Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025623, Thu, 21 Aug 2014 12:30:43 +0300

Estotiland, Abraham Milton & Prince Zemski in Ada
The Durmanovs' favorite domain, however, was Raduga near the burg of that name, beyond Estotiland proper, in the Atlantic panel of the continent between elegant Kaluga, New Cheshire, U.S.A., and no less elegant Ladoga, Mayne, where they had their town house and where their three children were born: a son, who died young and famous, and a pair of difficult female twins. (1.1)

But (even more absurdly), if, in Terrestrial spatial terms, the Amerussia of Abraham Milton was split into its components, with tangible water and ice separating the political, rather than poetical, notions of 'America' and 'Russia,' a more complicated and even more preposterous discrepancy arose in regard to time - not only because the history of each part of the amalgam did not quite match the history of each counterpart in its discrete condition, but because a gap of up to a hundred years one way or another existed between the two earths; a gap marked by a bizarre confusion of directional signs at the crossroads of passing time with not all the no-longers of one world corresponding to the not-yets of the other. (1.3)

In Book X of Paradise Lost (1667) John Milton mentions "cold Estotiland:"

Some say he bid his Angels turne ascance
The Poles of Earth twice ten degrees and more
From the Suns Axle; they with labour pushed [ 670 ]
Oblique the Centric Globe: some say the Sun
Was bid turn reins from the Equinoctial Rode
Like distant breadth to Taurus with the Seven
Atlantic Sisters, and the Spartan twins
Up to the Tropic Crab; thence down amaine [ 675 ]
By Leo and the Virgin and the Scales,
As deep as Capricorne, to bring in change
Of Seasons to each Clime; else had the Spring
Perpetual smiled on Earth with vernant Flours,
Equal in Days and Nights, except to those [ 680 ]
Beyond the Polar Circles; to them Day
Had unbenighted shon, while the low Sun
To recompence his distance, in thir sight
Had rounded still the Horizon, and not known
Or East or West, which had forbid the Snow [ 685 ]
From cold Estotiland, and South as far
Beneath Magellan.

"The Seven Atlantic Sisters" are the Pleiades. In his poem Knyazyu Petru Andreevichu Vyazemskomu ("To Prince Pyotr Andreevich Vyazemski," 1834) Baratynski calls Vyazemski zvezda razroznennoy pleyady ("the star of the broken Pleiades"):

Звезда разрозненной плеяды!
Так из глуши моей стремлю
Я к вам заботливые взгляды,
Вам высшей благости молю;
От вас отвлечь судьбы суровой
Удары грозные хочу,
Хотя вам прозою почтовой
Лениво дань мою плачу.

The poem was first published in Sovremennik ("The Contemporary," 1836, IV) by Pushkin.

Van's maternal grandmother Daria ('Dolly') Durmanov was the daughter of Prince Peter Zemski, Governor of Bras d'Or, an American province in the Northeast of our great and variegated country, who had married, in 1824, Mary O'Reilly, an Irish woman of fashion. (1.1)

Prince Vyazemski's mother was an Irish woman born O'Reilly.

In Book XII of Paradise Lost the angel Michael tells about "faithful Abraham:"

This patriarch blest,
Whom faithful Abraham due time shall call,
A son, and of his a grandchild, leaves,
Like him in faith, in wisdom and renown,
The grandchild with twelve sons increased, departs
From Canaan to a land hereafter called
Egypt, divided by the river Nile;
see where it flows... [151-158]

In the Night of the Burning Barn, when Van and Ada make love for the first time, we see where the Nile flows:

But our young botanist had not the faintest idea how to handle the thing properly - and Van, now in extremis, driving it roughly against the hem of her nightdress, could not help groaning as he dissolved in a puddle of pleasure.
She looked down in dismay.
'Not what you think,' remarked Van calmly. 'This is not number one. Actually it's as clean as grass sap. Well, now the Nile is settled stop Speke.'
(I wonder, Van, why you are doing your best to transform our poetical and unique past into a dirty farce? Honestly, Van! Oh, I am honest, that's how it went. I wasn't sure of my ground, hence the sauciness and the simper. Ah, parlez pour vous: I, dear, can affirm that those famous fingertrips up your Africa and to the edge of the world came considerably later when I knew the itinerary by heart. Sorry, no - if people remembered the same they would not be different people. That's-how-it-went. But we are not 'different'! Think and dream are the same in French. Think of the douceur, Van! Oh, I am thinking of it, of course, I am - it was all douceur, my child, my rhyme. That's better, said Ada.) (1.19)

Abraham was the father of Isaac. The name Isaac comes from the old Hebrew word for "laughter." (On the other hand, Abram was the name of Baratynski's father and of Pushkin's African great-grandfather.)

Oh, Van, that night, that moment as we knelt side by side in the candlelight like Praying Children in a very bad picture, showing two pairs of soft-wrinkled, once arboreal-animal, soles - not to Grandma who gets the Xmas card but to the surprised and pleased Serpent, I remember wanting so badly to ask you for a bit of purely scientific information, because my sidelong glance - (1.19)

From The Argument of Book X of Milton's Paradise Lost:

Satan arrives at Pandemonium, in full of assembly relates with boasting his success against Man; instead of applause is entertained with a general hiss by all his audience, transformed with himself also suddenly into Serpents, according to his doom given in Paradise; then deluded with a show of the forbidden Tree springing up before them, they greedily reaching to take of the Fruit, chew dust and bitter ashes.

Btw., I wonder if Brian Boyd knows Krylov's fable Kukushka i Petukh ("The Cuckoo and the Cock," 1834)?

Alexey Sklyarenko

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