Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026952, Mon, 18 Apr 2016 15:51:38 +0300

Kim Beauharnais & his toilet roll of Carte du Tendre in Ada
Van calls Kim Beauharnais’s album “the hearse of ars, a toilet roll of the Carte du Tendre:”

In an equally casual tone of voice Van said: 'Darling, you smoke too much, my belly is covered with your ashes. I suppose Bouteillan knows Professor Beauharnais's exact address in the Athens of Graphic Arts.'

'You shall not slaughter him,' said Ada. 'He is subnormal, he is, perhaps, blackmailerish, but in his sordidity, there is an istoshnïy ston ('visceral moan') of crippled art. Furthermore, this page is the only really naughty one. And let's not forget that a copperhead of eight was also ambushed in the brush'.

‘Art my foute. This is the hearse of ars, a toilet roll of the Carte du Tendre! I’m sorry you showed it to me. That ape has vulgarized our own mind-pictures. I will either horsewhip his eyes out or redeem our childhood by making a book of it: Ardis, a family chronicle.’ (2.7)

Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Carte du Tendre: ‘Map of Tender Love’, sentimental allegory of the seventeenth century.

In Alfred de Vigny’s novel Cinq Mars (1826) Scudéry explains to the guests of Marion Delorme (cardinal de Richelieu's mistress) his allegorical map of love. In his article <O Мильтоне и шатобриановом переводе "Потерянного рая"> ("On Milton and Chateaubriand's Translation of Paradise Lost," 1836) Pushkin criticizes Cinq Mars and Victor Hugo's play Cromwell (1827). In both the novel and the play John Milton (1608-74) appears as a character:

Альфред де Виньи в своём «Сен-Марсе» также выводит перед нами Мильтона и вот в каких обстоятельствах:

У славной Марии Делорм, любовницы кардинала Ришелье, собирается общество придворных и учёных. Скюдери толкует им свою аллегорическую карту любви. Гости в восхищении от крепости Красоты, стоящей на реке Гордости, от деревни Записочек, от гавани Равнодушия и проч. и проч. Все осыпают г-на Скюдери напыщенными похвалами, кроме Мольера, Корнеля и Декарта, которые тут же находятся. Вдруг хозяйка представляет обществу молодого путешествующего англичанина, по имени Джона Мильтона, и заставляет его читать гостям отрывки из «Потерянного Рая».

In Alfred de Vigny’s novel all guests of Marion Delorme (except Molière, Corneille and Descartes) are delighted with the fortress of Beauty on the river of Pride, with the village of Little Notes, with the harbor of Indifference, et cetera. Young Milton (whose eyes are red because of too much vigil or shedding too many tears) is asked to read aloud the excerpts from his Paradise Lost. In his article Pushkin remarks that, actually, Milton composed Paradise Lost (publ. in 1667) much later, when he was completely blind.

Kim Beauharnais is a kitchen boy and photographer at Ardis whom Van blinds for spying on him and Ada and attempting to blackmail Ada (2.11). His name hints at Josephine Beauharnais (Napoleon’s first wife who is known on Antiterra as “Queen Josephine,” 1.5). In Chapter Ten (II: 1-4) of Eugene Onegin Pushkin mentions not our cooks who plucked the two-headed eagle near Napoleon’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.

In the preceding stanza (Ten: I: 1-4) Pushkin calls the tsar Alexander I “a ruler weak and wily, a baldish fop, a foe of toil, fortuitously by Fame befriended:”

Властитель слабый и лукавый,
Плешивый щеголь, враг труда,
Нечаянно пригретый славой,
Над нами царствовал тогда.

In his epigram on Alexander I, Ty i ya (“You and I,” 1817-20), Pushkin compares his living conditions to those of the tsar and, in the poem’s closing lines, says that for a wiping purpose he uses Khvostov’s hard ode:

Ты богат, я очень беден;

Ты прозаик, я поэт;

Ты румян, как маков цвет,

Я как смерть и тощ, и бледен.

Не имея в век забот,

Ты живёшь в огромном доме;

Я ж средь горя и хлопот

Провожу дни на соломе.

