Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026984, Mon, 9 May 2016 21:50:06 +0300

mutes, kennel girl, stable boy, peignoir & bretteur in Ada
'After a year or so she [Ada] found out that an old pederast kept him and
she dismissed him, and he shot himself on a beach at high tide but surfers
and surgeons saved him, and now his brain is damaged; he will never be able
to speak.'

'One can always fall back on mutes,' said Van gloomily. 'He could act the
speechless eunuch in "Stambul, my bulbul" or the stable boy disguised as a
kennel girl who brings a letter.' (2.5)

The main character of Turgenev’s story Mumu (1854) is the deaf and mute
serf Gerasim who is forced to drown his beloved dog Mumu. In Ilf and
Petrov’s novel Dvenadtsat’ stuliev (“The Twelve Chairs,” 1928) “Gerasim
and Mumu” is a newspaper to which the poet Nikifor Lyapis-Trubetskoy
(“Lapsus”) contributes his verses:

― Никогда я этого не говорил! ― закричал Т

― Вы не говорили. Вы писали. Мне Напернико
в говорил, что вы пытались всучить ему так
ие стишата в ?Герасим и Муму?, якобы из быт
а охотников. Скажите по совести, Ляпсус, п
очему вы пишете о том, чего вы в жизни не в
идели и о чём не имеете ни малейшего предс
тавления? Почему у вас в стихотворении ?Ка
нтон? пеньюар ― это бальное платье? Почем

"I never said that," cried Trubetskoy.

"You didn't say it, you wrote it. Napernikov told me you tried to palm off
some doggerel on “Gerasim and Mumu,” supposed to be about the everyday
life of hunters. Honestly, Lyapis, why do you write about things you've
never seen and haven't the first idea about? Why is the peignoir in your
poem 'Canton' an evening dress? Why?" (Chapter XXIX “The Author of The

In his farewell letter to Marina (Van’s, Ada’s and Lucette’s mother)
Demon Veen (Van’s and Ada’s father) mentioned Marina’s penyuar

Early one February morning (around noon chez vous) I rang you up at your
hotel from a roadside booth of pure crystal still tear-stained after a
tremendous thunderstorm to ask you to fly over at once, because I, Demon,
rattling my crumpled wings and cursing the automatic dorophone, could not
live without you and because I wished you to see, with me holding you, the
daze of desert flowers that the rain had brought out. Your voice was remote
but sweet; you said you were in Eve's state, hold the line, let me put on a
penyuar. Instead, blocking my ear, you spoke, I suppose, to the man with
whom you had spent the night (and whom I would have dispatched, had I not
been overeager to castrate him). (1.2)

The name (Baron d’Onsky) and nickname (Skonky, anagram of konskiy, “of a
horse”) of Marina’s lover whom Demon was eager to castrate hint at
Onegin’s Don stallion in Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin (Two: V: 4). One of the
seconds in Demon’s sword duel with d’Onsky is Colonel St Alin, a scoundrel
(1.2). His name clearly hints at Stalin, the Soviet leader who died in 1953.
In 1953 “The Memoirs” of Prince Felix Yusupov (a descendant of Tartar
princes) appeared in Paris. Felix Yusupov’s full name was Prince Felix
Yusupov Count Sumarokov-Elston. In “The Twelve Chairs” the reporter
Persitski suggests that Lyapis-Trubetskoy should change his penname to

Да, кстати. Ляпсус, почему вы Трубецкой? По
чему вам не взять псевдоним ещё получше? Н
апример, Долгорукий! Никифор Долгорукий!
Или Никифор Валуа? Или ещё лучше: граждани
н Никифор Сумароков-Эльстон? Если у вас сл
учится хорошая кормушка, сразу три стишка
в ?Гермуму?, то выход из положения у вас бл
естящий. Один бред подписывается Сумарок
овым, другая макулатура ― Эльстоном, а тре
тья ― Юсуповым… Эх вы, халтурщик!..

“By the way, Lapsus, 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 name Persitski brings to mind Persy de Prey, Ada’s lover who goes the
war and perishes in the Crimea (it is an old Tartar who shoots Percy dead).
Before the departure, Persy sends Van a letter with a messenger who looks
like a kennel girl or a stable boy:

His valet advanced toward him across the lawn, followed by a messenger, a
slender youth clad in black leather from neck to ankle, chestnut curls
escaping from under a vizored cap. The strange child glanced around with an
amateur thespian's exaggeration of attitude, and handed a letter, marked
'confidential,' to Van.

