Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025503, Wed, 2 Jul 2014 01:38:30 +0300

Timur & Nabok in Ada
Ada had declined to invite anybody except the Erminin twins to her picnic; but she had had no intention of inviting the brother without the sister. The latter, it turned out, could not come, having gone to New Cranton to see a young drummer, her first boy friend, sail off into the sunrise with his regiment. But Greg had to be asked to come after all: on the previous day he had called on her bringing a 'talisman' from his very sick father, who wanted Ada to treasure as much as his grandam had a little camel of yellow ivory carved in Kiev, five centuries ago, in the days of Timur and Nabok. (1.39)

In Kuprin's story Granatovyi Braslet ("The Garnet Bracelet," 1911) the sisters Tuganovski (maiden name), Vera Nikolaevna and Anna Nikolaevna, are the descendants of Tamerlane (also known as Timur, 1336?-1405, Tartar conqueror in southern and western Asia, ruler of Samarkand):

Старшая, Вера, пошла в мать, красавицу англичанку, своей высокой гибкой фигурой, нежным, но холодным и гордым лицом, прекрасными, хотя довольно большими руками и той очаровательной покатостью плеч, какую можно видеть на старинных миниатюрах. Младшая - Анна, - наоборот, унаследовала монгольскую кровь отца, татарского князя, дед которого крестился только в начале XIX столетия и древний род которого восходил до самого Тамерлана, или
Ланг-Темира, как с гордостью называл её отец, по-татарски, этого великого кровопийцу.
Vera was the older of the two, and she was like her mother, a beautiful Englishwoman; she was tall and slender, with a cold and proud face, beautiful, somewhat large hands, and that charming slope of the shoulders which one sometimes meets in old miniatures. Anna, on the other hand, inherited the Mongolian blood of her father, a Tartar prince, whose forebears had embraced Christianity only at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and whose ancestry could be traced back to Tamerlane himself, or Lang-Temir, as the father was fond of calling in the Tartar dialect that great bloody tyrant. (chapter 2)

The word nabok (unlike Nabok, accented on the first syllable and meaning "on one side") occurs at the beginning of Kuprin's stroy Belyi pudel' ("The White Poodle," 1904):

Узкими горными тропинками, от одного дачного посёлка до другого, пробиралась вдоль южного берега Крыма маленькая бродячая труппа. Впереди обыкновенно бежал, свесив набок длинный розовый язык, белый пудель Арто, остриженный наподобие льва.
They were strolling players making their way along narrow mountain paths from one summer resort to another, on the south coast of the Crimea. Usually they were preceded by Arto—a white poodle with a lion cut— who trotted along with his long pink tongue lolling out on one side.

In Kuprin's story Reka zhizni ("The River of Life," 1908) the action takes place in Kiev. Like Zheltkov (the hero of "The Garnet Bracelet" whose name comes from zheltok, "yolk"), the main character in "The River of Life" shoots himself dead.

In "The Garnet Bracelet" the action begins on Vera Nikolaevna's nameday:

Кроме того, сегодня был день её именин - 17 сентября. По милым, отдалённым воспоминаниям детства она всегда любила этот день и всегда ожидала от него чего-то счастливо-чудесного. Муж, уезжая утром по спешным делам в город, положил ей на ночной столик футляр с прекрасными серьгами из грушевидных жемчужин, и этот подарок ещё больше веселил её.
Moreover, that day, September 17, happened to be her nameday. She was always fond of that day, as it was connected with happy childhood recollections, and she always expected something miraculous and fortunate to happen on her nameday. This time, before leaving for the city, where he had an urgent engagement, her husband had put on her night table a little case, containing beautiful earrings with shapely pearl pendants, and this present made her still happier. (chapter 2)

September 17 (Old Style) is the nameday of Vera (Faith), Nadezhda (Hope), Lyubov' (Love) and their mother Sofia. According to Tyutchev, Samoubiystvo i Lyubov' (Suicide and Love) are twins. Lady Erminin (Greg's and Grace's mother) and Marina's twin sister Aqua (Van's, Ada's and Lucette's aunt) committed suicide. But the most famous poem of Tyutchev is Silentium! Greg comes to the picnic on Ada's sixteenth birthday on his new black Silentium motorcycle:

Greg, who had left his splendid new black Silentium motorcycle in the forest ride, observed:
'We have company.'
'Indeed we do,' assented Van. 'Kto sii (who are they)? Do you have any idea?' (1.39)

According to a Russian saying, nezvanyi gost' khuzhe tatarina (the uninvited guest is worse than a Tartar). Mlle Lariviere (Lucette's governess whose name means "the river," the author of La riviere de diamants, 1.13) hates the Tartars and the Jews (the people in the nearby glade seem to be the Apostles):

Greg, assuming with touching simplicity that Ada would notice and approve, showered Mlle Lariviere with a thousand little attentions - helping her out of her mauve jacket, pouring out for her the milk into Lucette's mug from a thermos bottle, passing the sandwiches, replenishing, replenishing Mlle Lariviere's wineglass and listening with a rapt grin to her diatribes against the English, whom she said she disliked even more than the Tartars, or the, well, Assyrians. (1.39)

Ada did not invite Percy de Prey to the picnic; nevertheless, he arrives and accepts Marina's invitation to join the party:

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, at that very moment Ada emitted a Russian exclamation of utmost annoyance as a steel-gray convertible glided into the glade. No sooner had it stopped than it was surrounded by the same group of townsmen, who now seemed to have multiplied in strange consequence of having shed coats and waistcoats. Thrusting his way through their circle, with every sign of wrath and contempt, young Percy de Prey, frilled-shifted and white-trousered, strode up to Marina's deckchair. He was invited to join the party despite Ada's trying to stop her silly mother with an admonishing stare and a private small shake of the head. (ibid.)

A couple of days later Percy de Prey goes to the Crimean war and perishes on the second day of the invasion (1.42). Another lover of Ada, the composer Philip Rack (Lucette's poor teacher of music), is poisoned by his jealous wife Elsie and dies in the Kalugano hospital (1.42). "The Garnet Bracelet" has the following epigraph:

L. van Beethoven. 2 Son. (ор. 2, N 2).
Largo Appassionato

In his suicide note addressed to Vera Nikolaevna Zheltkov asks her to play or have somebody else play for her Beethoven's Appasionata (Lenin's favorite piece of music, incidentally) after his death:

Если Вы обо мне вспомните, то... я знаю, что Вы очень музыкальны, я Вас видел чаще всего на бетховенских квартетах, - так вот, если Вы обо мне вспомните, то сыграйте или прикажите сыграть сонату D-dur, N 2, op. 2.
I know that you are musical, for oftenest of all I saw you at the Beethoven concerts — if you should remember, will you please play or have somebody else play for you the Sonata in D-dur, No. 2, Op. 2. ("The Garnet Bracelet," chapter 11)

Elsie = Elise

"For Elise" (Bagatelle No. 25 A minor for solo piano) is one of Ludwig van Beethoven's most popular compositions.

Today (July 2, 2014) is the 37th anniversary of VN's death.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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