Ешь ты сладко всякой день,

Тянешь вины на свободе,

И тебе не редко лень

Нужный долг отдать природе;

Я же с чёрствого куска,

От воды сырой и пресной,

Сажен за сто с чердака

За нуждой бегу известной.

Окружён рабов толпой,

С грозным деспотизма взором,

Афедрон ты жирный свой

Подтираешь коленкором;

Я же грешную дыру

Не балую детской модой

И Хвостова жесткой одой,

Хоть и морщуся, да тру.

…Surrounded with a crowd of slaves,

With a severe look of despotism,

you wipe up with calico

your fat Afedron.

And I with children's fashion

do not pamper my sinful hole

and, wincing, wipe it

with Khvostov's hard ode.*

In his "Ода его сият. гр. Дм. Ив. Хвостову" (“Ode to his Excellency Count Dm. Iv. Khvostov,” 1825) Pushkin compares Khvostov to Byron:

Вам с Бейроном шипела злоба,
Гремела и правдива лесть.
Он лорд — граф ты! Поэты оба!
Се, мнится, явно сходство есть.

On a picture in Marina's bedroom her and Aqua's brother Ivan (who died young and famous) is clad in a bayronka (open shirt):

A formal photograph, on a separate page: Adochka, pretty and impure in her flimsy, and Vanichka in gray-flannel suit, with slant-striped school tie, facing the kimera (chimera, camera) side by side, at attention, he with the shadow of a forced grin, she, expressionless. Both recalled the time (between the first tiny cross and a whole graveyard of kisses) and the occasion: it was ordered by Marina, who had it framed and set up in her bedroom next to a picture of her brother at twelve or fourteen clad in a bayronka (open shirt) and cupping a guinea pig in his gowpen (hollowed hands); the three looked like siblings, with the dead boy providing a vivisectional alibi. (2.7)

In a letter of Sept. 24, 1820, from Kishinev to his brother Lev in St. Petersburg Pushkin describes his journey with the Raevski family (btw., the name Raevski comes from ray, “paradise”) to the Caucasus and the Crimea and mentions Napoleon’s khimericheskiy plan (chimerical plan) of the conquest of India:

Кавказский край, знойная граница Азии, любопытен во всех отношениях. Ермолов наполнил его своим именем и благотворным гением. Дикие черкесы напуганы; древняя дерзость их исчезает. Дороги становятся час от часу безопаснее, многочисленные конвои — излишними. Должно надеяться, что эта завоёванная сторона, до сих пор не приносившая никакой существенной пользы России, скоро сблизит нас с персиянами безопасною торговлею, не будет нам преградою в будущих войнах — и, может быть, сбудется для нас химерический план Наполеона в рассуждении завоевания Индии.

Marina (Van’s, Ada’s and Lucette’s mother) believes that, in one of her former incarnations, she was a dancing girl in India:

Now Lucette demanded her mother's attention.

'What are Jews?' she asked.

'Dissident Christians,' answered Marina.

'Why is Greg a Jew?' asked Lucette.

'Why-why!' said Marina; 'because his parents are Jews.'

'And his grandparents? His arrière grandparents?'

'I really wouldn't know, my dear. Were your ancestors Jews, Greg?'

'Well, I'm not sure,' said Greg. 'Hebrews, yes - but not Jews in quotes - I mean, not comic characters or Christian businessmen. They came from Tartary to England five centuries ago. My mother's grandfather, though, was a French marquis who, I know, belonged to the Roman faith and was crazy about banks and stocks and jewels, so I imagine people may have called him un juif.'

'It's not a very old religion, anyway, as religions go, is it?' said Marina (turning to Van and vaguely planning to steer the chat to India where she had been a dancing girl long before Moses or anybody was born in the lotus swamp). (1.14)

Pushkin begins his detailed description s yaits Ledy (“with Leda’s eggs”):

Милый брат, я виноват перед твоею дружбою, постараюсь загладить вину мою длинным письмом и подробными рассказами. Начинаю с яиц Леды.