Dear Veen,

In a couple of days I must leave for a spell of military service abroad. If
you desire to see me before I go I shall be glad to entertain you (and any
other gentleman you might wish to bring along) at dawn tomorrow where the
Maidenhair road crosses Tourbière Lane. If not, I beg you to confirm in a
brief note that you bear me no grudge, just as no grudge is cherished in
regard to you, sir, by your obedient servant

Percy de Prey

No, Van did not desire to see the Count. He said so to the pretty messenger,
who stood with one hand on the hip and one knee turned out like an extra,
waiting for the signal to join the gambaders in the country dance after
Calabro's aria.

'Un moment,' added Van. 'I would be interested to know - this could be
decided in a jiffy behind that tree - what you are, stable boy or kennel

The messenger did not reply and was led away by the chuckling Bout. A little
squeal suggestive of an improper pinch came from behind the laurels
screening their exit. (1.40)

The old pederast who kept poor Starling (Ada’s lover who shot himself on a
beach) is Dangleleaf, a fat ballet master:

'Yes,' she said, 'he was quite a lovely lad and I sort of flirted with him,
but the strain and the split were too much for him - he had been, since
pubescence, the puerulus of a fat ballet master, Dangleleaf, and he finally
committed suicide. You see ("the blush now replaced by a matovaya pallor")
I'm not hiding one stain of what rhymes with Perm.' (2.9)

The name Dangleleaf hints at Dyagilev, a ballet impresario (1872-1929) whom
Felix Yusupov mentions in his Memoirs:

Первым открыл Европе русское искусство С
ергей Дягилев, и благодаря ему наши опера
и балет прославились во всем мире. Незабы
ваемы их первые выступления в парижском Ш
атле в 1909 году. Дягилеву удалось собрать л
учших артистов: был тут Шаляпин \xa8C незабве
нный Годунов, художники Бакст и Бенуа, тан
цовщик Нижинский, балерины Павлова и Карс
авина, и многие, многие! (chapter 7)

In the same chapter of his “Memoirs” Yusupov describes his supper at
Medved’ (The Bear). Aged twelve or thirteen Felix Yusupov and his cousin
Volodya Lazarev came to St Petersburg’s most fashionable restaurant dressed
as pretty girls:

Было нам лет двенадцать-тринадцать. Как-т
о вечером, когда отца с матерью не было, ре
шили мы прогуляться, переодевшись в женск
ое платье. В матушкином шкафу нашли мы все
необходимое. Мы разрядились, нарумянилис
ь, нацепили украшенья, закутались в барха
тные шубы, нам не по росту, сошли по дальне
й лестнице и, разбудив матушкиного парикм
ахера, потребовали парики, дескать, для ма

В таком виде вышли мы в город. На Невском,
пристанище проституток, нас тотчас замет
или. Чтоб отделаться от кавалеров, мы отве
чали по-французски: ?Мы заняты? \xa8C и важно ш
ли дальше. Отстали они, когда мы вошли в ши
карный ресторан ?Медведь?. Прямо в шубах м
ы прошли в зал, сели за столик и заказали у
жин. Было жарко, мы задыхались в этих барх
атах. На нас смотрели с любопытством. Офиц
еры прислали записку \xa8C приглашали нас поу
жинать с ними в кабинете. Шампанское удар
ило мне в голову. Я снял с себя жемчужные б
усы и стал закидывать их, как аркан, на гол
овы соседей. Бусы, понятно, лопнули и раск
атились по полу под хохот публики. Теперь
на нас смотрел весь зал. Мы благоразумно р
ешили дать дёру, подобрали впопыхах жемчу
г и направились к выходу, но нас нагнал ме
трдотель со счётом. Денег у нас не было. Пр
ишлось идти объясняться к директору. Тот
оказался молодцом. Посмеялся нашей выдум
ке и даже дал денег на извозчика. Когда мы
вернулись на Мойку, все двери в доме были
заперты. Я покричал в окно своему слуге Ив
ану. Тот вышел и хохотал до слез, увидав на
с в наших манто. Наутро стало не до смеха.
Директор ?Медведя? прислал отцу остаток ж
емчуга, собранного на полу в ресторане, и…
счёт за ужин! (ibid.)

