Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025239, Mon, 31 Mar 2014 01:26:36 +0300

Povesa magazine in Ada & vice versa
'You look quite satanically fit, Dad. Especially with that fresh oeillet in your lapel eye. I suppose you have not been much in Manhattan lately - where did you get its last syllable?'
Homespun pun in the Veenish vein.
'I offered myself en effet a trip to Akapulkovo,' answered Demon, needlessly and unwillingly recollecting (with that special concussion of instant detail that also plagued his children) a violet-and-black-striped fish in a bowl, a similarly striped couch, the subtropical sun bringing out the veins of an onyx ashtray on the stone floor, a batch of old, orange-juice-stained Povesa (playboy) magazines, the jewels he had brought, the phonograph singing in a dreamy girl's voice 'Petit negre, au champ qui fleuronne,' and the admirable abdomen of a very expensive, and very faithless and altogether adorable young Creole.
'Did what's-her-name go with you?'
'Well, my boy, frankly, the nomenclature is getting more and more confused every year. Let us speak of plainer things. Where are the drinks? They were promised me by a passing angel.'
(Passing angel?) (1.38)

At the end of Gavriiliada (1821) Pushkin says that up to now he was a heretic in love, mladykh bogin' bezumnyi obozhatel' (crazy admirer of young goddesses), drug demona (friend of demon), povesa (scapegrace, playboy) and predatel' (traitor), but repents and promises to reform:

Досель я был еретиком в любви,
Младых богинь безумный обожатель,
Друг демона, повеса и предатель...
Раскаянье мое благослови!
Приемлю я намеренья благие,
Переменюсь: Елену видел я;
Она мила, как нежная Мария!
Подвластна ей навек душа моя.
Моим речам придай очарованье,
Понравиться поведай тайну мне,
В её душе зажги любви желанье,
Не то пойду молиться сатане!

The poet adds that, if the archangel Gabriel does not help him to attract charming Elena, he will start to pray the satan.
The fact that Pushkin had Negro blood is stressed in Ada:

In 1880, Van, aged ten, had traveled in silver trains with showerbaths, accompanied by his father, his father's beautiful secretary, the secretary's eighteen-year-old white-gloved sister (with a bit part as Van's English governess and milkmaid), and his chaste, angelic Russian tutor, Andrey Andreevich Aksakov ('AAA'), to gay resorts in Louisiana and Nevada. AAA explained, he remembered, to a Negro lad with whom Van had scrapped, that Pushkin and Dumas had African blood, upon which the lad showed AAA his tongue, a new interesting trick which Van emulated at the earliest occasion and was slapped by the younger of the Misses Fortune, put it back in your face, sir, she said. (1.24)

Milkmaid brings to mind the apron of a quite accidental milkmaid who entered the scene during Demon's duel with Baron d'Onsky:

The challenge was accepted; two native seconds were chosen; the Baron plumped for swords; and after a certain amount of good blood (Polish and Irish - a kind of American 'Gory Mary' in barroom parlance) had bespattered two hairy torsoes, the whitewashed terrace, the flight of steps leading backward to the walled garden in an amusing Douglas d'Artagnan arrangement, the apron of a quite accidental milkmaid, and the shirtsleeves of both seconds, charming Monsieur de Pastrouil and Colonel St Alin, a scoundrel, the latter gentlemen separated the panting combatants, and Skonky died, not 'of his wounds' (as it was viciously rumored) but of a gangrenous afterthought on the part of the least of them, possibly self-inflicted, a sting in the groin, which caused circulatory trouble, notwithstanding quite a few surgical interventions during two or three years of protracted stays at the Aardvark Hospital in Boston - a city where, incidentally, he married in 1869 our friend the Bohemian lady, now keeper of Glass Biota at the local museum. (1.2)

D'Artagnan is the main character in Dumas' "The Three Musketeers." "Gory Mary" brings to mind Virgin Mary, a character in Pushkin's Gavriiliada. Pushkin is the author of Arap Petra Velikogo ("The Blackamoor of Peter the Great," 1827), an unfinished novella about his black ancestor Abram Hannibal. In "My Pedigree" (1830) Pushkin quotes Figlyarin (Faddey Bulgarin) who said that the poet's great-grandfather was bought for a bottle of rum. Pushkin reminds his critic that the skipper who bought his ancestor was Peter the Great. Pierre Legrand is Van's fencing master in Manhattan (2.8).

D'Onsky's name and nickname suggest that he is a horse, Onegin's Don stallion:

At first they all [Onegin's neighbors] would call on him,
but since to the back porch
there was habitually brought
a Don stallion for him
the moment that along the highway
one heard their homely shandrydans -
outraged by such behavior,
they all ceased to be friends with him. (EO, Two: V: 1-8).

Among the people who live in the neighborhood of Ardis is Dr Krolik, the local entomologist whose name means in Russian "rabbit." In a letter of December 28, 1968, to Hugh M. Hefner (the editor of Playboy magazine) VN writes: "Have you noticed how the head and ears of your Bunny resemble a butterfly in shape, with an eyespot on one hindwing?" VN was pleased that "One Summer in Ardis" would appear in Playboy. VN's rabbit-butterfly drawing appeared in the January 1972 issue of Playboy, p. 18.

