NABOKV-L post 0017634, Fri, 30 Jan 2009 00:55:53 -0500

Re: More comments on Boyd's Annotations: Mascodagama

Did Skitalits and VN meet, I wonder?

Date: Thu, 29 Jan 2009 16:10:22 +0300From: skylark05@MAIL.RUSubject: [NABOKV-L] More comments on Boyd's Annotations: MascodagamaTo: NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU

ADA's Mascodagama is not the first instance in literature when the name Vasco da Gama is played upon. The hero of Skitalets's story Oktava ("The Low Bass," 1900), a possessor of a rare low bass voice who sings in a church choir, mispronounces it as Vas'ka-gde-Gamma ("Basil, where is the gamut?"). Skitalets is the penname of Stepan* Petrov (1869-1941), a writer and a friend of Chekhov. Comparing Skitalets (who was a professional pevchiy, chorister) to more popular Leonid Andreev, Chekhov (who himself was a choirboy as a child) used to call the former "a live sparrow" and the latter "an artificial nightingale." Skitalets is Russian for "wanderer." Nabokov is the author of Skital'tsy ("The Wanderers," 1923, by Vivian Calmbrood), a play in verse.
Interestingly, Petrov, Skitalets's real name, is the penname of Evgeniy Kataev, Il'ya Ilf's co-athor. Like Chekhov, Ilf died (in 1937) of tuberculosis. Evgeniy Petrov-Katayev perished on July 2, 1942, exactly thirty five years before Nabokov's death. The airplane on which he returned form Sebastopol to Moscow was brought down by a German fighter.

*a namesake of Podkolyosin's valet in Gogol's play "The Marriage". In Nik. Sestrin's stage version of Gogol's play (in Ilf and Petrov's novel "The Twelve Chairs," ch. XXX: "In the Columbus Theater"), Stepan gives some cues standing on his hands. Cf. also Stepan Nootkin, old Van's old valet (5.1).

Re "the shocking error": the name of the dwarf in Nabokov's story "The Potato Elf" is Fred Dobson (not "Shock" as Boyd has it in his Annotations). Shock is the name of the conjuror in the same story.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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