In the Yakima stage version of Chekhov’s play “The Three Sisters” (known
on Antiterra as Four Sisters) Ada played Irina and her lover played
Skvortsov, a second in Tuzenbakh’s pistol duel with Solyonyi:

Van glanced through the list of players and D.P.'s and noticed two amusing
details: the role of Fedotik, an artillery officer (whose comedy organ
consists of a constantly clicking camera)', had been assigned to a 'Kim
(short for Yakim) Eskimossoff' and somebody called 'John Starling' had been
cast as Skvortsov (a sekundant in the rather amateurish duel of the last
act) whose name comes from skvorets, starling. (2.9)

The name Vorobyaninov (of one of the three diamond hunters in “The Twelve
Chairs”) comes from vorobey (sparrow), the name of Mme Petukhov
(Vorobyaninov’s mother-in-law who concealed her daughter’s diamonds in the
upholstering of a Hambs chair) comes from petukh (cock). According to Ostap
Bender (the main character in “The Twelve Chairs” and in its sequel novel,
“The Golden Calf,” 1931), his father was a Turkish subject. Stambul (cf.
“Stambul, my bulbul” mentioned by Van) is the Russian name of Istanbul,
bulbul is Arabic for “nightingale.”

Turgenev wrote Mumu while he was in custody for publishing his obituary of
Gogol. Percy de Prey resembles Nozdryov (one of the landowners in Gogol’s
Dead Souls), but he is also linked to Akakiy Akakievich Bashmachkin, the
pathetic main character in Gogol's story Shinel' (“The Overcoat,” 1842).
Gogol’s Akakiy is neskol'ko ryabovat, neskol'ko ryzhevat, neskol'ko na vid
dazhe podslepovat, s nebol'shoy lysinoy na lbu (somewhat pock-marked,
somewhat red-haired, even somewhat short-sighted in appearance, with a
little bald spot on the forehead). Percy de Prey is described as “a
stoutish, foppish, baldish young man:”

Three young ladies in yellow-blue Vass frocks with fashionable rainbow
sashes surrounded a stoutish, foppish, baldish young man who stood, a flute
of champagne in his hand, glancing down from the drawing-room terrace at a
girl in black with bare arms: an old runabout, shivering at every jerk, was
being cranked up by a hoary chauffeur in front of the porch, and those bare
arms, stretched wide, were holding outspread the white cape of Baroness von
Skull, a grand-aunt of hers. (1.31)

“Yellow-blue Vass” is a play on ya lyublyu Vas (Russ., I love you). In
Turgenev’s Otsy i deti (“Fathers and Sons,” 1862) Bazarov tells Anna
Sergeevna: ya lyublyu Vas glupo, bezumno (I love you like a fool, like a

― И вы желали бы знать причину этой сдержа
нности, вы желали бы знать, что во мне прои

― Да, ― повторила Одинцова с каким-то, ей е
щё непонятным, испугом.

― И вы не рассердитесь?

― Нет.

― Нет? ― Базаров стоял к ней спиною. ― Так з
найте же, что я люблю Вас, глупо, безумно...
Вот чего вы добились.

"And would you like to know the reason for this reserve, would you like to
know what is happening within me?"

"Yes," repeated Madame Odintsov, with a sort of dread which she did not
quite understand.

"And you will not be angry?"


"No?" Bazarov was standing with his back to her. "Let me tell you then that
I love you like a fool, like a madman . . . There, you've got that out of
me." (chapter XVIII)

At the dinner in ‘Ursus’ (the best Franco-Estotian restaurant in Manhattan
Major) Ada and Lucette wear evening gowns made by Vass:

Both young ladies wore the very short and open evening gowns that Vass
'miraged' that season - in the phrase of that season: Ada, a gauzy black,
Lucette, a lustrous cantharid green. (2.8)

In his “Memoirs” Felix Yusupov mentions Irfe, a fashion house that he and
his wife Irina (born Romanov, the niece of the tsar Nicholas II) founded in

After the dinner in ‘Ursus’ followed by the debauche à trois at Van’s
Manhattan apartment Ada calls Van “that bretteur of mine:”

'Now let's go out for a breath of crisp air,' suggested Van. 'I'll order
Pardus and Peg to be saddled.'