When he first appears in Pushkin's novel, Onegin is described as molodoy povesa (a young scapegrace):

Thus a young scapegrace thought,
with posters flying in the dust,
by the most lofty will of Zeus
the heir of all his relatives. (One: II: 1-4)

A good pal of Pushkin, Onegin "was born upon the Neva's banks" (One: II: 10). In one of her letters to Van Ada mentions the legendary river of Old Rus:

We are still at the candy-pink and pisang-green albergo where you once stayed with your father. He is awfully nice to me, by the way. I enjoy going places with him. He and I have gamed at Nevada, my rhyme-name town, but you are also there, as well as the legendary river of Old Rus. Da. (2.1)

"The candy-pink and pisang-green" Pisang Hotel in Los Angeles brings to mind a box of mints that uncle Dan gave Ada on her sixteenth birthday:

Weaving rapidly between the pines, he brought the little red runabout to an abrupt stop in front of Ada and presented her with the perfect gift, a big box of mints, white, pink and, oh boy, green! (1.39)

Pushkin's Eugene Onegin begins:

"My uncle has most honest principles:
when taken ill in earnest,
he has made one respect him
and nothing better could invent." (One: I: 1-4)

When uncle Dan dies, he too makes Van and Ada respect him. It is because of uncle Dan's death in Ardis that Demon (who again was "in Mexico or Oxmice," as Ada puts it) comes to Manhattan and discovers that Van and Ada have been lovers for more than seven years (2.10).

Nevada = Neva + da = Vanda + erunda + grausam - Ragusa - durman (da - Russ., yes; erunda - Russ., nonsense; grausam - Germ., gruesome; durman - Russ., drug, intoxicant; thorn-apple, Datura stramonium)

Inviting Van to the burning tip of Patagonia, Captain Grant's Horn, a Villa in Verna, Ada asks Van to send her an aerogram with one Russian word - the end of her name and wit (2.1). At the end of Pushkin's EO Tatiana tells Onegin that she has been given away to another and will be verna (faithful) to him all her her life (Eight: XLVII: 13-14). "Another" is Tatiana husband, Prince N. In Ada Prince N. is Demon's orchestra-seat neighbor with whom Demon makes a bet that he will possess the actress who plays the heroine of Eugene and Lara (an American play based by some pretentious hack on a famous Russian romance):

At an invisible sign of Dionysian origin, they all plunged into the violent dance called kurva or 'ribbon boule' in the hilarious program whose howlers almost caused Veen (tingling, and light-loined, and with Prince N.'s rose-red banknote in his pocket) to fall from his seat. (1.2)

Prince N.'s rose-red banknote brings to mind the letter in red ink on pink paper that Tatiana (a remarkably pretty and proud young nurse in the Kalugano hospital where Van recovers from the wound he received in a pistol duel with Captain Tapper) wrote Van:

However, much later, she wrote him a charming and melancholy letter in red ink on pink paper; but other emotions and events had intervened, and he never met her again. (1.42)

Demon first makes love to Marina in the theater's "cabinet recule" (1.2). Young Onegin is not only povesa but also "incostant worshipper / of the enchanting actresses, / honorary citizen of the coulisses." (One: XVII: 6-8)

When in 1901 Van meets Greg Erminin in Paris, their conversation parodies Onegin's dialogue with Prince N. in Chapter Eight (XVIII: 1-4) of EO:

'Tak ti zhenat (so you are married)? Didn't know it. How long?'
'About two years.'
'To whom?'
'Maude Sween.'
'The daughter of the poet?'
'No, no, her mother is a Brougham.'
Might have replied 'Ada Veen,' had Mr Vinelander not been a quicker suitor. I think I met a Broom somewhere. (3.2)

Vanda Broom is Ada's lesbian schoolmate at Brownhill. Van never met her but saw her photograph in Cordula's graduation album (1.43). "A gruesome girl" (as Cordula calls her), Vanda was shot dead "by the girlfriend of a girlfriend on a starry night, in Ragusa of all places" (2.6). Ragusa (the Italian name of Dubrovnik, a city in S Croatia) is mentioned at least four times in "Abram Hannibal," VN's article on Pushkin's African ancestor appended to his EO Commentary (unfortunately, Appendix I is absent from my two-volume copy of VN's Onegin book). "A starry night" brings to mind the observatory in Pulkovo (cf. Akapulkovo).

Speaking of angels ("a passing angel" is mentioned by Demon), according to Van: 'Angels, too, have brooms - to sweep one's soul clear of horrible images. My black nurse was Swiss-laced with white whimsies.' (5.6)

Van is surprised that on Terra electricity (banned on Antiterra) is used as freely as water and air, as bibles and brooms:

The unmentionable magnetic power denounced by evil lawmakers in this our shabby country - oh, everywhere, in Estoty and Canady, in 'German' Mark Kennensie, as well as in 'Swedish' Manitobogan, in the workshop of the red-shirted Yukonets as well as in the kitchen of the red-kerchiefed Lyaskanka, and in 'French' Estoty, from Bras d'Or to Ladore - and very soon throughout both our Americas, and all over the other stunned continents - was used on Terra as freely as water and air, as bibles and brooms. (1.3)

Demon's "passing angel" is Blanche, the handmaid in Ardis whom Mlle Lariviere calls "Cendrillon" (1.7).

By the time he [Demon] went to fetch his new mistress [Marina] in his jingling sleigh, the last-act ballet of Caucasian generals and metamorphosed Cinderellas had come to a sudden close, and Baron d'O., now in black tails and white gloves, was kneeling in the middle of an empty stage, holding the glass slipper that his fickle lady had left him when eluding his belated advances. (1.2)

Erunda is mentioned by Van:

'Erunda (nonsense),' said Van. 'She [Mlle Lariviere] once saw me carrying Ada across the brook and misconstrued our stumbling huddle (spotikayushcheesya sliyanie).'
'I do not mean Ada, silly,' said Marina with a slight snort, as she fussed over the teapot. 'Azov, a Russian humorist, derives erunda from the German hier und da, which is neither here nor there.' (1.37)

Like Ragusa, Azov (a fortress in the Don estuary) is mentioned by VN in "Abram Hannibal."

The maiden name of the twin sisters Aqua and Marina (Van's, Ada's and Lucette's mother), Durmanov, comes from durman.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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