NABOKV-L post 0026369, Wed, 19 Aug 2015 14:59:55 +0300

Amphitheatricus & Uranograd in PF
RS Gwynn to Alexey Sklyarenko:

It has probably been pointed out before, but VN is having some fun with the 19th century Uranian Society, of which he probably first heard at Cambridge. Having Kinbote's capital waggishly referred to as "Uranograd" is part of VN's joke.



“Uranian” is an English adaptation of the German word Urning (derived by K. H. Ulrichs from Aphrodite Urania). In Lyudi lunnogo sveta: metafizika khristianstva ("People of the Moonlight: Metaphysics of Christianity," 1911) V. V. Rozanov speaks of urningi (the urnings). Like Amfiteatrov, Rozanov was a contributor to Novoe Vremya (Suvorin’s newspaper). VN met Rozanov in St. Petersburg and certainly knew his book (in VN’s novel Podvig, “Glory,” 1930, Professor Moon predan uranizmu, “is addicted to urningism;” like Zembla, Zoorlandia invented by Martyn and Sonya is a distant northern land). Rozanov’s first wife was Apollinaria Suslov, Dostoevski’s mistress. Dostoevski is the author of Netochka Nezvanov (1849). In PF Netochka is the nickname of Dr Nattochdag, head of the department to which Kinbote is attached. Nattochdag is a Swedish name (meaning “night and day”*). In a letter of November 25, 1892, to Suvorin Chekhov says that Amfiteatrov’s articles are much better than his stories written tochno perevod so shvedskogo (as if they were translations from the Swedish):

Фельетоны Амфитеатрова гораздо лучше его рассказов. Точно перевод со шведского.

In the same letter to Suvorin (btw., it also provides the solution of Ada: “in vino veritas”) Chekhov says that he will not throw himself like Garshin over the banisters:

Я не брошусь, как Гаршин, в пролёт лестницы, но и не стану обольщать себя надеждами на лучшее будущее.

I am not going to throw myself like Garshin over the banisters, but I am not going to flatter myself with hopes of a better future either.

Chekhov dedicated to the memory of Garshin his story Pripadok (“The Nervous Breakdown,” 1888). Its hero suffers a nervous breakdown after visiting brothels for the first time in his life. In VN’s story (unfinished novel) Solus Rex (1942) that has so much in common with PF Dr Onze mentions his faint in the street on the way to a brothel:

Истомлённый долгим напряжением, измученный вынужденным барахтанием в чужих мерзостях и невольно потрясённый громами обвинителя, бедный доктор вдруг сдал, нервы его дрогнули и после нескольких непонятных, слипшихся фраз он каким-то новым, истерически ясным голосом вдруг стал рассказывать, что однажды в молодости, выпив первый в жизни стакан хазеля, согласился пойти с товарищем в публичный дом, и только потому не пошёл, что упал на улице в обморок.

Exhausted by lengthy tension, harrowed by having been forced to wallow in another's filth, and involuntarily staggered by the prosecutor's blast, the luckless scholar lost his nerve and, after a few incoherent mumblings, suddenly started, in a new, hysterically clear voice, to tell how one night in his youth, having drunk his first glass of hazel brandy, he accepted to go with a classmate to a brothel, and how he did not get there only because he fainted in the street.

In Solus Rex ura-uranism (ultra-urningism) is mentioned:

Любовь вповалку, ура-уранизм, умыкание подростков и многие другие утехи подробно излагались в виде вопросов, обращённых к подсудимому, отвечавшему значительно более кратко.

Group fornication, ultra-urningism, abduction of youngsters, and many other amusements were described to the accused in the form of detailed questions to which he replied much more briefly.

“Hazel brandy” and sasse ud hazel (“armchair and filbert brandy”), the words of King Gafon’s family arms sassed ud halsem (“see and rule”) changed by the wags, bring to mind Hazel, Shade’s daughter who committed suicide. If Kinbote commits suicide after completing his Commentary, he probably falls to his death from a great height (see Kinbote’s note to Line 493: “She took her poor young life”). Kinbote’s real name seems to be Botkin. Dostoevski was a patient of Dr S. P. Botkin (1832-99) who is mentioned (as Dr B-n) in Crime and Punishment (1867) and other books of Dostoevski. In Canto Three of Pale Fire Shade mentions “Fra Karamazov, mumbling his inept all is allowed.” In Dostoevski’s novel it is Ivan Karamazov (the author of the Legend of the Grand Inquisitor) who affirms that “all is allowed.” Rozanov is the author of Legenda o Velikom inkvizitore F. M. Dostoevskogo: Opyt kriticheskogo kommentariya (“Dostoevsky and the Legend of the Grand Inquisitor: a Tentative Critical Commentary,” 1894).

*Den’ i noch (“Day and Night,” 1839) is a poem by Tyutchev, the author of Urania (1820).

Alexey Sklyarenko

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Nabokv-L policies:
Nabokov Online Journal:"
AdaOnline: "
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada:
The VN Bibliography Blog:
Search the archive with L-Soft:

Manage subscription options :