Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025388, Sun, 11 May 2014 23:43:18 +0300

michman Tobakoff & pava in Ada
'When michman Tobakoff himself got shipwrecked off Gavaille, he swam around comfortably for hours, frightening away sharks with snatches of old songs and that sort of thing, until a fishing boat rescued him - one of those miracles that require a minimum of cooperation from all concerned, I imagine.' (3.5)

Bryusov is the author of Marrietovy michmany ("Marryat's Midshipmen," 1923). Frederick Marryat's novel Mr Midshipman Easy (1838) was translated to Russian as Michman Tikhonya (btw., Marryat is the author of Monsieur Violet, 1843). Russian for "shark," akula rhymes with Cordula (Tobak's wife who granted Lucette her and her husband's cabin on Admiral Tobakoff) and with Fula (Russian for "Thule"). In the last quatrain of Bryusov's poem Ultima Thule (1915) akule (Dat. Sing. of akula) rhymes with Thule:

И, как король, что в бессмертной балладе помянут,
Брошу свой кубок с утёса, в добычу акуле!
Канет он в бездне, и с ним все желания канут...
Ultima Thule!

"The immortal ballad" mentioned by Bryusov is I. W. Goethe's Der Konig in Thule (1774).

Lucette wanted to know: kto siya pava? (who's that stately dame?) (3.5)

Pava (peahen) is a female of pavlin (peacock). When Van makes eight-year-old Lucette learn by heart Robert Brown's poem Peter and Margaret, Ada suggests that he choose another poem by Brown, the one about finding a feather and seeing Peacock plain:

If' (lightly brushing her bobbed hair with his lips), 'if, my sweet, you can recite it and confound Ada by not making one single slip - you must be careful about the "here-there" and the "this-that", and every other detail - if you can do it then I shall give you this valuable book for keeps.' ('Let her try the one about finding a feather and seeing Peacock plain,' said Ada drily - 'it's a bit harder.') (1.23)

Robert Browning's poem Memorabilia (addressed to T. L. Peacock, a friend of Shelley) begins: "Ah, did you once see Shelley plain..." and ends in the lines:

For there I picked up on the heather
And there I put inside my breast
A moulted feather, an eagle-feather—
Well, I forget the rest.

Bryusov is the author of Oryol dvuglavyi ("The Two-Headed Eagle," 1914) included in Devyataya kamena ("The Ninth Muse," 1917). In the last quatrain Bryusov
calls Grigoriy Rasputin the poultryman at the two-headed eagle (the symbol of Russian Empire):

Но пустота теперь на северной скале;
Крыло орла висит, и взор орлиный смутен,
А служит птичником при стихнувшем орле
Теперь Распутин.

Unlike Bryusov and T. S. Eliot, Rasputin was a philosemite (see Aron Simanovich's "Rasputin and the Jews," 1924) but disliked the French. Tobakoff, after whom on Antiterra the Tobago Islands, or the Tobakoff Islands, are named, had an epee duel with Jean Nicot (2.5). Jacques Nicot (1530-1600) is said to have introduced tobacco into France.

Demon Veen perishes in a mysterious airplane disaster above the Pacific in the Gavaille region.

The last occasion on which Van had seen his father was at their house in the spring of 1904. Other people had been present: old Eliot, the real-estate man, two lawyers
(Grombchevski and Gromwell), Dr Aix, the art expert, Rosalind Knight, Demon's new secretary, and solemn Kithar Sween, a banker who at sixty-five had become an
avant-garde author; in the course of one miraculous year he had produced The Waistline, a satire in free verse on Anglo-American feeding habits, and Cardinal Grishkin,
an overtly subtle yarn extolling the Roman faith. (3.7)

Grishkin is a character in T. S. Eliot's "Whispers of Immortality" (1919). On the other hand, Grishka is a pejorative form of Grigoriy. The friend of the last Russian tsar's
family was often called "Grishka Rasputin" by his enemies. Rasputin was assassinated in Prince Yusupov's Moika palace, not too far from the Nabokovs' house in the Morskaya street. Like the name Marina, the street's name means "of the sea."

