Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025105, Fri, 21 Feb 2014 13:17:00 +0300

male nurse Dorofey & Dorofey Road in Ada
He [Van] begged her [Tatiana, a remarkably pretty and proud young nurse in the Kalugano hospital] to massage his legs but she tested him with one glance of her grave, dark eyes - and delegated the task to Dorofey, a beefy-handed male nurse, strong enough to lift him bodily out of bed, with the sick child clasping the massive nape. (1.42)

Anyway, if Van was so eager to visit his old pal it would have to be as soon as he could be rolled to Ward Five in a wheelchair by Dorofey, so he'd better apply a bit of voodoo, ha-ha, on his own flesh and blood.
...After a long journey down corridors where pretty little things tripped by, shaking thermometers, and first an ascent and then a descent in two different lifts, the second of which was very capacious with a metal-handled black lid propped against its wall and bits of holly or laurel here and there on the soap-smelling floor, Dorofey, like Onegin's coachman, said priehali ('we have arrived') and gently propelled Van, past two screened beds, toward a third one [of the composer Philip Rack] near the window. (ibid.)

In Pushkin's drafts the name of Onegin's coachman is Ivan: Priehali, skazal Ivan ("We have arrived," Ivan said. EO, One: LII: 9, variant). The characters of Gogol's Tale of How Ivan Ivanovich Quarreled with Ivan Nikiforovich (also known in English as The Squabble, 1835) include podsudok (a clerk at court) Dorofey Trofimovich:

-- Что вы скажете на это, Дорофей Трофимович? -- сказал судья, после некоторого молчания обратившись к подсудку.
-- Ничего не скажу, -- отвечал подсудок. (chapter IV)

The clerk's patronymic brings to mind Trofim Fartukov, the Russian coachman in "Ardis the Second."

Van fights his duel with Captain Tapper near the Dorofey Road in the Kalugano Forest:

'Where are we now, Johnny dear?' asked Van as they swung out of the lake's orbit and sped along a suburban avenue with clapboard cottages among laundry-lined pines.
'Dorofey Road,' cried the driver above the din of the motor. 'It abuts at the forest.'
...They found a convenient clearing, and the principals, pistol in hand, faced each other at a distance of some thirty paces, in the kind of single combat described by most Russian novelists and by practically all Russian novelists of gentle birth. (1.42)

The only Russian novelist of gentle birth who never described duels was Gogol. In a letter of 8 September 1891 to Suvorin Chekhov (the author of "The Duel," 1891) mentions Gogol's Pis'ma k gubernatorshe ("Letters to the Governor's Wife," i. e. "The Selected Excerpts from the Correspondence with Friends," 1847). Gubernatorsha (the governor's wife) is Mme Smirnov, whose husband was the governor of Kaluga. In a letter of about/not later than 27 June 1834 to his wife Pushkin calls Mr Smirnov (whose wife just gave birth to twins) krasnoglazyi krolik ("the red-eyed rabbit"). Dr Krolik, the local entomologist, is Ada's teacher of natural history. Erminia (the nickname of Pushkin's friend E. M. Khitrovo) brings to mind the Erminin twins Greg and Grace in Ada. On the other hand, Philip Rack's wife Elsie (who poisoned her poor husband) has a complicated miscarriage in the maternity ward of the Kalugano hospital: Yes, triplets - how did he [Van] guess? (ibid.)

The name Philip Rack seems to hint at the Spanish Inquisition. The hero of Gogol's story Notes of a Madman (1835), Poprishchin, mentions in his diary the Grand Inquisitor:

Judging by all the circumstances, it seems to me as though I had fallen into the hands of the Inquisition, and as though the man whom I took to be the Chancellor was the Grand Inquisitor.

and Philip II, the king of Spain in 1556-98:

Women are stupid things; one cannot interest them in lofty subjects. She [Mavra, Poprishchin's maid-servant] was frightened because she thought all kings of Spain were like Philip II.

The narrator in Chekhov's story O zhenshchinakh ("On Women," 1886) also speaks of women's utter stupidity:

Ум женщины никуда не годится. У неё волос долог, но ум короток; у мужчины же наоборот.

