Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025095, Tue, 18 Feb 2014 19:46:31 +0300

Palatka & Witch in Ada
At the airport of the moonlit white town we call Tent, and Tobakov's sailors, who built it, called Palatka, in northern Florida, where owing to engine trouble he had to change planes, Demon made a long-distance call and received a full account of Dan's death from the inordinately circumstantial Dr Nikulin (grandson of the great rodentiologist Kunikulinov - we can't get rid of the lettuce). (2.10)

Tent is the Antiterran name of Palatka, a city in NE Florida. In Russian palatka means "tent, marquee; stall, booth." Built by Tobakov's sailors, Tent brings to mind "Witch (or Viedma, founded by a Russian Admiral)" (2.2). Viedma is a city in Argentina, about 30 km off the Atlantic Coast. Chekhov is the author of Ved'ma ("The Witch," 1886), a story about a jealous sexton and his pretty wife. Ved'ma = V'edma (Viedma in Russian spelling). O vrede tabaka ("On the Harm of Tobacco," 1886, 1903) being two monologue scenes by Chekhov, one supposes that it was Admiral Tobakov (the ancestor of Cordula de Prey's first husband, a shipowner) who founded Witch.

‘It's another, much more impressionable girl' - (yet another awful fumble!). ‘Damn Cordula! Cordula is now Mrs Tobak.'
‘Oh, of course!' cried Demon. ‘How stupid of me! I remember Ada's fiance telling me - he and young Tobak worked for a while in the same Phoenix bank. Of course. Splendid broad-shouldered, blue-eyed, blond chap. Backbay Tobakovich!'
‘I don't care,' said clenched Van, ‘if he looks like a crippled, crucified, albino toad. Please, Dad, I really must -' (ibid.)

"Tobakovich" brings to mind Sobakevich, one of the landowners in Gogol's Dead Souls (1842). In Chekhov's story V usad'be (At a Country House, 1894) Rashevich (a country gentleman who calls himself "a Darwinist" but whom his neighbors and even even his own daughters call zhaba, "toad") mentions Sobakevich and his maker:

Тем, что у человечества есть хорошего, мы обязаны именно природе, правильному естественно-историческому, целесообразному ходу вещей, старательно, в продолжение веков обособлявшему белую кость от чёрной. Да, батенька мой! Не чумазый же, не кухаркин сын, дал нам литературу, науку, искусства, право, понятия о чести, долге... Всем этим человечество обязано исключительно белой кости, и в этом смысле, с точки зрения естественно-исторической, плохой Собакевич, только потому, что он белая кость, полезнее и выше, чем самый лучший купец, хотя бы этот последний построил пятнадцать музеев.

Возьмите наших первоклассных художников, литераторов, композиторов... Кто они? Всё это, дорогой мой, были представители белой кости. Пушкин, Гоголь, Лермонтов, Тургенев, Гончаров, Толстой — не дьячковские дети-с!
— Гончаров был купец, — сказал Мейер.
— Что же! Исключения только подтверждают правило. Да и насчёт гениальности-то Гончарова можно ещё сильно поспорить.

According to Rashevich (a snob who plumes himself on his aristocratic origin), from the point of view of natural histrory bad Sobakevich is better than the best merchant, even if the latter has built fifteen museums. "Pushkin, Gogol, Lermontov, Turgenev, Goncharov and Tolstoy - none of them is a sexton's son." Meyer retorts that Goncharov was a merchant.

Goncharov is the author of The Frigate Pallada (1858), a travel book from the sea journey. The two main characters in Goncharov's novel Obyknovennaya istoriya ("A Common Story," 1847) are Alexander Aduev and his uncle Peter. N. A. Aduev (the penname of Nikolay Rabinovich, 1895-1950, who finished the Tenishev school, as VN did) is the author of Tabachnyi kapitan ("The Tobacco Captain," 1944), a musical comedy. The action in it takes place in the reign of Peter I. The czar sends a boyar's son to study navigation in Holland but it is the young kholop (serf) Ivan who succeeds in learning and becomes a naval officer after returning to Russia.
Aduev is mentioned in Sbornik vospominaniy ob I. Ilfe i E. Petrove ("The Collection of Reminiscences of I. Ilf and E. Petrov," 1964). The characters of Ilf and Petrov's "The Twelve Chairs" include the private furrier Fima Sobak (a friend of Ellochka the Cannibal).

kholop = plokho
S + Tobak = T + Sobak = St. Koba

plokho - bad
St. Koba - Stalin (Koba was Stalin's nickname, after the hero of Kazbeghi's novel "The Patricide;" Colonel St. Alin, a scoundrel, is one of the two seconds in Demon's duel with d'Onsky, 1.2; Ivan Tobak is one of the seconds in Van's imaginary duel with Ada's husband Andrey Vinelander, 3.8, whose "fabulous ancestor discovered our country," 5.6)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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