Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025498, Tue, 1 Jul 2014 15:23:06 +0300

petite fille modele in Ada
From Ada's letter to Van: I was, you remember (presumptuous phrase!), a petite fille modele practicing archery near a vase and a parapet and you were a shy schoolboy (with whom, as my mother guessed, I may have been a wee bit in love!), who dutifully picked up the arrows I lost in the lost shrubbery of the lost castle of poor Lucette's and happy, happy Adette's childhood, now a 'Home for Blind Blacks' - both my mother and L., I'm sure, would have backed Dasha's advice to turn it over to her Sect. (3.7)

In her Povest' o Sonechke ("The Tale about Little Sonya," 1937) Marina Tsvetaev calls Sonya Gollidey "petite fille modele" and compares her to Mme de Segur:

Petite fille modele – et Bon petit Diable. Toute ma petite Сонечка – immense – tenue dans la C-tesse de Segur. On n'est pas compatriotes pour rien!

From Demon's letter to Van: The film you saw was, no doubt, Don Juan's Last Fling in which Ada, indeed, impersonates (very beautifully) a Spanish girl. (3.6)

Despite her English name (Holliday) and Russian origin, Sonya Gollidey looks like a Spanish girl of fourteen:

К слову сказать, она гораздо больше была испаночка, чем англичаночка, и если я сказала, что в ней ничего не было национального, то чтобы оберечь её от первого в её случае - напрашивающегося - малороссийского-национального, самого типичного-национального. Испански же женское лицо - самое ненациональное из национальных, представляющее наибольший простор для человеческого лица в его общности и единственности: от портрета - до аллегории,
испанское женское лицо есть человеческое женское лицо во всех его возможностях страдания и страсти, есть - Сонечкино лицо.
...Теперь, когда к нам Испания ближе, Испания придвинулась, а лже-Испания отодвинулась, когда мы каждый день видим мёртвые и живые женские и детские лица, мы и на Сонечкино можем напасть: только искать надо - среди четырнадцатилетних.

Like Ada, Sonya Gollidey is a talented but, alas, underrated actress.

In Don Juan's Last Fling Ada plays the gitanilla. From Demon's letter to Van: Hool managed to buy up and destroy a number of copies while others have been locked up by the lawyer of the writer Osberg, who claims the gitanilla sequence was stolen from one of his own concoctions. (3.6)

La Gitanilla (1613) is a novella by Cervantes. On Antiterra the author of The Gitanilla is Osberg. In Osberg's novel the gitanilla's name is Lolita:

For the big picnic on Ada's twelfth birthday and Ida's forty-second jour de fete, the child was permitted to wear her lolita (thus dubbed after the little Andalusian gipsy of that name in Osberg's novel and pronounced, incidentally, with a Spanish 't,' not a thick English one), a rather long, but very airy and ample, black skirt, with red poppies or peonies, 'deficient in botanical reality,' as she grandly expressed it, not yet knowing that reality and natural science are synonymous in the terms of this, and only this, dream. (1.13).

Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Osberg: another good-natured anagram, scrambling the name of a writer with whom the author of Lolita has been rather comically compared. Incidentally, that title's pronunciation has nothing to do with English or Russian (pace an anonymous owl in a recent issue of the TLS).

The author of Lolita (1955), VN was often compared to J. L. Borges (1899-1986), an Argentinian writer who was blind, like "Kim Blackrent" (as Ada, in her letter to Van, calls Kim Beauharnais), Trofim's and Blanche's son (2.7) and Spencer Maldoon (3.4). Borges is the author of Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote (1939).

While VN's Lolita is associated with Carmen (the eponymous gypsy girl in a novella by Merimee), Osberg's gitanilla must be linked to Esmeralda, a gipsy girl in Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris (1831). In Plennyi dukh ("The Captive Spirit," 1934), a memoir essay on Andrey Bely, Marina Tsvetaev mentions Esmeralda and her pet goat Djali:

Ровная лужайка, утыканная жёлтыми цветочками, стала ковриком под его ногами — и сквозь кружавшегося, приподымающегося, вспархивающего, припадающего, уклоняющегося, вот-вот имеющего отделиться от земли — видение девушки с козочкой, на только что развёрнутом коврике, под двубашенным видением веков…
— Эсмеральда! Джали!

Like Merimee's Carmen, Marina Tsvetaev's Sonya is a dangerous child for men:

Для мужчин она была опасный... ребёнок... Существо, а не женщина. Они не знали, как с ней... Не умели... (Ум у Сонечки никогда не ложился спать. "Спи, глазок, спи, другой...", а третий - не спал.) Они все боялись, что она (когда слезами плачет!) над ними - смеётся. Когда я вспоминаю, кого моей Сонечке предпочитали, какую фальшь, какую подделку, какую лже-женственность - от лже-Беатрич до лже-Кармен (не забудем, что мы в самом сердце фальши: театре).

According to Marina Tsvetaev, men feared that Sonya secretly laughed at them. From Van's letter to Ada:

Artistically, and ardisiacally, the best moment is one of the last - when you follow barefoot the Don who walks down a marble gallery to his doom, to the scaffold of Dona Anna's black-curtained bed, around which you flutter, my Zegris butterfly, straightening a comically drooping candle, whispering delightful but futile instructions into the frowning lady's ear, and then peering over that mauresque screen and suddenly dissolving in such natural laughter, helpless and lovely, that one wonders if any art could do without that erotic gasp of schoolgirl mirth. And to think, Spanish orange-tip, that all in all your magic gambol lasted but eleven minutes of stopwatch time in patches of two- or three-minute scenes! (3.6)

