Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026278, Thu, 9 Jul 2015 16:53:58 +0300

gogol & new white shoes in Lik
According to Koldunov (one of the two main characters in VN's story Lik),
Lik khodit gogolem (goes swaggering around):

Вот ты, например, чем ты лучше меня? А ходишь гоголем, в отелях живешь,
актрис, должно быть, взасос...

Take you, for instance - what makes you better than me? You go swaggering
around, living in hotels, smooching with actresses:

Literally, the idiom khodit' gogolem means to walk like gogol', a bird
golden-eye (Clangula bucephala). Lik is the protagonist's stage name. His
real name seems to be Kulikov. It comes from kulik (a bird stint,
sandpiper). Lik forgets at Koldunov's place his new white shoes. At the end
of the story Lik (as imagined by his soul that cast poor Lik's dead body but
still watches it from a height) returns in a taxi to fetch them:

К дому, где жили Колдуновы, автомобиль подъехал со стороны площади. Там
собралась толпа, и только с помощью упорных трубных угроз автомобилю удалось
протиснуться. Около фонтана, на стуле, сидела жена Колдунова, весь лоб и
левая часть лица были в блестящей крови, слиплись волосы, она сидела
совершенно прямо и неподвижно, окружённая любопытными, а рядом с ней, тоже
неподвижно, стоял её мальчик в окровавленной рубашке, прикрывая лицо
кулаком, -- такая, что ли, картина. Полицейский, принявший Лика за врача,
провёл его в комнату. Среди осколков, на полу навзничь лежал обезображенный
выстрелом в рот, широко раскинув ноги в новых белых... -- Это мои,-- сказал
Лик по-французски.

The taxi approached Koldunov's place from the direction of the square. A
crowd had gathered, and it was only by dint of persistent threats with its
horn that the driver managed to squeeze through. Koldunov's wife was sitting
on a chair by the public fountain. Her forehead and left cheek glistened
with blood, her hair was matted, and she sat quite straight and motionless
surrounded by the curious, while, next to her, also motionless, stood her
boy, in a bloodstained shirt, covering his face with his fist, a kind of
tableau. A policeman, mistaking Lik for a doctor, escorted him into the
room. The dead man lay on the floor amid broken crockery, his face blasted
by a gunshot in the mouth, his widespread feet in new, white -

"Those are mine," said Lik in French.

Lik's new shoes appropriated by Koldunov bring to mind Akakiy Akakievich's
new overcoat stolen by a thief in Gogol's story Shinel' ("The Carrick,"
1842). Akakiy Akakievich's surname, Bashmachkin, comes from bashmak (shoe).
After his overcoat was robbed from him, Akakiy Akakievich dies of grief, but
his ghost (actually, the thief in Akakiy's overcoat) continues to frighten
the passer-bys.

The name Koldunov comes from koldun (a sorcerer). Koldun is a character in
Gogol's stroy Strashnaya mest' ("A Terrible Vengeance," 1832). In Masterstvo
Gogolya ("Gogol's Craftsmanship," 1934) Andrey Bely (whose penname means
"white") asks:

Что есть <колдун>?

What is koldun?

and answers:

Неизвестно что.

No one knows what.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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