated beauty, sublimated grouse,
Finding your China right behind my house.
Was he in Sherlock Holmes, the fellow whose
Tracks pointed back when he reversed his shoes? (ll. 17-28)

In his poem Glyadit pechal' ogromnymi glazami: ("The sadness stares with her
big eyes:" 1920) G. Ivanov asks a redbreast not to fly away to Algeria or to

Малиновка моя, не улетай,

Зачем тебе Алжир, зачем Китай?

At the beginning of his essay Chetvyortoe izmerenie ("The Fourth Dimension,"
1929) G. Ivanov says that spiritualists are always a little funny and
mentions the author of "immortal" Sherlock Holmes who recently called
spiritualism a religion:

Над спиритами смеются - и действительно, спириты всегда смешноваты.
Таинственное у них тесно перепутано с комическим. Чего стоит хотя бы король
бульварных романистов, автор <бессмертного> Шерлока Холмса в роли из
великого мастера, объявивший, кстати, недавно спиритизм на каком-то
конгрессе - excusez du peu - религией.

In a letter of March 23, 1903, to Gilyarovski Chekhov says that
Gilyarovski's feuilleton Lyudi chetvyortogo izmereniya ("People of the
Fourth Dimension") is splendid and that he could not help laughing when he
read it:

Милый дядя Гиляй, твои <Люди четвертого измерения> великолепны, я читал и
всё время смеялся. Молодец, дядя!

By "people of the fourth dimension" Gilyarovski means the symbolist poets:
Balmont, Bryusov and their pupils:

Сцена наполнилась. Налево сели гг. К. Д. Бальмонт и В. Я. Брюсов - солидные,
серьёзные. Напротив, в глубине, на семи стульях поместились семь "новых
поэтов", семь "подбрюсков".

In his memoir essay "Bryusov" (1925) Hodasevich compares the relationships
between Bryusov and Balmont to those between Salieri and Mozart in Pushkin's
"Mozart and Salieri" (1830):

Его неоднократно подчёркнутая любовь к Бальмонту вряд ли может быть названа
любовью. В лучшем случае это было удивление Сальери перед Моцартом.

In Pushkin's little tragedy Mozart uses the phrase nikto b (none would):

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 only all so quickly felt the power
of harmony! But no, in that event
the world could not exist; none would care
about the needs of ordinary life,
all would give themselves to free art. (Scene II)

Nikto b is Botkin in reverse. Shade's, Kinbote's and Gradus' "real" name
seems to be Botkin (an American scholar of Russian descent, Professor
Vsevolod Botkin went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus after the
suicide of his daughter Nadezhda). In his essay on Bryusov Hodasevich
mentions Bryusov's hope (nadezhda) that under the Bolsheviks he would be
able to turn Russian literature na stol'ko-to gradusov (to so-and-so many

А какая надежда на то, что в истории литературы будет сказано: "в таком-то
году повернул русскую литературу на столько-то градусов".

A member of the Do-Re-La country club, Tapper also brings to mind Chekhov's
story Tapyor ("The Ballroom Pianist," 1885). Van fights a pistol duel with
Tapper in the Kalugano forest (1.42). A priest's son, Amfiteatrov was born
in Kaluga. Before becoming a writer, Amfiteatrov sang in the opera.

In reply to Mary Ross:

Knig is Gen. pl. of kniga (book). At the end of VN's novel Dar ("The Gift,"
1937) Fyodor says good-bye to kniga:

Прощай же, книга! Для видений отсрочки смертной тоже нет. С колен поднимется
Евгений, но удаляется поэт. И всё же слух не может сразу расстаться с
музыкой, рассказу дать замереть... судьба сама ещё звенит, и для ума
внимательного нет границы там, где поставил точку я: продлённый призрак
бытия синеет за чертой страницы, как завтрашние облака, и не кончается

Good-bye, my book! Like mortal eyes, imagined ones must close some day.
Onegin from his knees will rise - but his creator strolls away. And yet the
ear cannot right now part with the music and allow the tale to fade; the
chords of fate
itself continue to vibrate; and no obstruction for the sage exists where I
have to put The End: the shadows of my world extend beyond the skyline of
the page, blue as tomorrow's morning haze - nor does this terminate the

The epilogue of "The Gift" mimics the Eugene Onegin stanza. The EO stanza
"is patterned on a sonnet." Like some sonnets, Shade's poem seems to need a
coda. To G. Ivanov's question "does a sonnet need a coda" Blok replied that
he did not know what a coda is. In Italian coda means "tail" (as explained
by Gogol in his fragment "Rome"). Blok is the author of Korol' na ploshchadi
("The King in the Square," 1906), a play.

Btw., in VN's novel Lolita (1955) Lolita conceals her savings in R. L.
Stevenson's Treasure Island:

Once I found eight one-dollar notes in one of her books (fittingly -
Treasure Island), and once a hole in the wall behind Whistler's "Mother"
yielded as much as twenty-four dollars and some change - say, twenty-four
sixty - which I quietly removed, upon which, next day, she accused, to my
face, honest Mrs. Holigan of being a filthy thief. (2.7)

R. L. Stevenson is the author of Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde

Alexey Sklyarenko

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