Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026905, Sun, 13 Mar 2016 17:50:30 +0300

Vatican, a Roman spa, in Ada
Upon being questioned in Demon's dungeon, Marina, laughing trillingly, wove a picturesque tissue of lies; then broke down, and confessed. She swore that all was over; that the Baron, a physical wreck and a spiritual Samurai, had gone to Japan forever. From a more reliable source Demon learned that the Samurai's real destination was smart little Vatican, a Roman spa, whence he was to return to Aardvark, Massa, in a week or so. Since prudent Veen preferred killing his man in Europe (decrepit but indestructible Gamaliel was said to be doing his best to forbid duels in the Western Hemisphere - a canard or an idealistic President's instant-coffee caprice, for nothing was to come of it after all), Demon rented the fastest petroloplane available, overtook the Baron (looking very fit) in Nice, saw him enter Gunter's Bookshop, went in after him, and in the presence of the imperturbable and rather bored English shopkeeper, back-slapped the astonished Baron across the face with a lavender glove. The challenge was accepted; two native seconds were chosen; the Baron plumped for swords… (1.2)

In his Memoirs (1953) Felix Yusupov describes his meeting in 1920, in Rome, with Gabriele d’Annunzio:

С Луизой Казати познакомиться я не успел, но слышал о ней много. Имя её было известно в эмигрантских кругах. Рассказы о её чудачествах сильно занимали мое воображение. Я, конечно, отправился, ожидая, что будет любопытно. Действительность превзошла ожидания.

В гостиной, куда ввели меня, у камина на тигровой шкуре возлежала писаная красавица. Газовая материя обволакивала её тонкий стан. У ног её сидели две борзых, чёрная и белая. Завороженный зрелищем, я не сразу заметил второго присутствующего – итальянского офицера, пришедшего прежде меня. Хозяйка подняла на меня дивные, с пол-лица, глаза и ленивым змеиным движением протянула мне руку, унизанную перстнями с громадными жемчужинами. Сама ручка была божественна. Я склонился поцеловать её, предвидя по интересному началу захватывающее продолжение. Тут мне представлен был офицер, на которого я поначалу едва посмотрел. Звали его Габриеле д'Аннунцио. Д'Аннунцио, с кем мечтал я познакомиться более всего!

По правде, глянув на него, я был слегка разочарован. Дурен собой, неуклюж, коротышка – кому такой понравится? Но стоило ему заговорить, разочарования как не бывало. Глубокий взгляд и тёплый голос обаяли меня совершенно. Слушая его, становилось ясно, откуда у него эта власть над толпой. Говорить он мог о чем угодно и сколько угодно. Правда, он то и дело перескакивал с итальянского на французский и обратно, но ни слова его я не упускал. Я был покорён и напрочь забыл о времени. Вечер пролетел как миг.

На прощанье поэт ещё раз явил себя поэтом, сказав неожиданно:

– Завтра я лечу в Японию. Полетите со мной? (Book Two, chapter 2)

At the end of the evening d’Annunzio said that he flies to Japan on the next day and proposed Yusupov to fly with him.

In Gardone on Lake Garda Van’s tutor reverently points out Goethe's and d'Annunzio's marble footprints:

In June, Van was taken to Florence, and Rome, and Capri, where his father turned up for a brief spell. They parted again, Demon sailing back to America, and Van with his tutor going first to Gardone on Lake Garda, where Aksakov reverently pointed out Goethe's and d'Annunzio's marble footprints, and then staying for a while in autumn at a hotel on a mountain slope above Leman Lake (where Karamzin and Count Tolstoy had roamed). (1.24)

The surname of Van’s tutor hints at Sergey Aksakov, the author of “The Childhood Years of Bagrov Grandson” and “The Family Chronicle.” His son Ivan Sergeevich Aksakov (1823-86) was Tyutchev’s first biographer and son-in-law. In the last line of his poem Encyclica (“An Encyclical,” 1864) Tyutchev quotes rokovoe slovo (the fateful word) of the Pope Pius IX, “freedom of worship is nonsense:”

Был день, когда господней правды молот
Громил, дробил ветхозаветный храм
И, собственным мечом своим заколот,
В нем издыхал первосвященник сам.

Ещё страшней, ещё неумолимей
И в наши дни – дни божьего суда –
Свершится казнь в отступническом Риме
Над лженаместником Христа.

Столетья шли, ему прощалось много,
Кривые толки, тёмные дела,
Но не простится правдой бога
Его последняя хула...

Не от меча погибнет он земного,
Мечом земным владевший столько лет, –
Его погубит роковое слово:
«Свобода совести есть бред!»

