Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025608, Wed, 13 Aug 2014 20:07:34 +0300

sweethearts & vodka in Ada
Demon to Van: "Let our sweethearts never meet, as we used to say, up at Chose. Only Yukonians think cognac is bad for the liver, because they have nothing but vodka." (1.38)

Van's and Demon's alma mater, Chose University seems to correspond to our world's Cambridge, VN's and Byron's University. In Aldanov's Mogila voina ("A Soldier's Grave") a Carbonari is afraid that one of Byron's main former mistresses who threatened to scratch Countess Guiccioli's eyes out can meet her rival in the St. Mark's Square:

Как садовница, графиня Гвиччиоли собственно имела право явиться в баракку вместе с Байроном. Но хозяину хижины очень не хотелось её звать: венецианские карбонарии сада не имели и женщин пока не принимали. Кроме того он опасался скандала: одна из глав­ных прежних любовниц Байрона грозила при встрече выцарапать графине Гвиччиоли глаза, -- ещё не хватало бы, чтобы они в этот вечер встретились на площади св. Марка! (chapter II)

Vodka mentioned by Demon brings to mind Aldanov's Punshevaya vodka ("The Punch Vodka," 1938). Like Mogila voina, it is a "philosophical fairy tale."

Mogila voina should be translated as A Soldier's Grave. This title was taken from the last stanza of Byron's poem "On this Day I Complete my Thirty-Sixth Year" (1824) used by Aldanov as an epigraph to his philosophical fairy tale:

Seek out -- less often sought than found
A soldier's grave, for thee the best,
Then look around and choose thy ground,
And take thy rest.

Mogila means "grave." Demon who promised at Marina's cremation not to fool the poor grubs perishes in an airplane disaster above the Pacific (3.7) and is never buried.

Btw., in his essay Parizh intimnyi ("The Intimate Paris," 1930) Kuprin (the author of "Venice," 1912) mentions the terrible trebnik (prayer-book) of Peter Mogila:

Резче всего останутся в его памяти рестораны, мюзик-холлы, ночные кабачки и театрики и полутайные учреждения, где демонстрируются те мерзости, о которых не только апостол Павел запретил человеку глаголати, но которым не нашлось места даже в ужасном требнике Петра Могилы, в отделе "чин исповедания мирских человек".

Alexey Sklyarenko

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