Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025380, Tue, 6 May 2014 15:55:22 +0300

Valerio, Cheshire, Zographos, d'Onsky in Ada
Lucette had gone (leaving a curt note with her room number at the Winster Hotel for Young Ladies) when our two lovers, now weak-legged and decently robed, sat down to a beautiful breakfast (Ardis' crisp bacon! Ardis' translucent honey!) brought up in the lift by Valerio, a ginger-haired elderly Roman, always ill-shaven and gloomy, but a dear old boy (he it was who, having procured neat Rose last June, was being paid to keep her strictly for Veen and Dean). (2.6)

In her memoir essay on Valeriy Bryusov, Geroy truda ("The Hero of Toil," 1925), Marina Tsvetaev says that Bryusov (a wolf whose muse was a bullock endowed with phenomenal will power) was trizhdy rimlyanin (a threefold Roman):

Три слова являют нам Брюсова: воля, вол, волк. Триединство не только звуковое - смысловое: и воля - Рим, и вол - Рим, и волк - Рим. Трижды римлянином был Валерий Брюсов: волей и волом - в поэзии, волком (homo homini lupus est) в жизни.

Marina Tsvetaev (who had an elder half-sister Valeria) first heard of Bryusov when she was six and had just entered the music school of Zograf-Plaksin in Moscow:

Первая встреча моя с Брюсовым была заочная. Мне было 6 лет. Я только что поступила в музыкальную школу Зограф-Плаксиной (старинный белый особнячок в Мерзляковском пер<еулке>, на Никитской)... И разговор матери и дамы о музыке, о детях, рассказ дамы о своём сыне Валерии (а у меня сестра была Валерия, поэтому запомнилось), «таком талантливом и увлекающемся», пишущем стихи и имеющем недоразумения с полицией.

Zographos ("Zogdog") and Cheshire ("Cheshcat") are Van's schoolmates at Riverlane, his boarding-school:

The aging woman who sold barley sugar and Lucky Louse magazines in the corner shop, which by tradition was not strictly out of bounds, happened to hire a young helper, and Cheshire, the son of a thrifty lord, quickly ascertained that this fat little wench could be had for a Russian green dollar. Van was one of the first to avail himself of her favors. These were granted in semi-darkness, among crates and sacks at the back of the shop after hours. The fact of his having told her he was sixteen and a libertine instead of fourteen and a virgin proved a source of embarrassment to our hell-raker when he tried to bluster his inexperience into quick action but only succeeded in spilling on the welcome mat what she would have gladly helped him to take indoors. Things went better six minutes later, after Cheshire and Zographos were through; but only at the next mating party did Van really begin to enjoy her gentleness, her soft sweet grip and hearty joggle. (1.4)

As a schoolboy Van is platonically in love with Mrs Tapirov's daughter:

A few blocks from the schoolgrounds, a widow, Mrs Tapirov, who was French but spoke English with a Russian accent, had a shop of objets d'art and more or less antique furniture. (ibid.)

The widow's name comes from tapir (any of several large, stout, three-toed ungulates of the family Tapiridae, of Central and South America, the Malay Peninsula, and Sumatra, somewhat resembling a swine and having a long, flexible snout). This exotic animal is mentioned by Bryusov in his 1911 poem "Весёлый зов весенней зелени..." ("The merry call of the vernal green," 1911):

От тяжкой поступи тапира
До лёгких трепетов стрекоз

From a tapir's heavy gait
To the light trepidations of dragon-flies.

In his devastating essay on Bryusov (in "The Silhouettes of Russian Writers") Yuli Aihenvald (the critic whom VN mentions in Speak, Memory along with Marina Tsvetaev, a "poet of genius") notes that this tapir, artificially brought from such a distant land for the rhyme's sake alone, tramples down with its heavy gait the whole poem.

In her mother's shop Mrs Tapirov's daughter used to put a bunch of real roses among the fake ones pour attraper le client (1.4). Years later Van, standing before a shop-window with vased flowers on consoles, recalls his first love and wonders if the girl's name was not Rose or Roza (1.42). If Van is correct, his first love is a namesake of the Negro girl who was procured by Valerio and whom Van (living in a penthouse of a tall building on Alexis Avenue in Manhattan) shares with Mr Dean (a cryptogrammatist who dwells on the floor below).

When Demon visits Van in Manhattan to inform his son of uncle Dan's death, Valerio is Demon's fellow traveller in the lift:

With the simple and, combinationally speaking, neat, thought that, after all, there was but one sky (white, with minute multicolored optical sparks), Demon hastened to enter the lobby and catch the lift which a ginger-haired waiter had just entered, with breakfast for two on a wiggle-wheel table and the Manhattan Times among the shining, ever so slightly scratched, silver cupolas. Was his son still living up there, automatically asked Demon, placing a piece of nobler metal among the domes. Si, conceded the grinning imbecile, he had lived there with his lady all winter.
'Then we are fellow travelers,' said Demon inhaling not without gourmand anticipation the smell of Monaco's coffee, exaggerated by the shadows of tropical weeds waving in the breeze of his brain. (2.8)

Demon is under the influence of some bright Chilean drug. Hodasevich in his memoir essays "End of Renata" and "Bryusov" (included in Necropolis, 1939) and Marina Tsvetaev in her "Hero of Toil" both mention the sad fact that Bryusov was a morphinist.

Marina Tsvetaev realized that Bryusov was a wolf when, at a reading of poetry in which she participated along with eight other women (one of them, Bryusov's mistress Adalis, was nine-month-pregnant and feared that she would give birth to a child right here), she saw Bryusov's smile (or, rather, grin):

- Значит, я теперь - премированный щенок? Ответный смех залы и - добрая - внезапная - волчья - улыбка Брюсова. «Улыбка» - условность, просто внезапное обнаружение и такое же исчезновение зубов. Не улыбка? Улыбка! Только не наша, волчья. (Оскал, осклаб, ощер.)
Тут я впервые догадалась, что Брюсов - волк.