Marina Tsvetaev's memoir essay on Bryusov is entitled Geroy truda ("The Hero of Toil," 1925). Marina Tsvetaev is the author of Chyort ("The Devil," 1935), a story from her childhood, and Dva "Lesnykh tsarya" ("The Two Alder Kings," 1933), an essay in which she compares Zhukovski's version of Goethe's Erlkonig to the original. In Goethe's Faust (1808) Margaret (Gretchen) is the name of Faust's lover. Goethe has Mephistopheles (the devil) appear as a black poodle. When Van meets Cordula in Lute (as Paris is also known on Antiterra), she is caressing two unhappy poodlets:

With a surge of delight he saw Cordula in a tight scarlet skirt bending with baby words of comfort over two unhappy poodlets attached to the waiting-post of a sausage shop. Van stroked her with his fingertips, and as she straightened up indignantly and turned around (indignation instantly replaced by gay recognition), he quoted the stale but appropriate lines he had known since the days his schoolmates annoyed him with them:

The Veens speak only to Tobaks
But Tobaks speak only to dogs. (3.2)

Van's, Ada's and Lucette's mother Marina is the twin sister of poor Aqua, Demon's wife who went mad and committed suicide (1.3). Onboard Tobakoff Van dreams of an aquatic peacock:

A tempest went into convulsions around midnight, but despite the lunging and creaking (Tobakoff was an embittered old vessel) Van managed to sleep soundly, the only reaction on the part of his dormant mind being the dream image of an aquatic peacock, slowly sinking before somersaulting like a diving grebe, near the shore of the lake bearing his name in the ancient kingdom of Arrowroot. Upon reviewing that bright dream he traced its source to his recent visit to Armenia where he had gone fowling with Armborough and that gentleman's extremely compliant and accomplished niece. (3.5)

He went shooting with the British Governor of Armenia, and his niece, on Lake Van. (3.1)

Bryusov is the author of V Armenii ("In Armenia," 1916), a cycle of seven poems. In his poem Svoboda i voina ("Freedom and War," 1917) Bryusov (one of whose collections is entitled Zerkalo teney, "The Mirror of Shadows," 1909-12) mentions the mirror of the lake Van. Finally, Bryusov was the editor of the volume of Armenian poetry in Russian (1916). This episode in Bryusov's biography is mentioned by Hodasevich:

Впоследствии, накануне февральской революции, в Тифлисе, на банкете, которым армяне чествовали Брюсова, как редактора сборника "Поззия
Армении", - он встал и к великому смущению присутствующих провозгласил тост "за здоровье Государя Императора, Державного Вождя нашей армии". Об этом рассказывал мне устроитель банкета, П. Н. Макинциан, впоследствии составитель знаменитой "Красной Книги В. Ч. К.". (В 1937 г. он был расстрелян).

Another scene in Hodasevich's memoir essay shows Bryusov (as imagined by the drunken poet Tinyakov, whose penname Odinokiy means "a loner" and brings to mind VN's story Solus Rex, 1940, and the fatal phrase ya ne odin, "I am not alone," that onboard Tobakoff Van utters over the 'phone in reply to Lucette's question if she can come to his cabin; Lucette thinks that Van is with Miss Condor, "the pava") walking on water across the Neva:

Однажды, приблизительно в 1909 году, я сидел в кафэ на Тверском бульваре с А. И. Тиняковым, писавшим посредственные стихи под псевдонимом "Одинокий". Собеседник мой, слегка пьяный, произнёс длинную речь, в конце которой воскликнул буквально так:
- Мне, Владислав Фелицианович, на Господа Бога - тьфу! (Тут он отнюдь не символически плюнул в зелёный квадрат цветного окна).
- Был бы только Валерий Яковлевич, ему же слава, честь и поклонение!
Гумилёв мне рассказывал, как тот же Тиняков, сидя с ним в Петербурге на "поплавке" и глядя на Неву, вскричал в порыве священного ясновидения:
- Смотрите, смотрите! Валерий Яковлевич шествует с того берега по водам!

Hodasevich learnt about that apparition from Gumilyov, Bryusov's most gifted pupil, the author of Kapitany ("The Captains," 1909) and Muzhik (1917), a short poem about Rasputin, Russian traveller in Africa and soldier who was executed in 1921 for the participation in the Kronstadt mutiny. Admiral Krusenstern's famous voyage around the world began and ended in Kronstadt (the city where Gumilyov was born). In his poem Ot'yezzhayushchemu ("To a Departing Person," 1913) Gumilyov mentions Muza Dal'nikh Stranstviy (the Muse of Distant Wanderings):

Что до природы мне, до древности,
Когда я полон жгучей ревности,
Ведь ты во всём её убранстве
Увидел Музу Дальних Странствий.

