Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025563, Tue, 22 Jul 2014 21:55:18 +0300

Rita & underground observatory in Ada
For the tango, which completed his number on his last tour, he [Van] was given a partner, a Crimean cabaret dancer in a very short scintillating frock cut very low on the back. She sang the tango tune in Russian:

Pod znoynim nebom Argentini,
Pod strastniy govor mandolini

'Neath sultry sky of Argentina,
To the hot hum of mandolina

Fragile, red-haired 'Rita' (he never learned her real name), a pretty Karaite from Chufut Kale, where, she nostalgically said, the Crimean cornel, kizil', bloomed yellow among the arid rocks, bore an odd resemblance to Lucette as she was to look ten years later. (1.30)

Rita is a character in Kuprin's story Khoroshee obshchestvo ("The Good Society," 1905). Its title brings to mind Korolenko's strory V durnom obshchestve ("In a Bad Company," 1885) also known as Deti podzemel'ya ("Children of Underground"). According to Van, an artist is an underground observatory:

'I say, Dick, ever met a gambler in the States called Plunkett? Bald gray chap when I knew him.'
'Plunkett? Plunkett? Must have been before my time. Was he the one who turned priest or something? Why?'
'One of my father's pals. Great artist.'
'Yes, artist. I'm an artist. I suppose you think you're an artist. Many people do.'
'What on earth is an artist?'
'An underground observatory,' replied Van promptly. (1.28)

Demon's casino-touring companion, bodyguard and guardian angel, Mr Plunkett brings to mind Balunski, the king of shulers (cardsharps) in Kuprin's story Uchenik ("The Disciple," 1911).

Veno = Nevo = Oven = Noev
Rovno = voron = norov

Veno - Knyazh'e Veno, the city where the action of "Children of Underground" takes place; bride-price
Nevo - old name of Lake Ladoga
Oven - ram; Aries, the Ram
Noev - Noah's
Rovno - city in Ukraine (the real name of Knyazh'e Veno)
voron - raven
norov - obs., custom; obstinacy; restiveness

Alexey Sklyarenko

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