NABOKV-L post 0026736, Thu, 24 Dec 2015 14:49:19 +0300

defiler of flowers, crown jewels,
Russian spies & Balkan King in Pale Fire
Perfunctorily she [Disa] inquired about the crown jewels; he [Kinbote]
revealed to her their unusual hiding place, and she melted in girlish mirth
as she had not done for years and years. "I do have some business matters to
discuss," he said. "And there are papers you have to sign." Up in the
trellis a telephone climbed with the roses. One of her former ladies in
waiting, the languid and elegant Fleur de Fyler (now fortyish and faded),
still wearing pearls in her raven hair and the traditional white mantilla,
brought certain documents from Disa's boudoir. Upon hearing the King's
mellow voice behind the laurels, Fleur recognized it before she could be
misled by his excellent disguise. Two footmen, handsome young strangers of a
marked Latin type, appeared with the tea and caught Fleur in mid-curtsey. A
sudden breeze groped among the glycines. Defiler of flowers. He asked Fleur
as she turned to go with the Disa orchids if she still played the viola. She
shook her head several times not wishing to speak without addressing him and
not daring to do so while the servants might be within earshot. (note to
Lines 433-434)

The name of Queen Disa's lady in waiting seems to hint not only at Florence,
but also at Khlestakov's credo in Gogol's play Revizor ("The Inspector,"
1836): sryvat' tsvety udovol'stviya (to pick the flowers of pleasure). Gogol
was a close friend A. O. Smirnov (b. Rosset), a former lady in waiting of
Aleksandra Fyodorovna (the wife of Nicholas I). Her husband N. M. Smirnov
was a governor of Kaluga and then of St. Petersburg. In a letter of Sept. 8,
1891, to Suvorin Chekhov says that Tolstoy's Afterword to The Kreutzer
Sonata is even more stupid than Pis'ma k gubernatorshe ("The Letters to the
Governor's Wife"), as Chekhov contemptuously calls Gogol's Vybrannye mesta
iz perepiski s druz'yami ("The Selected Passages from the Correspondence
with Friends," 1847):

Толстой отказывает человечеству в бессмертии, но, боже мой, сколько тут
личного! Я третьего дня читал его <Послесловие>. Убейте меня, но это глупее
и душнее, чем <Письма к губернаторше>, которые я презираю. Чорт бы побрал
философию великих мира сего! Все великие мудрецы деспотичны, как генералы, и
невежливы и неделикатны, как генералы, потому что уверены в безнаказанности.
Диоген плевал в бороды, зная, что ему за это ничего не будет; Толстой ругает
докторов мерзавцами и невежничает с великими вопросами, потому что он тот же
Диоген, которого в участок не поведёшь и в газетах не выругаешь. Итак, к
чорту философию великих мира сего! Она вся, со всеми юродивыми послесловиями
и письмами к губернаторше, не стоит одной кобылки из <Холстомера>.

According to Chekhov, "all great sages are as despotic as generals, and as
ungracious and indelicate as generals, because they are confident of their
impunity." Chekhov compares Tolstoy to Diogenes, the philosopher who lived
in a barrel (in Pushkin's "Fairy Tale about the Tsar Saltan" Prince Gvidon
and his mother cross the sea in a barrel) and who spat at the beards knowing
that nobody would do him anything for that. According to Chekhov, the entire
philosophy of this world's great men is not worth one little mare from
Kholstomer ("Strider," 1886).

