Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026972, Mon, 2 May 2016 12:02:42 +0300

gueridon & thumb spring in Ada
As she speaks to Van, Lucette mentions the gueridon that stood in the
library of Ardis Hall:

'Do you remember Grandmother's scrutoir between the globe and the gueridon?
In the library?'

'I don't even know what a scrutoir is; and I do not visualize the gueridon.'

'But you remember the globe?'

Dusty Tartary with Cinderella's finger rubbing the place where the invader
would fall.

'Yes, I do: and a kind of stand with golden dragons painted all over it.'

'That's what I meant by "gueridon." It was really a Chinese stand japanned
in red lacquer, and the scrutoir stood in between.' (2.5)

In his "Memoirs" (1953) Prince Felix Yusupov mentions geridony (the
gueridons) with ash-trays, cigarettes and wine-glasses on them:

Дни мы проводили в лесу или на реке. А вечером у Биби непременно было
увеселение. Чаще всего она вызывала скрипача Гулеско, других музыкантов или
певцов. Не было музыки - крутили фильмы. Биби усаживалась посреди гостиной в
кресле-качалке перед столиком на колёсах, уставленным бутылками. Рядом
непременно - серебряная ночная ваза. У кресел для гостей - геридоны с
пепельницами, сигаретами, рюмками. Все жившие в доме, в том числе прислуга,
обязаны были присутствовать на просмотрах. Биби, усевшись, покачается,
стукнет три раза тростью, и представление начинается. Если, что бывало
часто, актёр ей не нравился, осыпает его бранью и швыряет в экран бутылки.
(Book Two, chapter 15)

Felix Yusupov's full name was Prince Felix Yusupov Count Sumarokov-Elston.
In Ilf and Petrov's novel Dvenadtsat' stuliev ("The Twelve Chairs," 1928)
the reporter Persitski suggests that the poet Nikifor Lyapis-Trubetskoy
("Lapsus") should change his penname to Sumarokov-Elston:

Да, кстати. Ляпсус, почему вы Трубецкой? Почему вам не взять псевдоним ещё
получше? Например, Долгорукий! Никифор Долгорукий! Или Никифор Валуа? Или
ещё лучше: гражданин Никифор Сумароков-Эльстон? Если у вас случится хорошая
кормушка, сразу три стишка в <Гермуму>, то выход из положения у вас
блестящий. Один бред подписывается Сумароковым, другая макулатура -
Эльстоном, а третья - Юсуповым: Эх вы, халтурщик!..

"Anyway, why are you called Trubetskoy? Why don't you choose a better name?
Nikifor Dolgoruki. Or Nikifor Valois. Or, still better, Citizen Nikifor
Sumarokov-Elston. If ever you manage to get some easy job, then you can
write three lines for "Germumu" right away and you have a marvelous way to
save yourself. One piece of rubbish is signed Sumarokov, the second Elston,
and the third Yusupov. God, you hack!" (Chapter XXIX "The Author of The

In his first prose piece Lyapis-Trubetskoy uses the word domkrat (jack)
without knowing what it means:

- Это, кажется, ваш первый опыт в прозе? Поздравляю вас! <Волны
перекатывались через мол и падали вниз стремительным домкратом:>

"I believe it was your first attempt at prose. Congratulations! 'The waves
rolled across the pier and fell headlong below like a jack.'" (ibid.)

Persitsky opens a volume of the Brockhaus encyclopaedia and reads aloud:

Domkrat (Germ., Daumkraft) is a machine for lifting heavy weights. A simple
domkrat used for lifting carriages, etc., consists of a mobile toothed bar
gripped by a rod which is turned by means of a lever... In 1879 John Dixon
set up the obelisk known as Cleopatra's Needle by means of four workers
operating four hydraulic jacks." And this instrument, in your opinion, can
fall headlong? So Brockhaus has deceived humanity for fifty years? (ibid.)

Russian domkrat is a corruption of German Daumkraft, a word that comes from
Daum (thumb) and Kraft (power). As she speaks of Grandmother's "scrutoir,"
Lucette mentions a felted thumb spring in its secret drawer:

'Well, that secretaire,' continued Lucette, considering her left shoe, her
very chic patent-leather Glass shoe, as she crossed her lovely legs, 'that
secretaire enclosed a folded card table and a top-secret drawer. And you
thought, I think, it was crammed with our grandmother's love letters,
written when she was twelve or thirteen. And our Ada knew, oh, she knew, the
drawer was there but she had forgotten how to release the orgasm or whatever
it is called in card tables and bureaus.'

Whatever it is called.

'She and I challenged you to find the secret chuvstvilishche (sensorium) and
make it work. It was the summer Belle sprained her backside, and we were
left to our own devices, which had long lost the particule in your case and
Ada's, but were touchingly pure in mine. You groped around, and felt, and
felt for the little organ, which turned out to be a yielding roundlet in the
rosewood under the felt you felt - I mean, under the felt you were feeling:
it was a felted thumb spring, and Ada laughed as the drawer shot out.'

'And it was empty,' said Van.

