Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025414, Mon, 26 May 2014 11:42:51 +0300

great Scott, Vseslav Zemski & Sofia Temnosiniy in Ada
She [Marina] had ample time, too, to change for the next scene, which started with a longish intermezzo staged by a ballet company whose services Scotty had engaged, bringing the Russians all the way in two sleeping cars from Belokonsk, Western Estoty. (1.2)

Skotty ("the great Scott") is Marina's impresario whom she paid "seven thousand gold dollars a week for publicity alone, plus a bonny bonus for every engagement." His name seems to hint at Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832), Scottish novelist and poet. In the Commentary to his translation of Slovo o Polku Igoreve (ll. 665-670) VN quotes Walter Scott's "The Last Minstrel:"

This passage somehow always reminds me of the charming lines in Walter Scott's "The Last Minstrel," 1805, Canto Two, Stanza XIII:

In these far climes it was my lot
To meet the wondrous Michael Scott,
A wizard of such dreaded fame
That when in Salamanca's cave
Him listed his magic wand to wave
The bells would ring in Notre Dame.

The passage in question is:

The path of Great Hors,
as a wolf, prowling, he [Vseslav] crossed.
For him in Polotsk
they rang for matins early
at St. Sophia the bells;
but he heard the ringing in Kiev.

Van, Ada and Lucette are the descendants of Prince Vseslav Zemski (1699-1797) who married in 1770 Princess Sofia Temnosiniy (see Family Tree).

A former viceroy of Estoty, Prince Ivan Temnosiniy, father of the children's great-great-grandmother, Princess Sofia Zemski (1755-1809), and a direct descendant of the Yaroslav rulers of pre-Tartar times, had a millennium-old name that meant in Russian 'dark blue.' (1.1)

The Slavic god of rising sun, "Great Hors" brings to mind the Sun Horse 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)

Yukonsk is probably not too far from Belokonsk, the Russian twin of 'Whitehorse' (city in N. W. Canada).

As to helmets, in 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."

Marina's lover with whom Demon Veen (Van's and Ada's father) fights a sword duel in Nice (1.2), Baron d'Onsky (nicknamed Skonky) seems to be Onegin's Don stallion. While Demon is Irish, D'Onsky is Polish. According to Marina Tsvetaev (who was named by her mother after Marina Mnishek), she, too, had Polish blood. Marina Tsvetaev is the author of Plach Yaroslavny ("The Weeping of Yaroslavna;" in Slovo Yaroslavna is Prince Igor's wife), a cycle of three poems written on January 5, 1921 (New Style).

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)

January 5 is also the birthday of Marina's twin sister Aqua (who marries Demon Veen on April 23, 1869). Aqua marina means "sea water." Sinee more (blue sea) is menioned in the closing line of the last poem of Lebedinyi stan ("The Swan Camp," 1917-20; "The Weeping of Yaroslavna" is the collection's penultimate poem), S Novym Godom, Lebedinyi stan! ("Happy New Year, the Swan Camp!"):

С Новым Годом, Лебединый стан!
Славные обломки!
С Новым Годом — по чужим местам —
Воины с котомкой!

С пеной у рта пляшет, не догнав,
Красная погоня!
С Новым Годом — битая — в бегах
Родина с ладонью!

Приклонись к земле — и вся земля
Песнею заздравной.
Это, Игорь, — Русь через моря
Плачет Ярославной.

Томным стоном утомляет грусть:
— Брат мой! — Князь мой! — Сын мой!
— С Новым Годом, молодая Русь
За морем за синим!

...Happy New Year, young Rus
Over the blue sea!

In her poem Marina Tsvetaev compares Rus to Yaroslavna who still weeps somewhere over the sea lamenting Igor's captivity. It seems to me that Ada, or Ardor can also be compared to "Euphrosyne's incantation" (as VN renders in his version of "The Song of Igor's Campaign" plach Yaroslavny).

In "My Pushkin" (1937) Marina Tsvetaev compares Pushkin to Marcel Proust (whom Marina Tsetaev calls "a genius who recently left us):

Такой нежности слова к старухе нашлись только у недавно умчавшегося от нас гения - Марселя Пруста. Пушкин. Пруст. Два памятника сыновности.

According to Marina Tsvetaev, Pushkin and Proust are two monuments of filial affection. In his poem K moryu ("To the Sea," 1824) Pushkin says of Byron (the author of unfinished Don Juan):

Другой от нас умчался гений.
Another genius left us.

As he speaks of his ancestry, Van mentions Proust:

In later years he had never been able to reread Proust (as he had never been able to enjoy again the perfumed gum of Turkish paste) without a roll-wave of surfeit and a rasp of gravelly heartburn; yet his favorite purple passage remained the one concerning the name 'Guermantes,' with whose hue his adjacent ultramarine merged in the prism of his mind, pleasantly teasing Van's artistic vanity. (1.1)

To be sure, Ada is also a parody of Proust's A la Recherche du temps perdu ("In Search of Lost Time," pub. 1913-27). Btw., Walter Scott is mentioned by Pushkin in his brief note "England is the Fatherland of Cartoon and Parody" (1830):

Англия есть отечество карикатуры и пародии. Всякое замечательное происшествие подаёт повод к сатирической картинке; всякое сочинение, ознаменованное успехом, подпадает под пародию. Искусство подделываться под слог известных писателей доведено в Англии до совершенства. Вальтер Скотту показывали однажды стихи, будто бы им сочинённые. «Стихи, кажется, мои,— отвечал он смеясь. — Я так много и так давно пишу, что не смею отречься и от этой бессмыслицы!» Не думаю, чтобы кто-нибудь из известных наших писателей мог узнать себя в пародиях, напечатанных недавно в одном из московских журналов. Сей род шуток требует редкой гибкости слога; хороший пародист обладает всеми слогами, а наш едва ли и одним. Впрочем, и у нас есть очень удачный опыт: г-н Полевой очень забавно пародировал Гизота и Тьерри.

Prince Peter Zemski (1772-1832, son of Vseslav) hints at Prince Peter Vyazemski (1792-1878), one of Pushkin's closest friends. At the end of 1836 (a month before his death) Pushkin wrote an article on Pesn' o Polku Igoreve ("The Song of Igor's Campaign") first published by Annenkov in 1855.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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