Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026858, Wed, 10 Feb 2016 15:28:06 +0300

istina-plus-vera anagram; Lucette's Buchstaben in Ada
Her florimania endured, alas; but after Dr Krolik died (in 1886) of a heart attack in his garden, she [Ada] had placed all her live pupae in his open coffin where he lay, she said, as plump and pink as in vivo. (1.35)

in vivo + istina + vera/Vera = in vino veritas + iva

istina – truth; cf. istina v vine (in wine is truth); Blok’s Neznakomka (Incognita, 1906) ends in the line: Ya znayu [I know]: istina v vine; cf. Chto est’ istina? (“What is the truth?”), a question Pilate asked Jesus; at the beginning of Ada (1.1) “Pontius Press” is mentioned

vera – faith

Vera – the name of VN’s wife

in vino veritas – Lat., in vine is truth; in Blok’s poem p'yanitsy s glazami krolikov (the drunks with the eyes of rabbits) cry out: “In vino veritas!”

iva – willow; cf. “We are now on a willow islet amidst the quietest branch of the blue Ladore, with wet fields on one side and on the other a view of Bryant's Castle, remote and romantically black on its oak-timbered hill. In that oval seclusion, Van subjected his new Ada to a comparative study; juxtapositions were easy, since the child he had known in minute detail four years before stood vividly illumined in his mind against the same backdrop of flowing blue.” (1.35); in VN’ s novel Bend Sinister (1947) Ember quotes the Queen’s monologue in Hamlet “Tam nad ruch’om rostiot naklonno iva (over yon brook there grows aslant a willow)” in his translation (chapter 7)

Re Ada’s florimania: Blok’s grandfather Beketov was a celebrated botanist (and rector of the St. Petersburg University). In his poem Ya – Gamlet. Kholodeet krov’… (“I am Hamlet. Freezes blood…” 1914) Blok compares his wife Lyubov’ Dmitrievna to Ophelia.

Re Balzac (the writer whose wedding is mentioned in Chekhov’s play “The Three Sisters”): in his Geständnisse (“Confessions,” 1854) Heinrich Heine quotes Balzac’s words “the woman is a dangerous creature:”

Wir Männer lügen zuweilen. Die Weiber, wie alle passive Naturen, können selten erfinden, wissen jedoch das Vorgefundene dergestalt zu entstellen, daß sie uns dadurch noch weit sicherer schaden, als durch entschiedene Lügen. Ich glaube wahrhaftig, mein Freund Balzac hatte recht, als er mir einst in einem sehr seufzenden Tone sagte: “La femme est un être dangereux.”

We men will sometimes lie outright; women, like all passive creatures, seldom invent, but can so distort a fact that they can thereby injure us more surely than by a downright lie. I verily believe my friend Balzac was right when he once said to me, in a sorrowful tone, "La femme est un être dangereux."

When they watch the photographs in Kim Beauharnais’ album, Van trips Ada who told a lie (or, rather, distorted a fact):

'Well,' said Van, when the mind took over again, 'let's go back to our defaced childhood. I'm anxious' - (picking up the album from the bedside rug) - 'to get rid of this burden. Ah, a new character, the inscription says: Dr Krolik.'

'Wait a sec. It may be the best Vanishing Van but it's terribly messy all the same. Okay. Yes, that's my poor nature teacher.'

Knickerbockered, panama-hatted, lusting for his babochka (Russian for 'lepidopteron'). A passion, a sickness. What could Diana know about that chase?

'How curious - in the state Kim mounted him here, he looks much less furry and fat than I imagined. In fact, darling, he's a big, strong, handsome old March Hare! Explain!'

'There's nothing to explain. I asked Kim one day to help me carry some boxes there and back, and here's the visual proof. Besides, that's not my Krolik but his brother, Karol, or Karapars, Krolik. A doctor of philosophy, born in Turkey.'

'I love the way your eyes narrow when you tell a lie. The remote mirage in Effrontery Minor.'

'I'm not lying!' - (with lovely dignity): 'He is a doctor of philosophy.'

'Van ist auch one,' murmured Van, sounding the last word as 'wann.' (2.7)

Kim’s surname hints at Josephine Beauharnais, Napoleon’s first wife. In his “Confessions” Heine speaks of Mme de Staël’s book De l'Allemagne (“On Germany,” 1813) and points out that Napoleon is never mentioned in it:

Der Haß gegen den Kaiser ist die Seele dieses Buches “De l'Allemagne,” und obgleich sein Name nirgends darin genannt wird, sieht man doch, wie die Verfasserin bei jeder Zeile nach den Tuilerien schielt. Ich zweifle nicht, daß das Buch den Kaiser weit empfindlicher verdrossen hat, als der direkteste Angriff, denn nichts verwundet einen Mann so sehr, wie kleine weibliche Nadelstiche. Wir sind auf große Schwertstreiche gefaßt, und man kitzelt uns an den kitzligsten Stellen.