Chekhov's eloquent misogynist mentions the department watchman Dorofey:

Логика женщины вошла в поговорку. Когда какой-нибудь надворный советник Анафемский или департаментский сторож Дорофей заводят речь о Бисмарке или о пользе наук, то любо послушать их: приятно и умилительно; когда же чья-нибудь супруга, за неимением других тем, начинает говорить о детях или пьянстве мужа, то какой супруг воздержится, чтобы не воскликнуть: «Затарантила таранта! Ну, да и логика же, господи, прости ты меня грешного!»

and Gogol (who says* that it is the officials' wives who make their husbands accept the bribes):

Гоголь говорит, что чиновники берут взятки только потому, что на это толкают их жёны.

Zatarantila taranta ("the chatterbox started to chatter") in Chekhov's story brings to mind the "Tarentine sail" of Van's legs as he walks on his hands:

Van peeled off his polo shirt and took off his shoes and socks. The slenderness of his torso, matching in tint if not in texture, the tan of his tight shorts, contrasted with the handsome boy's abnormally developed deltoids and sinewy forearms. Four years later Van could stun a man with one blow of either elbow.
His reversed body gracefully curved, his brown legs hoisted like a Tarentine sail, his joined ankles tacking, Van gripped with splayed hands the brow of gravity, and moved to and fro, veering and sidestepping, opening his mouth the wrong way, and blinking in the odd bilboquet fashion peculiar to eyelids in his abnormal position. Even more extraordinary than the variety and velocity of the movements he made in imitation of animal hind legs was the effortlessness of his stance; King Wing warned him that Vekchelo, a Yukon professional, lost it by the time he was twenty-two; but that summer afternoon, on the silky ground of the pineglade, in the magical heart of Ardis, under Lady Erminin's blue eye, fourteen-year-old Van treated us to the greatest performance we have ever seen a brachiambulant give. (1.13)

After his duel with Tapper Van looses his ability to walk on his hands.

Vekchelo = chelovek
volos = slovo
golos = logos
kolos = sokol
kolos + sokol = oskolok + Sol/Los
Dorofey + tron + of = dorofon + trofey

chelovek - human being; from Aqua's last note: Similarly, chelovek (human being) must know where he stands and let others know, otherwise he is not even a klok (piece) of a chelovek, neither a he, nor she, but 'a tit of it' as poor Ruby, my little Van, used to say of her scanty right breast. (1.3) Chekhov's story "On Women" is signed Chelovek bez selezyonki (A person without spleen); servant, man
volos - hair; according to the proverb quoted by Chekhov's misogynist, "a woman's hair is long but her intellect is short;" 'The express does not stop at Torfyanka, does it, Trofim?' 'I'll take you five versts across the bog,' said Trofim, 'the nearest is Volosyanka.' His vulgar Russian word for Maidenhair; a whistle stop; train probably crowded. (1.41)
slovo - word
golos - voice; There he [Dorofey] left Van, while he seated himself at a small table in the door corner and leisurely unfolded the Russian-language newspaper Golos (Logos). (1.42)
kolos - ear, spike
sokol - falcon
oskolok - splinter, shiver; fragment; cf. Oskolki ("The Splinters"), a St. Petersburg newspaper in which many of young Chekhov's stories, including "On Women," first appeared
Sol - Dona Sol, Mme Smirnov's nickname (after a character in V. Hugo's play Hernani, 1830)
Los - the Antiterran name of Los Angeles (cf. Man, as Manhattan is also known on Demonia); Germ., lot, fate
tron - throne
dorofon - dorophone, "hydraulic telephone;" He [the night porter in Majestic, a hotel in Kalugano] resembled somewhat Bouteillan as the latter had been ten years ago and as he had appeared in a dream, which Van now retrostructed as far as it would go: in it Demon's former valet explained to Van that the 'dor' in the name of an adored river equaled the corruption of hydro in 'dorophone.' (1.42)
trofey - trophy

*in "The Selected Excerpts from the Correspondence with Friends" (chapter II "Woman in Society:" ...большая часть взяток, несправедливостей по службе и тому подобного, в чём обвиняют наших чиновников и нечиновников всех классов, произошла или от расточительства их жён... или же от пустоты их домашней жизни... Мужья не позволили бы себе и десятой доли произведённых ими беспорядков, если бы их жёны хотя сколько-нибудь исполняли свой долг...)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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