Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025271, Sat, 12 Apr 2014 14:19:51 +0300

Dr Krolik's death in Ada
Both kept diaries. Soon after that foretaste of knowledge, an amusing thing happened. She [Ada] was on her way to Krolik's house with a boxful of hatched and chloroformed butterflies and had just passed through the orchard when she suddenly stopped and swore (chort!). At the same moment Van, who had set out in the opposite direction for a bit of shooting practice in a nearby pavilion (where there was a bowling alley and other recreational facilities, once much used by other Veens), also came to an abrupt standstill. (1.15)

Dr Krolik died intestate:

'Our fondest dream,' she continued, 'Krolik's and my fondest dream, was to describe and depict the early stages, from ova to pupa, of all the known Fritillaries, Greater and Lesser, beginning with those of the New World. I would have been responsible for building an argynninarium (a pestproof breeding house, with temperature patterns, and other refinements - such as background night smells and night-animal calls to create a natural atmosphere in certain difficult cases) - a caterpillar needs exquisite care! There are hundreds of species and good subspecies in both hemispheres but, I repeat, we'd begin with America. Live egg-laying females and live food plants, such as violets of numerous kinds, airmailed from everywhere, starting, for the heck of it, with arctic habitats - Lyaska, Le Bras d'Or, Victor Island. The magnanery would be also a violarium, full of fascinating flourishing plants, from the endiconensis race of the Northern Marsh Violet to the minute but magnificent Viola kroliki recently described by Professor Hall from Goodson Bay. I would contribute colored figures of all the instars, and line drawings of the perfect insect's genitalia and other structures. It would be a wonderful work.'
'A work of love,' said Van, and turned the page.
'Unfortunately, my dear collaborator died intestate, and all his collections, including my own little part, were surrendered by a regular warren of collateral Kroliks to agents in Germany and dealers in Tartary. Disgraceful, unjust, and so sad!' (2.7)

In his Zaveshchanie ("Testament," 1845) Gogol asks not to bury him until the appearance of clear signs of putrefaction:

Завещаю тела моего не погребать до тех пор, пока не покажутся явные признаки разложения.

As he leaves Ardis forever, Van regrets that he did not kill Percy de Prey (who is later shot dead by a Tartar, 1.42) in a pistol duel:

Maidenhair. Idiot! Percy boy might have been buried by now! (1.41)

"A stoutish, foppish, baldish young man," Percy de Prey is linked to Akakiy Akakievich Bashmachkin, the pathetic hero of Gogol's story Shinel' ("Overcoat," 1841). In his book on Gogol VN compares Akakiy Akakievich's shinel' to chenille (Fr., the caterpillar).

"Lyaska" mentioned by Ada hints at Alaska (spelt in Russian Alyaska). It rhymes with plyaska (dancing) and kolyaska (carriage). Kolyaska ("The Carriage," 1836) is a story by Gogol. In a letter of beginning of May, 1889, to Suvorin Chekhov says that Gogol's Carriage alone is worth two hundred thousands roubles:

But how direct, how powerful is Gogol, and what an artist he is! His “Carriage” alone is worth two hundred thousand roubles. It is simply delicious, and that is all about it. He is the greatest of Russian writers.

Dr Krolik's collections are also worth a fortune, I imagine. One wonders if he was not chloroformed (not necessarily by Ada), like one of his butterflies?

Viola (cf. Viola kroliki mentioned by Ada) is Sebastian's sister in Shakespeare's Twelfth Night, or What you Will (1600-01?). She also appears disguised as a young man named Cesario. Percy de Prey's messenger is a girl (presumably, one of Blanche's sisters) disguised as a boy:

His valet advanced toward him across the lawn, followed by a messenger, a slender youth clad in black leather from neck to ankle, chestnut curls escaping from under a vizored cap. The strange child glanced around with an amateur thespian's exaggeration of attitude, and handed a letter, marked 'confidential,' to Van.

Dear Veen,
In a couple of days I must leave for a spell of military service abroad. If you desire to see me before I go I shall be glad to entertain you (and any other gentleman you might wish to bring along) at dawn tomorrow where the Maidenhair road crosses Tourbiere Lane. If not, I beg you to confirm in a brief note that you bear me no grudge, just as no grudge is cherished in regard to you, sir, by your obedient servant
Percy de Prey

No, Van did not desire to see the Count. He said so to the pretty messenger, who stood with one hand on the hip and one knee turned out like an extra, waiting for the signal to join the gambaders in the country dance after Calabro's aria.
'Un moment,' added Van. 'I would be interested to know - this could be decided in a jiffy behind that tree - what you are, stable boy or kennel girl?'
The messenger did not reply and was led away by the chuckling Bout. A little squeal suggestive of an improper pinch came from behind the laurels screening their exit. (1.40)

Caesar, tsar and krol are related words.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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