Madame de Staël's hate of the Emperor is the soul of her book, De l'Allemagne, and, although his name is nowhere mentioned, one can see at every line how the writer squints at the Tuilleries. I doubt not that the book annoyed the Emperor more than the most direct attack; for nothing so much irritates a man as a woman's petty needle-pricks. We are prepared for great sabre-strokes, and instead we are tickled at the most sensitive spots. (chapter 2)

Similarly, Napoleon (who, like Lenin, seems to have not existed on Antiterra) is never mentioned in Ada. The words kitzeln (to tickle) and kitzligste (most sensitive) used by Heine bring to mind Kitzler, the German word for “clitoris.” In a game of Flavita (the Russian Scrabble) Lucette’s six Buchstaben (Germ., letters) formed the word klitor (clitoris):

'- I got stuck with six Buchstaben in the last round of a Flavita game. Mind you, I was eight and had not studied anatomy, but was doing my poor little best to keep up with two Wunderkinder. You examined and fingered my groove and quickly redistributed the haphazard sequence which made, say, LIKROT or ROTIKL and Ada flooded us both with her raven silks as she looked over our heads, and when you had completed the rearrangement, you and she came simultaneously, si je puis le mettre comme ça (Canady French), came falling on the black carpet in a paroxysm of incomprehensible merriment; so finally I quietly composed ROTIK ('little mouth') and was left with my own cheap initial. I hope I've thoroughly got you mixed up, Van, because la plus laide fille au monde peut donner beaucoup plus qu'elle n'a, and now let us say adieu, yours ever.'

'Whilst the machine is to him,' murmured Van.

'Hamlet,' said the assistant lecturer's brightest student. (2.5)

Btw., in VN’s Lolita (1955) one of Quilty’s aliases is ‘Dr Kitzler, Eryx, Miss.’ (2.23). Mona Dahl (Lolita’s best friend at Beardsley School) asks Humbert Humbert to tell her about “Ball Zack,” if he is really that good (2.9). Balzac is the main character in Aldanov’s Povest’ o smerti (“The Tale about Death,” 1950). The German poet Enri Enn (as the French mispronounced the name Heinrich Heine) is also mentioned in it. Aldanov is the author of Svyataya Elena, malen’kiy ostrov (“St. Helena, a Small Island,” 1921) and Klyuch (“The Key,” 1928). In the last stanza of Blok’s Incognita klyuch (the key) is mentioned:

В моей душе лежит сокровище,

И ключ поручен только мне!

Ты право, пьяное чудовище!

Я знаю: истина в вине.

A treasure lies in my soul,

And the key belongs to me alone!

You are correct, you drunken fiend!

I know it: in wine is truth.

Like Mendeleev (Blok’s father-in-law), Aldanov was a chemist. In Aldanov’s Klyuch Yatsenko (the investigator, Vitya’s father who suspects that Fisher was poisoned) mentions an alkaloid of the belladonna type:

- Алкaлоид родa беллaдонны, - хмурясь и морщa лоб, повторил вслух Яценко. (chapter XXXIII)

The characters of Klyuch include Don Pedro, a St. Petersburg journalist who becomes a movie man in emigration. Marina (Van’s, Ada’s and Lucette’s mother) had a romance with G. A. Vronsky, the movie man who left her for another long-lashed Khristosik (little Christ), and with Pedro (a young Latin actor). A photograph of Marina and Ada appeared in Belladonna (a movie magazine):

Van had seen the picture [the Hollywood version of Chekhov's Four Sisters] and had liked it. An Irish girl, the infinitely graceful and melancholy Lenore Colline -

Oh! qui me rendra ma colline

Et le grand chêne and my colleen!

- harrowingly resembled Ada Ardis as photographed with her mother in Belladonna, a movie magazine which Greg Erminin had sent him, thinking it would delight him to see aunt and cousin, together, on a California patio just before the film was released. (2.9)

Le grand chêne hints at Quercus ruslan Chat., a rare oak that appears in one of Kim Beauharnais’ photographs of Ardis (2.7). In Eugene Onegin (Eight: IV: 7-8) Pushkin (the author of Ruslan and Lyudmila, 1820) identifies his Muse with Lenora, the heroine of Bürger’s ballad Lenore (1773) that was twice imitated by Zhukovski (in Lyudmila, 1808, and in Svetlana, 1812). In his EO Commentary (vol. III, p. 153) VN points out that “Zhukovski had German, but most Russian men of letters knew Bürger’s ballad only from Madame de Staël’s De l’Allemagne, which contains an analysis of it, and from French versions.”

In a draft of his letter of Feb. 2, 1830, to Karolina Sobanska (the elder sister of Eveline Hanska whom Balzac married in 1850) Pushkin calls KS “Ellenore:”

Chère Ellenore, permettez moi de vous donner ce nom qui me rappellent et [vos] [v] [et] [les charmes idéale] [une des femmes] et [mes] les lectures brulantes de mes jeunes années [et] [le phantome] [le p] et le doux phantome qui [n] me seduisoit alors, et [votre] [l’] [m] votre [e] propre éxistence si violente si [bouleversée par les passions] orageuse [si éloignée] [de votre des] [si éloignée de ce qu’] [si] [loin] si [elo] différente de ce qu’elle devoit être —

Ellénore is a character in Benjamin Constant’s Adolphe (1816). Constant had a long relationship with Mme de Staël.

Krolik + rotik = klitor + okrik = Orlik + kortik

Lenin + stal’/Stal’ = len’ + Stalin

Viktor + stal’ = rotik + vlast’ = krovat’ + list

okrik – hail; shout; cry; cf. i pravit okrikami p’yanymi vesenniy i tletvornyi dukh (and the decaying breath of spring drives drunken shouting), lines 3-4 in Blok’s Incognita

Orlik – a character in Pushkin’s Poltava (1828), Mazepa’s accomplice

kortik – a naval officer’s dagger

stal’ – steel

Stal’ – Staël in Russian spelling

len’ – laziness, idleness; indolence

Viktor – Victor (cf. the Antiterran King Victor who visits Villa Venus under the aliases Ritcov and Vrotic, 2.3) in Russian spelling; Vitya (a character in Aldanov’s trilogy) is a diminutive of Viktor

vlast’ – power; authority

krovat’ – bed

list - leaf

Alexey Sklyarenko

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