Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025544, Wed, 16 Jul 2014 02:07:18 +0300

Colonel Gusev & Santos Dumont in Pale Fire
Oleg, Duke of Rahl, 1916-1931, son of Colonel Gusev, Duke of Rahl (b .1885, still spry); K.'s beloved playmate, killed in a toboggan accident, 130. (Index to Pale Fire)

Colonel Peter Gusev was born in 1885. In Kuprin's story Volshebnyi kovyor ("The Magic Carpet," 1919) Santos Dumont is twelve years old. Santos Dumont (whose Demoiselle was smashed by King Alfin; see Kinbote's note to line 71) was born in 1773. 1773 + 12 = 1885.

But really envied nothing--save perhaps
The miracle of a lemniscate left
Upon wet sand by nonchalantly deft
Bicycle tires. (ll. 136-9)

Line 137: lemniscate

"A unicursal bicircular quartic" says my [Kinbote's] weary old dictionary. I cannot understand what this has to do with bicycling and suspect that Shade's phrase has no real meaning. As other poets before him, he seems to have fallen here under the spell of misleading euphony.
To take a striking example: what can be more resounding, more resplendent, more suggestive of choral and sculptured beauty, than the word coramen? In reality, however, it merely denotes the rude strap with which a Zemblan herdsman attaches his humble provisions and ragged blanket to the meekest of his cows when driving them up to the vebodar (upland pastures).

In his memoir essay on Utochkin Kuprin points out that the famous airman and sportsman was a professional cyclist:

В велосипедных состязаниях он выступал, как профессионал, сделал себе громкое имя на русских и заграничных ипподромах, установил в своё время несколько видных рекордов и зарабатывал большие деньги.

I love you when you call me to admire
A jet's pink trail above the sunset fire. (ll. 285-6)

Line 286: A jet's pink trail above the sunset fire

I, too, was wont to draw my poet's attention to the idyllic beauty of airplanes in the evening sky. Who could have guessed that on the very day (July 7) Shade penned this lambent line (the last one on his twenty-third card) Gradus, alias Degre, had flown from Copenhagen to Paris, thus completing the second lap of his sinister journey! Even in Arcady am I, says Death in the tombal scripture.

In "The Magic Carpet" Kuprin compares Santos Dumont's first flight in Paris, between the Eiffel tower and Notre Dame, to an elegant figure of eight in the sky:

Первый настоящий полёт, мы думаем, совершил всё-таки несколько месяцев спустя Сантос Дюмон, очертивший на своём аэроплане "Demoiselle" изящную восьмерку между двумя парижскими вершинами - башней Эйфеля и собором Парижской богоматери.
Надо сказать, что к этому времени он окончательно забыл о волшебном ковре с арабской надписью и о своём сказочном полёте. Но есть, однако, в этом удивительном аппарате, в человеческом мозгу, какие-то таинственные кладовые, в которых, независимо от нашей воли и желания, хранится бережно
всё, что мы когда-либо видели, слышали, читали, думали или чувствовали - всё равно, было ли это во сне, в грёзах или наяву.

In his note to Line 286 Kinbote mentions the roofs of Paris.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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