Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026909, Thu, 17 Mar 2016 12:30:19 +0300

Mr Brod or Bred, Kim Beauharnais, mirabilic year,
Camping Ford & beshmet in Ada
Andrey Vinelander’s sister Dorothy eventually marries a Mr Brod or Bred:

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)

In my recent post “Mr Brod or Bred & Goreloe in Ada” I forgot to point out that brod was Russian for “ford” (a shallow place where a river or stream can be crossed). In Voina i mir (“War and Peace”) Tolstoy mentions Krymskiy Brod (the Crimean Ford Bridge across the Moskva river) and Beauharnais’s divisions leaving Moscow:

Войска Даву, к которым принадлежали пленные, шли через Крымский брод и уже отчасти вступали в Калужскую улицу. Но обозы так растянулись, что последние обозы Богарне ещё не вышли из Москвы в Калужскую улицу, а голова войск Нея уже выходила из Большой Ордынки.

Davoust's troops, in whose charge the prisoners were, had crossed the Krymskyi Brod, or Crimean Ford Bridge, and already some of the divisions we're debouching into Kaluga Street. But the teams stretched out so endlessly that the last ones belonging to Beauharnais's division had not yet left Moscow to enter Kaluga Street, while the head of Ney's troops had already left Bolshaya Ordynka. (Part IV, chapter XIV)

The Crimean Ford received its name after the Crimean Tartars who crossed the Moskva river here when they attacked Moscow. The street name Ordynka comes from Orda (the Horde). On Antiterra (Earth’s twin planet on which Ada is set) Moscow (a city that should not be confused with Moscow, Id., the former capital of Estotiland, 2.9) is the capital of the Golden Horde. In the conversation about religions in “Ardis the First” Van mentions mosques in Moscow and bleached camel ribs:

'Who cares,' cried Van, 'who cares about all those stale myths, what does it matter - Jove or Jehovah, spire or cupola, mosques in Moscow, or bronzes and bonzes, and clerics, and relics, and deserts with bleached camel ribs? They are merely the dust and mirages of the communal mind.' (1.14)

On her sixteenth birthday Greg Erminin gives Ada a little camel of yellow ivory:

Ada had declined to invite anybody except the Erminin twins to her picnic; but she had had no intention of inviting the brother without the sister. The latter, it turned out, could not come, having gone to New Cranton to see a young drummer, her first boy friend, sail off into the sunrise with his regiment. But Greg had to be asked to come after all: on the previous day he had called on her bringing a 'talisman' from his very sick father, who wanted Ada to treasure as much as his grandam had a little camel of yellow ivory carved in Kiev, five centuries ago, in the days of Timur and Nabok. (1.39)

Greg arrives at the picnic site on his splendid new black Silentium motorcycle. Silentium (1835) and Bliznetsy (“Twins,” 1852) are poems by Tyutchev. In the last line of his poem Encyclica (“An Encyclical,” 1865) Tyutchev quotes the fateful words of the pope Pius IX, svoboda sovesti est’ bred (freedom of worship is nonsense).

The characters of Ada include Kim Beauharnais, the kitchen boy and photographer at Ardis. In Chapter Ten of Eugene Onegin (1823-31) Pushkin mentions not our cooks (general Beauharnais was one of them) who in 1812 plucked the two-headed eagle (the heraldic symbol of Russian Empire) near Bonaparte's tent:

Его мы очень смирным знали,
Когда не наши повара
Орла двуглавого щипали
У Бонапартова шатра.

We knew him [Alexander I] to be very tame

when not our cooks

plucked the two-headed eagle

near Bonaparte's tent. (II: 1-4)

In its full form Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” appeared in 1869. In the same year Dostoevski’s novel Idiot was published. Demon Veen (Van’s and Ada’s father) married Marina’s twin sister Aqua on April 23, 1869:

The modest narrator has to remind the rereader of all this, because in April (my favorite month), 1869 (by no means a mirabilic year), on St George's Day (according to Mlle Larivière's maudlin memoirs) Demon Veen married Aqua Veen - out of spite and pity, a not unusual blend. (1.3)

There is mir (peace; world) in “mirabilic.” According to E. H. Carr, the year 1866 had a great significance in Dostoevski’s life. Chapter XI of Carr’s biography of Dostoevski (1931) is entitled “Annus Mirabilis.” St. George slaying the dragon appears on the coat of arms of Moscow.