A character in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (translated by VN as Anya v strane chudes), the Cheshire-Cat is famous for its grin.
Van's former schoolmate Cheshire sends Lucette racing tips:

'Your friend Dick Cheshire sends me presents and racing tips.' (3.3)

In his memoir essay on Bryusov Hodasevich speaks of Bryusov's interest in horse-races:

Так, например, в 1921 г. Брюсов совмещал какое-то высокое назначение по Наркомпросу - с не менее важной должностью в Гукон, т. е.... в Главном Управлении по Коннозаводству (Как ни странно, некоторая логика в этом была: самые первые строки Брюсова, появившиеся в печати, - две статьи о лошадях в
одном из специальных журналов: не то "Рысак и Скакун", не то "Коннозаводство и Спорт". Отец Брюсова, как я указывал, был лошадник - любитель. Когда-то я видел детские письма Брюсова к матери, сплошь наполненные беговыми делами и впечатлениями.)
Что ж? Он честно трудился и там и даже, идя в ногу с нэпом, выступал в печати, ведя кампанию за восстановление тотализатора.

Demon's adversary in a sword duel, Baron d'Onsky seems to be a horse (Onegin's Don stallion). As she speaks to Adalis (who came to invite her to participate in the reading), Marina Tsvetaev (whose husband Sergey Efron was in the White Army) mentions Donskoy monarkhism (the Don monarchism) of the White Army soldiers:

«Я пришла спросить вас, будете ли вы читать на вечере поэтесс». - «Нет». - «Я так и знала и сразу сказала В. Я. Ну, а со мной одной будете?» - «С вами одной, да». - «Почему? Вы ведь моих стихов не знаете». - «Вы умны и остры и не можете писать плохих стихов. Ещё меньше - читать». (Голос вкрадчиво:) - «Со мной и с Радловой?» - «Коммунистка?» - «Ну, женский коммунизм...» «- Согласна, что мужской монархизм - лучше. (Пауза.) Донской. Но, шутки в сторону, партийная или нет?» - «Нет, да нет же!»

Valerio is a waiter in 'Monaco,' a good restaurant in the entresol of a tall building crowned by Van's penthouse and its spacious terrace.
In an impromptu poem (1841) addressed to Lev Sergeevich Pushkin (the poet's younger brother) Lermontov (the author of Demon, 1829-39, and Valerik, 1840) compares Pyatigorsk, a Caucasian spa, to Monaco:

Очарователен кавказский наш Монако!
Танцоров, игроков, бретёров в нем толпы;
В нём лихорадят нас вино, игра и драка,
И жгут днём женщины, а по ночам — клопы.
In her memoir essay Mat' i muzyka ("Mother and Music," 1934) Marina Tsvetaev mentions zhar v doline Dagestana (a noon's heat in a dale of Dagestan) from Lermontov's prophetic poem Son ("The Dream," 1841):

Но клавиши — я любила: за черноту и белизну (чуть желтизну!), за черноту, такую явно, — за белизну (чуть желтизну!), такую тайно-грустную, за то, что одни широкие, а другие узкие (обиженные!), за то, что по ним, не сдвигаясь с места, можно, как по лестнице, что эта лестница — из-под рук! — и что от этой лестницы сразу ледяные ручьи — ледяные лестницы ручьев вдоль спины — и жар в глазах — тот самый жар в долине Дагестана из Андрюшиной хрестоматии.

Like Lermontov's poem, Ada is a triple dream (a dream within a dream within a dream; see in The Nabokovian #53 my "Ada as a Triple Dream").
There is the poet's name in Palermontovia (on Antiterra, a part of the British Commonwealth):

A small map of the European part of the British Commonwealth - say, from Scoto-Scandinavia to the Riviera, Altar and Palermontovia - as well as most of the U.S.A., from Estoty and Canady to Argentina, might be quite thickly prickled with enameled red-cross-flag pins, marking, in her War of the Worlds, Aqua's bivouacs. (1.3)

The Riviera brings to mind Riverlane, Van's boarding-school, but also Nice and Demon's Mediterranean villa Armina:

Marina arrived in Nice a few days after the duel, and tracked Demon down in his villa Armina, and in the ecstasy of reconciliation neither remembered to dupe procreation, whereupon started the extremely interesnoe polozhenie ('interesting condition') without which, in fact, these anguished notes could not have been strung. (1.2)

Demon later gave villa Armina to Marina, Van's, Ada's and Lucette's mother who spends her last years there (3.1). Similarly, Van gives to Cordula (his former mistress) his Manhattan apartment where he once lived with her:

Astraddle, she resembled a child braving her first merry-go-round. She made a rectangular moue as she used that vulgar contraption. Sad, sullen streetwalkers do it with expressionless faces, lips tightly closed. She rode it twice. Their brisk nub and its repetition lasted fifteen minutes in all, not five. Very pleased with himself, Van walked with her for a stretch through the brown and green Bois de Belleau in the direction of her osobnyachyok (small mansion).
'That reminds me,' he said, 'I no longer use our Alexis apartment. I've had some poor people live there these last seven or eight years - the family of a police officer who used to be a footman at Uncle Dan's place in the country. My policeman is dead now and his widow and three boys have gone back to Ladore. I want to relinquish that flat. Would you like to accept it as a belated wedding present from an admirer? Good. (3.2)

According to Marina Tsvetaev, the music school of Zograf-Plaksin was in the old white small masion (starinnyi belyi osobnyachok) in the Merzlyakovski pereulok (lane) in Moscow.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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