'Last night two men recognized me,' she said. 'Two separate Californians,
but they didn't dare bow - with that silk-tuxedoed bretteur of mine glaring
around. One was Anskar, the producer, and the other, with a cocotte, Paul
Whinnier, one of your father's London pals. I sort of hoped we'd go back to
bed.' (2.8)

Bretyor (“The Bretteur,” 1847) is a story by Turgenev. In Turgenev’s
story Konets Chertopkhanova (“The End of Chertophanov”) included in
Zapiski okhotnika (“A Hunter’s Notes,” 1851) the name of Chertophanov’s
beloved horse is Malek-Adel’. The noble steed received its name after
Malek-Adhel, the hero of Sophie Cottin’s novel Mathilde (1805). Malek-Adhel
is a Moslem general who in the days of the third Crusade falls in love with
the sister King Richard Coeur de Lion. In EO (Three: IX: 8) Pushkin mentions

Теперь с каким она вниманьем
Читает сладостный роман,
С каким живым очарованьем
Пьет обольстительный обман!
Счастливой силою мечтанья
Одушевленные созданья,
Любовник Юлии Вольмар,
Малек-Адель и де Линар,
И Вертер, мученик мятежный,
И бесподобный Грандисон,
Который нам наводит сон, ―
Все для мечтательницы нежной
В единый образ облеклись,
В одном Онегине слились.

With what attention she now

reads a delicious novel,

with what vivid enchantment

drinks the seductive fiction!

By the happy power of reverie

animated creation,

the lover of Julie Wolmar,

Malek-Adhel, and de Linar,

and Werther, restless martyr,

and the inimitable Grandison,

who brings upon us somnolence \xa8C

all for the tender dreamer

have been invested with a single image,

have in Onegin merged alone.

Describing the dinner in “Ardis the Second,” Van quotes an unfinished
canto of Pushkin’s EO and Richard Leonard Churchill’s novel about a
certain Crimean Khan:

It almost awed one to see the pleasure with which she and Demon distorted
their shiny-lipped mouths in exactly the same way to introduce orally from
some heavenly height the voluptuous ally of the prim lily of the valley,
holding the shaft with an identical bunching of the fingers, not unlike the
reformed 'sign of the cross' for protesting against which (a ridiculous
little schism measuring an inch or so from thumb to index) so many Russians
had been burnt by other Russians only two centuries earlier on the banks of
the Great Lake of Slaves. Van remembered that his tutor's great friend, the
learned but prudish Semyon Afanasievich Vengerov, then a young associate
professor but already a celebrated Pushkinist (1855-1954), used to say that
the only vulgar passage in his author's work was the cannibal joy of young
gourmets tearing 'plump and live' oysters out of their 'cloisters' in an
unfinished canto of Eugene Onegin. But then 'everyone has his own taste,' as
the British writer Richard Leonard Churchill mistranslates a trite French
phrase (chacun à son gout) twice in the course of his novel about a certain
Crimean Khan once popular with reporters and politicians, 'A Great Good Man'
- according, of course, to the cattish and prejudiced Guillaume Monparnasse
about whose new celebrity Ada, while dipping the reversed corolla of one
hand in a bowl, was now telling Demon, who was performing the same rite in
the same graceful fashion. (1.38)

Darkbloom (‘Notes to Ada’): Great good man: a phrase that Winston
Churchill, the British politician, enthusiastically applied to Stalin.

Guillaume de Monparnasse (the penname of Mlle Larivière) is a sensational
Canadian bestselling author (1.31). Vass is a Canadian couturier:

A fourth maiden in the Canadian couturier's corn-and-bluet summer 'creation'
stopped Van to inform him with a pretty pout that he did not remember her,
which was true. 'I am exhausted,' he said. 'My horse caught a hoof in a hole
in the rotting planks of Ladore Bridge and had to be shot. I have walked
eight miles. I think I am dreaming. I think you are Dreaming Too.' 'No, I'm
Cordula!' she cried, but he was off again. (1.31)

It is from Cordula that Van learns about Percy de Prey’s death in the
Crimea (1.42). Count Percy de Prey is associated with "Malbrook" (John
Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough, 1650-1722, British military commander):