Poseredine stranstviya zemnogo ("Midway upon the Life's Journey," Berlin, 1923) is a posthumous collection of Gumilyov's poems. Its title (chosen by the author himslef) is an allusion to the beginning of Dante's La Divina Comedia: Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita...

The gate of Dante's Inferno bears the inscription ending in the famous phrase "Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch'intrate" ("Abandon all hope, ye who enter here"). Nadezhda (Hope) was one of the two ships in Krusenstern's voyage around the world. It is also the first word in Okudzhava's Sentimental'nyi romans ("The Sentimental Ballad," 1957, translated by VN in 1966) to which Van, Ada and Lucette listen in 'Ursus' (the best Franco-Estotian restaurant in Manhattan Major):

And that obscurely corrupted soldier dit of singular genius

Nadezhda, I shall then be back
When the true batch outboys the riot... (2.8)

This, of course, should be:

Nadezhda, ya vernus' togda,
kogda trubach otboy sygraet...

Speranza, I’ll be coming back
The day the bugler sounds retreat.

Nadezhda is also a female given name. In 1913 the young poet Nadezhda Lvov committed suicide using the revolver that Bryusov (the author of "The Demon of Suicide," 1910), her lover, had given her. In my next post I shall prove that VN knew Boris Sadovskoy's story in verse Naden'ka (1920). Nadezhda Lvov's tragic story is described in it. Bryusov is portrayed as Ioann Asketov, the king of poets (whose real name is Ivan Egorych Otshvyrenkov). Nadya Lvov's surname is changed to Orlov (it comes from oryol, eagle).

In Pikovaya dama ("The Queen of Spades," 1833) Pushkin quotes Dante (Paradiso, Canto XVII): Gorek chuzhoy khleb, govorit Dante... ("Bitter is the bread of exile, as Dante says...")

In the closing line of his poem Krasavitse, kotoraya nyukhala tabak ("To the Beauty who Took Snuff," 1814) Pushkin exclaims:

Ах, отчего я не табак!..
Ah, why am I not tobacco!..

Simultaneously, a tall splendid creature [the pava] with trim ankles and repulsively fleshy thighs, stalked past the Veens, all but treading on Lucette's emerald-studded cigarette case. (3.5)

'I was told,' she explained, 'that a great friend of mine, Vivian Vale, the cootooriay - voozavay entendue? - had shaved his beard, in which case he'd look rather like you, right?'
'Logically, no, ma'am,' replied Van.
She hesitated for the flirt of a second, licking her lips, not knowing whether he was being rude or ready - and here Lucette returned for her Rosepetals.
'See you aprey,' said Miss Condor. (ibid.)

From Cordula's letter to Van (written after Lucette's suicide):

Je n'ai jamais verse tant de larmes, la plume m'en tombe des doigts. Nous revenons a Malbrook vers la mi-aout. (3.6)

Van's rival Percy de Prey (Cordula's second cousinwho perishes in the Crimean War, 1.42) is associated with Malbrook (the hero of a French song that Blanche, a French handmaid at Ardis, sings). On the other hand, Malbrook (the country place of Cordula's mother, Malorukino tozh) hints at Marlborough, ("Corporal John"), 1st Duke of Churchill (1650-1722), and Marlboro, a cigarette brand. In Speak, Memory (Chapter Fourteen, 2) VN writes of Hodasevich:

He was, physically, of a sickly aspect, with contemptuous nostrils and beetling brows, and when I conjure him up in my mind he never rises from the hard chair on which he sits, his thin legs crossed, his eyes glittering with malevolence and wit, his long fingers screwing into a holder the half of a Caporal Vert cigarette.