Chekhov is the author of Duel' ("The Duel," 1891). The author of Poedinok
("The Single Combat," 1905), Kuprin dedicated his story about a racehorse,
Izumrud ("Emerald," 1907), to the memory of Tolstoy's Kholstomer. The
characters of PF include Gerald Emerald, a young instructor at the New Wye
University, and Izumrudov, one of the greater Shadows (a regicidal
organization which commissioned Gradus to assassinate the self-banished King
of Zembla). A precious stone, izumrud/emerald brings to mind the crown
jewels that Baron Bland, the Keeper of the Treasure, had succeeded in hiding
before he jumped or fell from the North Tower (note to Line 681). In order
to locate them, the Extremists had engaged two Soviet experts, Andronnikov
and Niagarin whom Izumrudov calls Andron and Niagarushka:

Yes, after a thorough perlustration of the loot that Andron and Niagarushka
had obtained from the Queen's rosewood writing desk (mostly bills, and
treasured snapshots, and those silly medals) a letter from the King did turn
up giving his address which was of all places-Our man, who interrupted the
herald of success to say he had never-was bidden not to display so much
modesty. A slip of paper was now produced on which Izumudrov, shaking with
laughter (death is hilarious), wrote out for Gradus their client's alias,
the name of the university where he taught, and that of the town where it
was situated. (note to Line 741)

In Chapter Eight of Myortvye dushi ("Dead Souls," 1842) Gogol uses the
phrase Androny edut (nonsense):

Какая же причина в мёртвых душах? Даже и причины нет. Это, выходит, просто:
Андроны едут, чепуха, белиберда, сапоги всмятку! Это, просто, чёрт побери!..

What reason could there be in dead souls? None whatsoever. It was all sheer
nonsense, absurdity, moonshine! It was simply....oh, the Devil take it

After completing his work on Shade's poem, Kinbote commits suicide. The last
word in Kinbote's Commentary is Gradus:

But whatever happens, wherever the scene is laid, somebody, somewhere, will
quietly set out - somebody has already set out, somebody still rather far
away is buying a ticket, is boarding a bus, a ship, a plane, has landed, is
walking toward a million photographers, and presently he will ring at my
door - a bigger, more respectable, more competent Gradus. (note to Line

In his Afterword to Revizor Gogol says that the real inspector who arrives
at the end of the play is our conscience that meets us at the grave's

Мне показалось, что этот настоящий ревизор, о котором одно возвещенье в
конце комедии наводит такой ужас, есть та настоящая наша совесть, которая
встречает нас у дверей гроба.

In his poem Slava ("Fame," 1942) VN mentions starshiy shpion (the head spy),
the Influence on the the Balkan Novella of the Symbolist School, Akakiy
Akakievich (the main character in Gogol's story Shinel', "The Carrick,"
1842) and parodiya sovesti v drame bezdarnoy (a mockery of conscience in a
cheap drama).

In Canto Three of his poem Shade mentions gloomy Russian spies (according to
Kinbote, Andronnikov and Niagarin are not gloomy):

Mars glowed. Shahs married. Gloomy Russians spied. (l. 681)

and the Balkan King:

It did not matter who they were. No sound,
No furtive light came from their involute
Abode, but there they were, aloof and mute,
Playing a game of worlds, promoting pawns
To ivory unicorns and ebony fauns;
Kindling a long life here, extinguishing
A short one there; killing a Balkan king: (ll. 816-822)

Akakiy Akakievich's surname, Bashmachkin, comes from bashmachok (little
shoe). According to Kinbote (the author of a remarkable book of surnames),
Botkin is the one who makes bottekins, fancy footwear (note to Line 71).
Kinbote mentions Prof. Botkin (Shade's, Kinbote's and Gradus' "real" name)
in the same sentence in which he quotes Shade's words about Russian
humorists (including Gogol, Chekhov and the authors of "The Twelve Chairs"
and "The Golden Calf"):

Speaking of the Head of the bloated Russian Department, Prof. Pnin, a
regular martinet in regard to his underlings (happily, Prof. Botkin, who
taught in another department, was not subordinated to that grotesque
"perfectionist"): "How odd that Russian intellectuals should lack all sense
of humor when they have such marvelous humorists as Gogol, Dostoevski,
Chekhov, Zoshchenko, and those joint authors of genius Ilf and Petrov."
(note to Line 172)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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