Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025080, Thu, 13 Feb 2014 23:16:30 +0300

rivers of Africa in Ada
Riverlane, Van's fashionable and brutal boarding school, is linked to "the rivers of Africa" on his male organ:

‘Relief map,' said the primrose prig, ‘the rivers of Africa.' Her index traced the blue Nile down into its jungle and traveled up again. ‘Now what's this? The cap of the Red Bolete is not half as plushy. In fact' (positively chattering), ‘I'm reminded of geranium or rather pelargonium bloom.'
‘God, we all are,' said Van.
‘Oh, I like this texture, Van, I like it! Really I do!'
‘Squeeze, you goose, can't you see I'm dying.'
But our young botanist had not the faintest idea how to handle the thing properly - and Van, now in extremis, driving it roughly against the hem of her nightdress, could not help groaning as he dissolved in a puddle of pleasure.
She looked down in dismay.
‘Not what you think,' remarked Van calmly. ‘This is not number one. Actually it's as clean as grass sap. Well, now the Nile is settled stop Speke.' (1.19)

Vivian Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): The Nile is settled: a famous telegram sent by an African explorer.*

In the first edition of Ada this famous telegram sent by Speke was ascribed to another African explorer: Well, now the Nile is settled stop Stanley.

In Chekhov's story The Duel (chapter IX) Laevsky compares the zoologist von Koren to H. M. Stanley (1841-1904):

“I understand von Koren very well. His is a resolute, strong, despotic nature. You have heard him continually talking of ‘the expedition,’ and it’s not mere talk. He wants the wilderness, the moonlit night: all around in little tents, under the open sky, lie sleeping his sick and hungry Cossacks, guides, porters, doctor, priest, all exhausted with their weary marches, while only he is awake, sitting like Stanley on a camp-stool, feeling himself the monarch of the desert and the master of these men. He goes on and on and on, his men groan and die, one after another, and he goes on and on, and in the end perishes himself, but still is monarch and ruler of the desert, since the cross upon his tomb can be seen by the caravans for thirty or forty miles over the desert. I am sorry the man is not in the army. He would have made a splendid military genius. He would not have hesitated to drown his cavalry in the river and make a bridge out of dead bodies."

According to Laevsky, despots have always been illusionists. Ada who knows well "how to handle the thing properly" but manages to convince Van that she is "as pure as the night sky" is also an illusionist.

Note that Van and Ada are compared to Romeo and Juliet (who are mentioned in The Duel by von Koren and Laevsky, see my previous post):

He groped for and cupped her hot little slew from behind, then frantically scrambled into a boy's sandcastle-molding position; but she turned over, naively ready to embrace him the way Juliet is recommended to receive her Romeo. (1.19)


Каренина - Anna Karenin
Ленский - Lenski
Ларина - Larin girl/woman
Керенский - Kerenski
он - he
Керн - Anna Kern
Оленина - Anna Olenin
царский - of the tsar
венец - crown
Ленин - Lenin
фон Корен - von Koren
арапский - Moorish
и - and
Пифон - Python (the dragon who was killed by Apollo)

The anagram is from my Russian article All is Well that Ends Well (the initial title of Tolstoy's War and Peace) available in Topos.

*see VN's letter of 21 April 1969 to Frank E. Taylor (McGraw-Hill editor)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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