'Not quite. It contained a minuscule red pawn that high' (showing its
barleycorn-size with her finger - above what? Above Van's wrist). 'I kept it
for luck; I must still have it somewhere. (2.5)

Kraft is a character in Dostoevski's novel Podrostok ("The Adolescent,"
1875). It is from Kraft (a young Russian, despite his German name, who
shoots himself dead) that Arkadiy Dolgoruki (the novel's main character and
narrator) receives a letter that Lambert (Arkadiy's former schoolmate) hopes
to use for blackmailing Katerina Akhmakov (a young woman with whom Arkadiy
is in love). As I pointed out in my article "Grattez le Tartar:" (The
Nabokovian ##59,60), Kim Beauharnais (the kitchen boy and photographer at
Ardis who spies on Van and Ada and attempts to blackmail Ada, 2.7) seems to
be the son of Arkadiy Dolgoruki and Alphonsine (in "The Adolescent"
Lambert's mistress whom Arkadiy calls shpion, "a spy"). Kim Beauharnais is
thus a spy from Terra (Demonia's or Antiterra's sibling planet). Lucette's
"minuscule red pawn" brings to mind "The Interplanetary Chess Tournament," a
chapter in Ilf and Petrov's "The Twelve Chairs."

domkrat + Sosso + moloko = dom + Sokrat + molokosos

molokosos + sosed + Lolita = moloko + Sosso + sedlo + lait/tail

milk + oko + Lolita = Klim + oko + Lolita = lik/Lik + moloko + lait/tail

moloko + sosed = koleso + Sodom

Sodom + sedlo + Nabokov + moloko + milk/Klim = domosed + slovo/volos + obman
+ kolokol + Kim/Mik

Sosso - Khan Sosso, the ruler of the ruthless Sovietnamur Khanate on
Antiterra: Eastward, instead of Khan Sosso and his ruthless Sovietnamur
Khanate, a super Russia, dominating the Volga region and similar watersheds,
was governed by a Sovereign Society of Solicitous Republics (or so it came
through) which had superseded the Tsars, conquerors of Tartary and Trst.
(2.2); in "The Twelve Chairs" Ostap Bender plays simultaneous chess in
Vasyuki, a fictitious town on the Volga

moloko - milk

dom - home; house

Sokrat - Socrates in Russian spelling

molokosos - greenhorn, raw youth; in Pushkin's Count Nulin (1825) Natalia
Pavlovna's husband calls Count Nulin durak (a fool) and molokosos:

Он говорил, что граф дурак,
Молокосос; что если так,
То графа он визжать заставит,
Что псами он его затравит.

Смеялся Лидин, их сосед,
Помещик двадцати трёх лет.

He said that the Count was a fool,

a greenhorn; that, if all this was true,

he'll make the Count scream,

he'll hunt him with his dogs.

It was their neighbor Lidin,*

a landed gentleman of twenty-three, who laughed.

Lucette's father, Daniel Veen, is known in society as Durak Walter or simply
Red Veen: The 'D' in the name of Aqua's husband stood for Demon (a form of
Demian or Dementius), and thus was he called by his kin. In society he was
generally known as Raven Veen or simply Dark Walter to distinguish him from
Marina's husband, Durak Walter or simply Red Veen. (1.1)

sosed - neighbor;

sedlo - saddle; according to Persitski, Lyapis believed that sedlo dikoy
kozy (a wild-goat's saddle) is served at table together with the stirrups

lait - Fr., milk

oko - obs., eye

Klim - male given name; cf. Baron Klim Avidov, Marina's former lover who
gave her children a set of Flavita (Russian Scrabble, 1.36), Baron Klim
Avidov = Vladimir Nabokov; cf. Zhizn' Klima Samgina ("The Life of Klim
Samgin," 1925-36), a novel by Gorky

lik - obs., face; assembly

Lik - a story (1939) by VN

koleso - wheel

domosed - stay-at-home; cf. Stranstvovatel' i domosed ("A Wanderer and a
Stay-at-Home," 1815), a poem by Batyushkov; a stay-at-home's name in it is
Klit; in his poem Besedka muz ("The Bower of Muses," 1818) Batyushkov
mentions milky racemosas and golden-glistening pea trees; Klit + or = klitor
(or - Fr., gold; klitor - clitoris)

slovo - word

volos - a hair

obman - fraud, deception; illusion

kolokol - bell; cf. Daniel Veen's mother was a Trumbell, and he was prone to
explain at great length - unless sidetracked by a bore-baiter - how in the
course of American history an English 'bull' had become a New England
'bell.' (1.1)

Mik - a poem (1914) by Gumilyov

Btw., in a draft of the second volume of his Dar ("The Gift") VN mentions
smuglyi podrostok, g. Brokgauz, on zhe pyatnadtsatiletniy Efron (a
dark-complexioned adolescent, Mr. Brockhaus, alias fifteen-year-old Efron):

Всё-таки осторожно: как писал смуглый подросток, г. Брокгауз, он же
пятнадцатилетний Эфрон, - на коленях, в углу кабинета.

*in Pushkin's draft the neighbor's name is Verin

Alexey Sklyarenko

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