The name Aqua means “water.” According to a Russian saying, ne znaya brodu, ne lez' v vodu (look before you leap; literally: “unless you know the ford, do not step into the water”).

Before she met Demon, Aqua had had an affair with a married man in Belokonsk (the Antiterran twin of Canadian Whitehorse):

In her erratic student years Aqua had left fashionable Brown Hill College, founded by one of her less reputable ancestors, to participate (as was also fashionable) in some Social Improvement project or another in the Severnïya Territorii. She organized with Milton Abraham's invaluable help a Phree Pharmacy in Belokonsk, and fell grievously in love there with a married man, who after one summer of parvenu passion dispensed to her in his Camping Ford garçonnière preferred to give her up rather than run the risk of endangering his social situation in a philistine town where businessmen played 'golf' on Sundays and belonged to 'lodges.' (1.3)

Camping Ford seems to hint at Camp Ford, a prisoner of war camp near Tyler, Texax, during the American Civil War (1861-65). It was the largest Confederate-run prison west of the Mississippi River.

In Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” Pierre Bezukhov (who eventually marries Natasha Rostov) is taken prisoner by the French who keep him under arrest at the Crimean Ford. One of Ada’s lovers, Percy de Prey (who is as fat, as Tolstoy’s Pierre), goes to the war and perishes in the Crimea. It is an old Tartar who shots him dead:

When a couple of minutes later, Percy - still Count Percy de Prey - regained consciousness he was no longer alone on his rough bed of gravel and grass. A smiling old Tartar, incongruously but somehow assuagingly wearing American blue-jeans with his beshmet, was squatting by his side. 'Bednïy, bednïy' (you poor, poor fellow), muttered the good soul, shaking his shaven head and clucking: 'Bol'no (it hurts)?' Percy answered in his equally primitive Russian that he did not feel too badly wounded: 'Karasho, karasho, ne bol'no (good, good),' said the kindly old man and, picking up the automatic pistol which Percy had dropped, he examined it with naive pleasure and then shot him in the temple. (1.42)

In Tolstoy’s Haji Murad (1911) the hero wears a black beshmet (a kind of quilted jacket):

Он взял из-под подушки свой чёрный ватный бешмет и пошёл в помещение своих нукеров.

He took his black quilted beshmet from beneath the cushion and went to his nukers’ quarters. (chapter XXIII)

On Antiterra Haji Murat is a French general’s bastard:

He [Van] struggled to keep back his tears, while AAA [Aksakov, Van’s Russian tutor] blew his fat red nose, when shown the peasant-bare footprint of Tolstoy preserved in the clay of a motor court in Utah where he had written the tale of Murat, the Navajo chieftain, a French general's bastard, shot by Cora Day in his swimming pool. (1.28)

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): Tolstoy's hero, Haji Murad, (a Caucasian chieftain) is blended here with General Murat, Napoleon's brother-in-law, and with the French revolutionary leader Marat assassinated in his bath by Charlotte Corday.

brod + drevo/vedro = dobro + vred = dvor + bedro = bred + Rodov = bor + vor/rov + ded

drevo – obs., tree

vedro – bucket, pail

dogro – good (noun, as opposed to zlo, “evil”)

vred – harm

dvor – court; courtyard

bedro – hip

Rodov – Semyon Rodov, a poet mentioned by Khodasevich in his essay Neudachniki (“The Failures,” 1935)

bor – pine forest; in her suicide note Aqua mentions the neighboring bor: Aujourd'hui (heute-toity!) I, this eye-rolling toy, have earned the psykitsch right to enjoy a landparty with Herr Doktor Sig, Nurse Joan the Terrible, and several 'patients,' in the neighboring bor (piney wood) where I noticed exactly the same skunk-like squirrels, Van, that your Darkblue ancestor imported to Ardis Park, where you will ramble one day, no doubt. (1.3)

vor – thief

rov – ditch

ded – grandfather

Alexey Sklyarenko

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