Only the other day from behind that row of thick firs, look there, to your
right (but he did not look - sitting silent, both hands on the knob of his
cane), she [Blanche, a handmaid at Ardis] and her sister Madelon, with a
bottle of wine between them, watched Monsieur le Comte courting the young
lady on the moss, crushing her like a grunting bear as he also had crushed -
many times! - Madelon who said she, Blanche, should warn him, Van, because
she was a wee bit jealous but she also said - for she had a good heart -
better put it off until 'Malbrook' s'en va t'en guerre, otherwise they would
fight; he had been shooting a pistol at a scarecrow all morning and that's
why she waited so long, and it was in Madelon's hand, not in hers. (1.41)

In Gogol's Myortvye dushi (“Dead Souls,” 1842) the song "Malbrough Went
Off to War" is played by Nozdryov’s barrel organ:

Вслед за тем показалась гостям шарманка.
Ноздрев тут же провертел пред ними кое-чт
о. Шарманка играла не без приятности, но в
средине её, кажется, что-то случилось, ибо
мазурка оканчивалась песнею: ?Мальбруг в
поход поехал?, а ?Мальбруг в поход поехал?
неожиданно завершался каким-то давно зна
комым вальсом. Уже Ноздрев давно перестал
вертеть, но в шарманке была одна дудка оче
нь бойкая, никак не хотевшая угомониться,
и долго ещё потом свистела она одна. Потом
показались трубки ― деревянные, глиняные,
пенковые, обкуренные и необкуренные, обтя
нутые замшею и необтянутые, чубук с янтар
ным мундштуком, недавно выигранный, кисе
т, вышитый какою-то графинею, где-то на поч
товой станции влюбившеюся в него по уши, у
которой ручки, по словам его, были самой с
убдительной сюперфлю, ― слово, вероятно о
значавшее у него высочайшую точку соверш

After that, a barrel organ appeared before the guests. Nozdryov straightaway
ground something out for them. The barrel organ played not unpleasantly, but
something seemed to have happened inside it, for the mazurka ended with the
song "Malbrough Went Off to War," and "Malbrough Went Off to War" was
unexpectedly concluded by some long-familiar waltz. Nozdryov had long
stopped grinding, but there was one very perky reed in the organ that simply
refused to quiet down, and for some time afterwards went on tooting all by
itself. Then pipes appeared―of wood, clay, meerschaum, broken in and
un-broken-in, covered with chamois and not covered, a chibouk with an amber
mouthpiece recently won at cards, a tobacco pouch embroidered by some
countess who had fallen head over heels in love with him somewhere at a
posting station, whose hands, according to him, were most subdiminally
superflu―a phrase that for him probably meant the peak of perfection.
(chapter 4)

There is in Ardis a toy barrel organ that comes into action spontaneously:

Further down, a door of some playroom or nursery stood ajar and stirred to
and fro as little Lucette peeped out, one russet knee showing. Then the
doorleaf flew open - but she darted inside and away. Cobalt sailing boats
adorned the white tiles of a stove, and as her sister and he passed by that
open door a toy barrel organ invitingly went into action with a stumbling
little minuet. (1.6)

In the same chapter of Ada Turgenev is mentioned:

On the other, or some other, side of the house was the ballroom, a glossy
wasteland with wallflower chairs. 'Reader, ride by' ('mimo, chitatel',' as
Turgenev wrote). The 'mews,' as they were improperly called in Ladore
County, were architecturally rather confusing in the case of Ardis Hall.

The phrase mimo, chitatel’, mimo occurs in chapter XIX of Turgenev’s novel
Dym (“Smoke,” 1866). According to Marina, at Van’s age she would have
poisoned her governess, if forbidden to read Turgenev's Smoke:

Puzzled Mlle Larivière would have consulted the Master of Ardis, but she
never discussed with him anything serious since the day (in January, 1876)
when he had made an unexpected (and rather halfhearted, really - let us be
fair) pass at her. As to dear, frivolous Marina, she only remarked, when
consulted, that at Van's age she would have poisoned her governess with
anti-roach borax if forbidden to read, for example, Turgenev's Smoke. (1.21)

Daniel Veen’s daughter, Lucette was born on January 3, 1876 (1.1).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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