Once, the hammer of the justice of the Lord

smashed and destroyed the primal temple

where the high priest gasped his last,

impaled upon his own sword.


More fearsome, more implacable, God demands that he atone

on these days of heavenly judgement

in apostate Rome, and capital sentence will be passed

on that Pretender to Christ's throne!


Passing centuries disguise

black deeds and lying rumours,

but God in his justice cannot pardon

this latest in a string of lies.


No human being will win the right to kill this earthly ruler,

living by the sword of man so long himself.

He will be destroyed by his own fateful words:

"freedom of worship is nonsense!"

(transl. F. Jude)

In the poem’s opening lines Tyutchev alludes to the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A. D. 79. The eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried Pompeii, Herculaneum and Stabia also happened in A. D. 79.

In the poem’s last line, svoboda sovesti est’ bred (freedom of worship is nonsense), Tyutchev uses the word bred (nonsense). Dorothy Vinelander (Ada’s sister-in-law) eventually marries a Mr Brod or Bred, the archeologist:

After helping her to nurse Andrey at Agavia Ranch through a couple of acrimonious years (she begrudged Ada every poor little hour devoted to collecting, mounting, and rearing!), and then taking exception to Ada's choosing the famous and excellent Grotonovich Clinic (for her husband's endless periods of treatment) instead of Princess Alashin's select sanatorium, Dorothy Vinelander retired to a subarctic monastery town (Ilemna, now Novostabia) where eventually she married a Mr Brod or Bred, tender and passionate, dark and handsome, who traveled in eucharistials and other sacramental objects throughout the Severnïya Territorii and who subsequently was to direct, and still may be directing half a century later, archeological reconstructions at Goreloe (the 'Lyaskan Herculanum'); what treasures he dug up in matrimony is another question. (3.8)

The phrase rokovoe slovo (fateful word) used by Tyutchev (the poet who loved the epithet rokovoy, “fatal, fateful”) in the poem’s penultimate line brings to mind Rokov, the penname of Felix Yusupov’s elder brother Nikolay who was killed in a duel. The penname Rokov was derived from Sumarokov (Yusupov’s full name was Prince Yusupov Count Sumarokov-Elston). In his poem Est’ tsennostey nezyblemaya skala… (“There is an unshakeable scale of values…” 1914) Mandelshtam mentions “wretched Sumarokov” (the poet, 1717-77, who “has babbled his crammed role”) and “the appearance of Ozerov” (“the last ray of tragic evening glow”):

Есть ценностей незыблемая скала
Над скучными ошибками веков.
Неправильно наложена опала
На автора возвышенных стихов.

И вслед за тем, как жалкий Сумароков
Пролепетал заученную роль,
Как царский посох в скинии пророков,
У нас цвела торжественная боль.

Что делать вам в театре полуслова
И полумаск, герои и цари?
И для меня явленье Озерова —
Последний луч трагической зари.

A minor poet and playwright, Vladislav Ozerov (1769-1816) is the author of Dmitri Donskoy (1807), a tragedy in Alexandrines. The name of Demon’s adversary, d’Onsky, hints at Dmitri Donskoy (the Russian Prince who defeated Khan Mamay in the battle of Kulikovo, 1380). The name Ozerov comes from ozero (lake). In the name Sumarokov one’s ear can discern “Samurai.”

In Mandelstam’s early poetry Rome plays a significant part. In his poem Abbat (“The Abbot,” 1914) the abbot predicts to the author that he will die as a Catholic:

Я поклонился, он ответил

Кивком учтивым головы,

И, говоря со мной, заметил:

«Католиком умрёте вы!»

Sumarokov + ray + zero = samuray + rok + Ozerov = suma + vor/rov + kray + ozero = um + oko + saray + revizor + ad/da - Ida/Aid

ray – paradise

zero – 0; According to Bess (which is 'fiend' in Russian), Dan's buxom but otherwise disgusting nurse, whom he preferred to all others and had taken to Ardis because she managed to extract orally a few last drops of 'play-zero' (as the old whore called it) out of his poor body, he had been complaining for some time, even before Ada's sudden departure, that a devil combining the characteristics of a frog and a rodent desired to straddle him and ride him to the torture house of eternity. (2.10)

samuray – Samurai

rok – doom, fate

suma – bag, pouch

vor – thief

rov – ditch

kray – edge; brink; side; land; country

um – mind, intellect; wits

oko – obs., eye

saray – shed

revizor – inspector; a play (1836) by Gogol

ad – hell

da – yes

Ida – Ida Larivière (Lucette’s governess)

Aid – Hades

Alexey Sklyarenko

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