In his memoir essay on Gorky (also included in Necropolis) Hodasevich speaks of Gorky's critical attitude to Nazhivin's novel about Rasputin:

Получив трёхтомный роман Наживина о Распутине, вооружился карандашом и засел за чтение. Я над ним подтрунивал, но он честно трудился три дня. Наконец объявил, что книга мерзкая. В чем дело? Оказывается, у Наживина герои романа, живя в Нижнем Новгороде, отправляются обедать на пароход, пришедший из Астрахани. Я сначала не понял, что его возмутило, и сказал, что мне самому случалось обедать на волжских пароходах, стоящих у пристани. "Да ведь это же перед рейсом, а не после рейса! - закричал он. - После рейса буфет не работает! Такие вещи знать надо!"

A. M. Peshkov's penname means "bitter." In Ada Pushkin appears only for a moment to exclaim 'Sladko!' ('Sweet!') when bitten by the mosquitoes:

'Sladko! (Sweet!)' Pushkin used to exclaim in relation to a different species in Yukon. (1.17)

Pushkin actually used to exclaim 'Sladko!' when the mosquitoes bit him in Priyutino, the Olenins' estate near St. Petersburg. Olenin = O + Lenin. Gor'ky is the author of a memoir essay on Lenin (1924). Bryusov wrote at least three poems on Lenin's death: Posle smerti V. I. Lenina ("After V. I. Lenin's Death"), Lenin, both included in Mea (1922-24), and Na smert' vozhdya ("On the Death of the Chief"). In Drugie Berega ("The Other Shores," 1954) VN says that he respected Ayhenvald, the critic who used to torture the Bryusovs and Gorkys in the past:

Я хорошо знал Айхенвальда, человека мягкой души и твёрдых правил, которого я уважал, как критика, терзавшего Брюсовых и Горьких в прошлом. Я очень сошёлся с Ходасевичем, поэтический гений которого еще не понят по-настоящему. Презирая славу и со страшной силой обрушиваясь на продажность, пошлость и подлость, он нажил себе немало влиятельных врагов. Вижу его так отчетливо, сидящим со скрещенными худыми ногами у стола и вправляющим длинными пальцами половинку «Зелёного Капораля» в мундштук.

Practically in the next sentence VN evokes Hodasevich as he used to sit at the table, his thin legs crossed, his long fingers screwing into a holder the half of a Caporal Vert cigarette. Incidentally, Hodasevich's review of Ayhewald's silhouette of Pushkin was entitled Sakharnyi Pushkin ("The Sugary Pushkin").

Price, the mournful old footman who brought the cream for the strawberries, resembled Van's teacher of history, 'Jeejee' Jones.
'He resembles my teacher of history,' said Van when the man had gone.
'I used to love history,' said Marina, 'I loved to identify myself with famous women. There's a ladybird on your plate, Ivan. Especially with famous beauties - Lincoln's second wife or Queen Josephine.'
'Yes, I've noticed - it's beautifully done. We've got a similar set at home.'
'Slivok (some cream)? I hope you speak Russian?' Marina asked Van, as she poured him a cup of tea.
'Neohotno no sovershenno svobodno (reluctantly but quite fluently),' replied Van, slegka ulibnuvshis' (with a slight smile). 'Yes, lots of cream and three lumps of sugar.'
'Ada and I share your extravagant tastes. Dostoevski liked it with raspberry syrup.'
'Pah,' uttered Ada.
Marina's portrait, a rather good oil by Tresham, hanging above her on the wall, showed her wearing the picture hat she had used for the rehearsal of a Hunting Scene ten years ago, romantically brimmed, with a rainbow wing and a great drooping plume of black-banded silver; and Van, as he recalled the cage in the park and his mother [Aqua, Van's poor aunt] somewhere in a cage of her own, experienced an odd sense of mystery as if the commentators of his destiny had gone into a huddle. Marina's face was now made up to imitate her former looks, but fashions had changed, her cotton dress was a rustic print, her auburn locks were bleached and no longer tumbled down her temples, and nothing in her attire or adornments echoed the dash of her riding crop in the picture and the regular pattern of her brilliant plumage which Tresham had rendered with ornithological skill. (1.5)

Btw., "le petit caporal" was Napoleon's nickname. Napoleon (who seems to have not existed on Antiterra) was Marina Tsvetaev's idol. She used to say that no author had an influence on her but recognized the influence of Napoleon. Napoleon was also the idol of VN's brother Sergey (who perished in a German concentration camp). According to her friend Balmont, Marina Tsvetaev (the author of Slovo o Balmonte, "The Talk about Balmont," 1936) was a passionate smoker.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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