Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025035, Thu, 30 Jan 2014 02:44:39 +0300

Bohemian lady, Samurai & Vatican in Ada
At Marina's cremation d'Onsky's son, a person with only one arm, threw his remaining one around Demon and both wept comme des fontaines. (3.8)

One-armed d'Onsky is the son of Baron d'Onsky (Demon's rival and adversary in a sword duel) and a Bohemian lady. Bogemsky (Russ., "Bohemian")* was the penname of Chekhov's brother Mikhail in Detskiy otdykh ("The Kids' Relaxation"). In a letter of September 29, 1886, to Mme Kiselyov Chekhov calls this magazine for children "Detsko-Bogemskiy otdykh" ("The Kids' Bohemian Relaxation").

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. (1.2)

In a letter of June 6, 1890, to his family Chekhov says that he may return from Sakhalin via America and asks his brother Mikhail to postpone his journey to Japan:

Писал ли я Мише, что я, кажется, вернусь домой через Америку? Пусть не спешит в Японию.

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. (ibid.)

Chekhov's letter of April 1, 1891, from Rome to Mme Kiselyov begins:

The Pope of Rome charges me to congratulate you on your name-day and wish you as much money as he has rooms. He has eleven thousand! Strolling about the Vatican I was nearly dead with exhaustion, and when I got home I felt that my legs were made of cotton-wool.

In A. K. Tolstoy's poem Bunt v Vatikane ("The Uproar in Vatican," 1864) the Pope Pius IX whom his eunuch singers attempt to castrate proposes to make for them patches of the best cotton-wool:

"Жалко вашей мне утраты;
Я, пожалуй, в виде платы,
Прикажу из лучшей ваты
Вставить вам заплаты!"

The Pope adds that the thing his eunuchs are missing is not a hat (if Priapus himself were to lose it, no doctor would help):

Эта вещь,— прибавил папа,—
Пропади хоть у Приапа,
Нет на это эскулапа,
Эта вещь — не шляпа!

Demon (who shared with d'Onsky his London hatter) wanted to castrate his adversary. In a farewell letter to Marina he wrote:

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)

Skonky "died of a gangrenous afterthought on the part of the least of his wounds, possibly self-inflicted, a sting in the groin." But his wound did not prevent d'Onsky from procreating.

It took Chekhov eighty two (not "seventy" as I incorrectly wrote in my previous post) days to reach Sakhalin.

Btw., when the Russo-Japanese war broke out, Chekhov (who had less than three months of life) wrote to Amfiteatrov (a letter of April 13, 1904) that he planned to go to the Far East as a doctor (because "a doctor would see more than a reporter"):

Если буду здоров, то в июле или августе поеду на Дальний Восток не корреспондентом, а врачом. Мне кажется, врач увидит больше, чем корреспондент.

Two newspaper reporters ("with nothing more to report") perish with Demon in a mysterious airplane disaster above the Pacific. (3.7)

In Chekhov's play The Cherry Orchard (1904) the station-master recites A. K. Tolstoy's poem Greshnitsa ("The Magdalene"). Ada, who adores The Cherry Orchard, has magdalene hair. Anton Pavlovich "was always passionately fond of long dark hair." (2.9)

*according to a family legend, the Chekhovs came from Chekhia (the Czech Republic)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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