Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025396, Sun, 18 May 2014 14:52:51 +0300

konskie deti in Ada
With glowing cheekbones and that glint of copper showing from under her tight rubber cap on nape and forehead, she [Lucette] evoked the Helmeted Angel of the Yukonsk Ikon whose magic effect was said to change anemic blond maidens into konskie deti, freckled red-haired lads, children of the Sun Horse. (3.5)

Konskiy means "of a horse." In Dom u starogo Pimena ("The House at Old Pimen," 1934) Marina Tsvetaev says that there is something umilitel'no-konskoe (touchingly horsy) about the historian Ilovayski's wedlock with his second wife (A. A. Kovrayski, 1852-1929):

Ест мало - приучена. (Вот только - овса нет! Точно они с Д. И. только для того и соединили свои жизни, чтобы вместе есть овёс. Есть в этой ассоциации что-то умилительно-конское...)

"The Sun Horse" clearly hints at Hors, the Slavic sun god mentioned in Slovo o Polku Igoreve ("The Song of Igor's Campaign"). The hero of Slovo, Prince Igor, famously says to his men (ll. 108-110):

"with you, sons of Rus, I wish
either to lay down my head
or drink helmetful of the Don."

The Don and its tributary the Donets are mentioned by Marina Tsvetaev in Plach Yaroslavny ("The Weeping of Yaroslavna," 1920), a cycle of three poems included in Lebedinyi stan ("The Swan Camp," 1922):

Лжёт летописец, что Игорь опять в дом свой
Солнцем взошёл — обманул нас Баян льстивый.
Знаешь конец? Там, где Дон и Донец — плещут,
Пал меж знамён Игорь на сон — вечный.

Yaroslavna (Igor's second wife Euphrosyne, daughter of Yaroslav of Galich) is a character in Slovo who weeps in Putivl on the rampart (ll. 691-730).

In Dom u starogo Pimena Marina Tsvetaev tells about Ilovayski's children Sergey and Nadya both of whom died of consumption in 1904 (he was twenty, she, twenty two). As a boy of twelve, Sergey wrote a play Mat' i syn ("Mother and Son") whose main characters were twenty and sixteen years old:

Двенадцати лет (рассказ моей матери, очевидицы) он по настоянию родителей стал читать на какой-то их «пятнице» свою пьесу «Мать и сын». Действующие лица: «Мать - 20 лет, сын - 16 лет». Взрыв хохота, и автор, не поняв причины, но позор поняв, сразу и невозвратно убежал в свою детскую, откуда его не могла извлечь даже мать.

This brings to mind Ivan Ivanov of Yukonks:

An American, a certain Ivan Ivanov of Yukonsk, described as an 'habitually intoxicated laborer' ('a good definition,' said Ada lightly, 'of the true artist'), managed somehow to impregnate - in his sleep, it was claimed by him and his huge family - his five-year-old great-granddaughter, Maria Ivanov, and, then, five years later, also got Maria's daughter, Daria, with child, in another fit of somnolence. Photographs of Maria, a ten-year old granny with little Daria and baby Varia crawling around her, appeared in all the newspapers, and all kinds of amusing puzzles were provided by the genealogical farce that the relationships between the numerous living - and not always clean-living - members of the Ivanov clan had become in angry Yukonsk. Before the sixty-year-old somnambulist could go on procreating, he was clapped into a monastery for fifteen years as required by an ancient Russian law. (1.21)

A staunch monarchist, ninety-year-old Ilovayski was arrested by the Bolsheviks. Only his age and the protection of friends (including Marina Tsvetaev) saved him from the Solovki (the ancient Arctic monastery turned into a labor camp).

Marina Durmanov's lover Baron d'Onsky (nicknamed 'Skonky') seems to be a horse (Onegin's Don stallion). After his sword duel with Demon Veen, d'Onsky marries the Bohemian lady (1.2). Marina Tsvetaev's poem Boheme (1917) begins as follows:

Помнишь плащ голубой,
Фонари и лужи?
Как играли с тобой
Мы в жену и мужа.

Do you remember the blue cloak,
Street lamps and puddles?
How you and I played
in husband and wife.

Marina's affair with Demon Veen started on his, her, and Daniel Veen's birthday, January 5, 1868, when she was twenty-four and both Veens thirty. (1.2)

Marina Tsvetaev's Plach Yaroslavny is dated December 23, 1920. By the New Style, it is January 5, 1921 (before leaving Russia in 1922, Marina Tsvetaev ignored Lenin's switch from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian one in 1918).

Marina loves to drink tea with mare's milk:

Naked-faced, dull-haired, wrapped up in her oldest kimono (her Pedro had suddenly left for Rio), Marina reclined on her mahogany bed under a golden-yellow quilt, drinking tea with mare's milk, one of her fads. (1.37)

According to Marina, one of the Zemskis (Van's and Ada's ancestors) was crazy about one of his mares:

'The Zemskis were terrible rakes (razvratniki), one of them loved small girls, and another raffolait d'une de ses juments and had her tied up in a special way - don't ask me how' (double hand gesture of horrified ignorance) - 'when he dated her in her stall. Kstati (a propos), I could never understand how heredity is transmitted by bachelors, unless genes can jump like chess knights.' (ibid.)

It seems that Van and Ada (the children of Demon and Marina) are konskie deti. Btw., "the Sun Horse" also seems to hint at Apollo, the sun god of ancient Greek.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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