Russian for orange-tip (Anthocharis cardamines) is belyanka. In Eugene Onegin (Four: XXXIX: 3-4) Pushkin mentions belyanki chernookoy mladoy i svezhiy potseluy (sometimes a white-skinned, black-eyed girl's young and fresh kiss). Don Guan is the main character in Pushkin's little tragedy Kamennyi Gost' ("The Stone Guest"). According to VN (EO Commentary, vol. III, p. 180), it is supposed that Pushkin completed "The Stone Guest" on the morning before his duel (Jan. 27, 1837). In Ada Paul J. Gigment (an eminint painter who drew his diminutive nudes invariably from behind) is compared to the Marmoreal Guest:

Every time (said unruffled Ada) Pig Pigment came, she cowered when hearing him trudge and snort and pant upstairs, ever nearer like the Marmoreal Guest, that immemorial ghost, seeking her, crying for her in a thin, querulous voice not in keeping with marble. (1.18)

Pushkin is the author of Tsygany ("The Gypsies," 1824). Prosper Merimee, in his inexact and limp prose version of Pushkin's poem, Les Bohemiens (1852), renders Zemfira's song as "Vieux jaloux, mechant jaloux, coupe-moi, brule-moi," etc.; and thence it is in part transferred by Henry Meilhac and Ludovic Halevy, in their libretto of George Bizet's opera Carmen (1875), based on Merimee's novella of that name (1847), to Carmen, who derisively sings it in I, IX. (EO Commentary, vol. II, p. 156)

Karmen ("Carmen," 1914) is a cycle of poems by Aleksandr Blok (1880-1921). The author of Pesn' Ada ("The Song of Hell," 1909), Shagi komandora ("The Steps of the Knight Commander," 1912) and Vozmezdie ("Retribution," 1910-21), Blok served as a model of Van Veen. On the other hand, Van's and Ada's half-sister Lucette is linked to Blok's Neznakomka (Incognita):

He headed for the bar, and as he was in the act of wiping the lenses of his black-framed spectacles, made out, through the optical mist (Space's recent revenge!), the girl whose silhouette he recalled having seen now and then (much more distinctly!) ever since his pubescence, passing alone, drinking alone, always alone, like Blok's Incognita. It was a queer feeling - as of something replayed by mistake, part of a sentence misplaced on the proof sheet, a scene run prematurely, a repeated blemish, a wrong turn of time. He hastened to reequip his ears with the thick black bows of his glasses and went up to her in silence. For a minute he stood behind her, sideways to remembrance and reader (as she, too, was in regard to us and the bar), the crook of his silk-swathed cane lifted in profile almost up to his mouth. There she was, against the aureate backcloth of a sakarama screen next to the bar, toward which she was sliding, still upright, about to be seated, having already placed one white-gloved hand on the counter. She wore a high-necked, long-sleeved romantic black dress with an ample skirt, fitted bodice and ruffy collar, from the black soft corolla of which her long neck gracefully rose. With a rake's morose gaze we follow the pure proud line of that throat, of that tilted chin. The glossy red lips are parted, avid and fey, offering a side gleam of large upper teeth. We know, we love that high cheekbone (with an atom of powder puff sticking to the hot pink skin), and the forward upsweep of black lashes and the painted feline eye - all this in profile, we softly repeat. From under the wavy wide brim of her floppy hat of black faille, with a great black bow surmounting it, a spiral of intentionally disarranged, expertly curled bright copper descends her flaming cheek, and the light of the bar's 'gem bulbs' plays on her bouffant front hair, which, as seen laterally, convexes from beneath the extravagant brim of the picture hat right down to her long thin eyebrow. Her Irish profile sweetened by a touch of Russian softness, which adds a look of mysterious expectancy and wistful surprise to her beauty, must be seen, I hope, by the friends and admirers of my memories, as a natural masterpiece incomparably finer and younger than the portrait of the similarily postured lousy jade with her Parisian gueule de guenon on the vile poster painted by that wreck of an artist for Ovenman.
'Hullo there, Ed,' said Van to the barman, and she turned at the sound of his dear rasping voice.
'I didn't expect you to wear glasses. You almost got le paquet, which I was preparing for the man supposedly "goggling" my hat. Darling Van! Dushka moy!'
'Your hat,' he said, 'is positively lautremontesque - I mean, lautrecaquesque - no, I can't form the adjective.'
Ed Barton served Lucette what she called a Chamberyzette.
'Gin and bitter for me.'
'I'm so happy and sad,' she murmured in Russian. 'Moyo grustnoe schastie! How long will you be in old Lute?' (3.3)

Marina Tsvetaev is the author of two cycles: Don Juan (1917) and Stikhi k Bloku ("Verses to Blok," 1916), each consisting of seven poems, and of Stikhi k Bloku (1921), a little book written after the poet's death. In her Stikhi k Akhmatovoy (1916) Marina Tsvetaev famously calls the poet Anna Akhmatov (1889-1966) Anna vseya Rusi ("the Anna of all Rus"). Anna Akhmatov's real name was Gorenko.

Rus = Sur = Ursus - us
Gorenko = Oregon/Negoro + k
Antilia Glems + Gerald + Ada + Sevan/vesna/naves = gitanilla Esmeralda + navsegda

Sur - Sp., South
Ursus - a character in Victor Hugo's L'homme qui rit; the best Franco-Estotian restaurant in Manhattan Major (2.8)
us - Russ., whisker
Negoro - the villain in Jules Verne's novel A Captain at Fifteen
Antilia Glems - a character in Van's novel Letters from Terra (2.2)
Gerald - Morris Gerald, the main character in Captain Mayne Reid's novel The Headless Horseman
Sevan - a lake in Armenia
vesna - Spring
naves - penthouse; awning
navsegda - forever

The closing line of VN's poem Lines Written in Oregon (1953) is: Esmeralda, immer, immer. (immer - Germ., "always")

Alexey Sklyarenko

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