In the lounge of Les Trois Cygnes, Van’s hotel in Mont Roux, there is an oil (replaced by another painting when Van revisits the hotel in 1922) showing three ample-haunched Ledas:

In the lounge, as seen through its entrance, the huge memorable oil - three ample-haunched Ledas swapping lacustrine impressions - had been replaced by a neoprimitive masterpiece showing three yellow eggs and a pair of plumber's gloves on what looked like wet bathroom tiling. (Part Four)

Perhaps, a roll of toilet paper would suit better than eggs a pair of plumber's gloves and wet bathroom tiling.

The daughter of Zeus and Leda, sister of the Dioscuri, beautiful Helen was born from a swan’s egg. As he implores Ada to leave her husband, Van mentions Helen of Troy:

As had been peculiar to his nature even in the days of his youth, Van was apt to relieve a passion of anger and disappointment by means of bombastic and arcane utterances which hurt like a jagged fingernail caught in satin, the lining of Hell.

'Castle True, Castle Bright!' he now cried, 'Helen of Troy, Ada of Ardis! You have betrayed the Tree and the Moth!'

'Perestagne (stop, cesse)!'

'Ardis the First, Ardis the Second, Tanned Man in a Hat, and now Mount Russet -'

'Perestagne!' repeated Ada (like a fool dealing with an epileptic).

'Oh! Qui me rendra mon Hélène -'

'Ach, perestagne!'

'- et le phalène.'

'Je t'emplie ("prie" and "supplie"), stop, Van. Tu sais que j'en vais mourir.' (3.8)

“Tanned Man in a Hat” (according to Ada, a complete stranger) appears on the last photograph in Kim Beauharnais’s album:

The entire staff stood in several rows on the steps of the pillared porch behind the Bank President Baroness Veen and the Vice President Ida Larivière. Those two were flanked by the two prettiest typists, Blanche de la Tourberie (ethereal, tearstained, entirely adorable) and a black girl who had been hired, a few days before Van's departure, to help French, who towered rather sullenly above her in the second row, the focal point of which was Bouteillan, still wearing the costume sport he had on when driving off with Van (that picture had been muffed or omitted). On the butler's right side stood three footmen; on his left, Bout (who had valeted Van), the fat, flour-pale cook (Blanche's father) and, next to French, a terribly tweedy gentleman with sightseeing strappings athwart one shoulder: actually (according to Ada), a tourist, who, having come all the way from England to see Bryant's Castle, had bicycled up the wrong road and was, in the picture, under the impression of accidentally being conjoined to a group of fellow tourists who were visiting some other old manor quite worth inspecting too. (2.7)

Kim's “apotheosis of Ardis” is a parody of the group photograph taken in Kremlin and described by a character in Aldanov's novel Peshchera ("The Cave," 1936). At the end of his review of Peshchera (Contemporary Notes, No. 61) VN says that the entire "letter from Russia" is wonderful, particularly, the description of Lenin and the gang being photographed "for posterity:"

Всё "письмо из России" великолепно, и особенно описaние, кaк Ленин с шaйкой "снимaлся для потомствa". "Зa его стулом стояли Троцкий во френче и Зиновьев в кaкой-то блузе или толстовке". "...Кaкие Люциферовы чувствa они должны испытывaть к нежно любимому Ильичу..." "А ведь, если б в тaком-то году, нa тaком-то съезде, голосовaть не тaк, a инaче, дa нa тaкую-то брошюру ответить вот тaк, то ведь не он, a я сидел бы "Дaвыдычем" нa стуле, a он стоял бы у меня зa спиной с доброй, товaрищески-верноподдaнической улыбкой!" Это звучит приговором окончaтельным, вечным, тем приговором, который вынесут будущие временa.

Zinoviev’s tolstovka (long belted blouse) brings to mind Ivan Durmanov’s bayronka on the picture in Marina’s bedroom.

*in Pushkin’s epigram on Notbek’s illustrations to EO Tatiana beset by stomach throes tore up the Nevski Almanac for a wiping purpose (see EO Commentary, vol. II, p. 178)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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