Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026186, Tue, 19 May 2015 00:02:09 +0300

Cordelia O'Leary & erunda in Ada
'She's a budding Duse,' replied Demon austerely, 'and the party is strictly a "prof push." You'll stick to Cordula de Prey, I, to Cordelia O'Leary.' (1.27)

"Cordelia O'Leary" hints at King Lear and his youngest daughter Cordelia. In VN's play "The Event" Lyubov' mentions King Lear and uses the word erunda (nonsense):

Любовь. Мамочка, у меня ужасная мысль. Ты уверена, что это пришёл сыщик, а не кто-нибудь... другой?
Антонина Павловна. Глупости. Он мне сразу сунул свою фотографию. Я её, кажется, передала Алёше. Ах нет, вот она.
Любовь. Что за дичь... Почему он раздаёт свои портреты?
Антонина Павловна. Не знаю, вероятно, у них так полагается.
Любовь. Почему он в средневековом костюме? Что это -- король Лир? "Моим поклонникам с поклоном". Что это за ерунда, в самом деле? (Act Three)

According to Azov (a Russian humorist mentioned by Marina), erunda comes from hier und da (Germ., here and there):

'Sit down, have a spot of chayku,' she said. 'The cow is in the smaller jug, I think. Yes, it is.' And when Van, having kissed her freckled hand, lowered himself on the ivanilich (a kind of sighing old hassock upholstered in leather): 'Van, dear, I wish to say something to you, because I know I shall never have to repeat it again. Belle, with her usual flair for the right phrase, has cited to me the cousinage-dangereux-voisinage adage - I mean "adage," I always fluff that word - and complained qu'on s'embrassait dans tous les coins. Is that true?'
Van's mind flashed in advance of his speech. It was, Marina, a fantastic exaggeration. The crazy governess had observed it once when he carried Ada across a brook and kissed her because she had hurt her toe. I'm the well-known beggar in the saddest of all stories.
'Erunda (nonsense),' said Van. 'She once saw me carrying Ada across the brook and misconstrued our stumbling huddle (spotikayushcheesya sliyanie).'
'I do not mean Ada, silly,' said Marina with a slight snort, as she fussed over the teapot. 'Azov, a Russian humorist, derives erunda from the German hier und da, which is neither here nor there. Ada is a big girl, and big girls, alas, have their own worries. Mlle Lariviere meant Lucette, of course. Van, those soft games must stop. Lucette is twelve, and naive, and I know it's all clean fun, yet (odnako) one can never behave too delikatno in regard to a budding little woman. A propos de coins: in Griboedov's Gore ot uma, "How stupid to be so clever," a play in verse, written, I think, in Pushkin's time, the hero reminds Sophie of their childhood games, and says:

How oft we sat together in a corner
And what harm might there be in that?

but in Russian it is a little ambiguous, have another spot, Van?' (he shook his head, simultaneously lifting his hand, like his father), 'because, you see, - no, there is none left anyway - the second line, i kazhetsya chto v etom, can be also construed as "And in that one, meseems," pointing with his finger at a corner of the room. Imagine - when I was rehearsing that scene with Kachalov at the Seagull Theater, in Yukonsk, Stanislavski, Konstantin Sergeevich, actually wanted him to make that cosy little gesture (uyutnen'kiy zhest).' (1.37)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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