Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025655, Sun, 31 Aug 2014 02:40:52 +0300

fisherman, smelly cicerone, Dr Krolik in Ada
He [Daniel Veen] had revisited only a few times since his boyhood another estate he had, up north on Lake Kitezh, near Luga, comprising, and practically consisting of, that large, oddly rectangular though quite natural body of water which a perch he had once clocked took half an hour to cross diagonally and which he owned jointly with his cousin, a great fisherman in his youth.
...In November 1871, as he was in the act of making his evening plans with the same smelly but nice cicerone in a cafe-au-lait suit whom he had hired already twice at the same Genoese hotel, an aerocable from Marina (forwarded with a whole week's delay via his Manhattan office which had filed it away through a new girl's oversight in a dove hole marked RE AMOR) arrived on a silver salver telling him she would marry him upon his return to America. (1.1)

In Aldanov's Klyuch the lawyer Kremenetski imagines how he will defend Zagryatski (whom the police suspects of poisoning Fisher, a rich St. Petersburg banker who led a dissipated life). Thinking of his future speech at court, Kremenetski calls Zagryatski "Fisher's cicerone in the whirlwind of metropolitan revelry, in the drunken ecstasy of debaucheries" and compares him to "a kind of Virgil of that unattractive Dante:"

Зaгряцкий был "чичероне Фишерa в вихре столичного рaзгулa, в пьяном угaре кутежей, своего родa Вергилий при этом мaлопривлекaтельном Дaнте, - с горькой усмешкой говорил нa суде Кременецкий, - дa простит мне неподобaющее срaвнение тень великого поэтa"… ("The Key," Part One, chpater XXVI)

Dan's cousin Demon Veen (Van's and Ada's father) married Marina's twin sister Aqua:

On April 23, 1869, in drizzly and warm, gauzy and green Kaluga, Aqua, aged twenty-five and afflicted with her usual vernal migraine, married Walter D. Veen, a Manhattan banker of ancient Anglo-Irish ancestry who had long conducted, and was soon to resume intermittently, a passionate affair with Marina. The latter, some time in 1871, married her first lover's first cousin, also Walter D. Veen, a quite as opulent, but much duller, chap. (1.1)

Fourteen years later poor mad Aqua committed suicide by taking poison. Her last note was signed "My sister's sister who teper' iz ada" ('now is out of hell') (1.3). In Dante's Divine Comedy Virgil is Dante's guide in ad (the inferno).

In Dead Souls (1842) Gogol famously compares a clerk in the service of Themis (the ancient Greek goddess of justice) to Virgil and Chichikov and Manilov, to Dante:

- Вот он вас проведёт в присутствие! - сказал Иван Антонович, кивнув головою, и один из священнодействующих, тут же находившихся, приносивший с
таким усердием жертвы Фемиде, что оба рукава лопнули на локтях и давно лезла оттуда подкладка, за что и получил в своё время коллежского регистратора,
прислужился нашим приятелям, как некогда Виргилий прислужился Данту, и провёл их в комнату присутствия, где стояли одни только широкие кресла и в
них перед столом, за зерцалом и двумя толстыми книгами, сидел один, как солнце, председатель. В этом месте новый Вергилий почувствовал такое благоговение, что никак не осмелился занести туда ногу и поворотил назад, показав свою спину, вытертую, как рогожка, с прилипнувшим где-то куриным пером.

Upon that one of the toilers in the service of Themis—a zealot who had offered her such heartfelt sacrifice that his coat had burst at the elbows and lacked a lining—escorted our friends (even as Virgil had once escorted Dante) to the apartment of the Presence. In this sanctum were some massive armchairs, a table laden with two or three fat books, and a large looking-glass. Lastly, in (apparently) sunlike isolation, there was seated at the table the President. On arriving at the door of the apartment, our modern Virgil seemed to have become so overwhelmed with awe that, without daring even to intrude a foot, he turned back, and, in so doing, once more exhibited a back as shiny as a mat, and having adhering to it, in one spot, a hen's feather. (chapter VII)

Like Dan's cicerone, Chichikov's serf Petrushka has his own peculiar smell:

Кроме страсти к чтению, он имел ещё два обыкновения, составлявшие две другие его характерические черты: спать не раздеваясь, так, как есть, в том же сюртуке, и носить всегда с собою какой-то свой особенный воздух, своего собственного запаха, отзывавшийся несколько жилым покоем, так что достаточно было ему только пристроить где-нибудь свою кровать, хоть даже в необитаемой дотоле комнате, да перетащить туда шинель и пожитки, и уже казалось, что в этой комнате лет десять жили люди.

In addition to his love of poring over books, he could boast of two habits which constituted two other essential features of his character—namely, a habit of retiring to rest in his clothes (that is to say, in the brown jacket above-mentioned) and a habit of everywhere bearing with him his own peculiar atmosphere, his own peculiar smell—a smell which filled any lodging with such subtlety that he needed but to make up his bed anywhere, even in a room hitherto untenanted, and to drag thither his greatcoat and other impedimenta, for that room at once to assume an air of having been lived in during the past ten years. (chapter II)

In Chapter Four of VN's Dar ("The Gift," 1937) Godunov-Cherdyntsev mentions the smell of Gogol's Petrushka. In German Gift means "poison." Shchyogolev (Zina's hateful stepfather in "The Gift") was in Russia a public prosecutor. The characters of Dead Souls include the public prosecutor. Only after his death everybody learns that he did have a soul. Leaving N., Chichikov encounters the funeral procession representing the obsequies of the public prosecutor:

Presently, on turning a corner, the britchka was brought to a halt through the fact that along the street there was filing a seemingly endless funeral procession. Leaning forward in his britchka, Chichikov asked Petrushka whose obsequies the procession represented, and was told that they represented those of the Public Prosecutor. (chapter XI)

Aqua married Demon in Kaluga. In the 1840s Gogol lived in Kaluga as a guest of Aleksandra Smirnov (a mother of twins) whose husband (krasnoglazyi krolik, "a red-eyed rabbit," according to Pushkin) was the city's governor.

Her florimania endured, alas; but after Dr Krolik died (in 1886) of a heart attack in his garden, she [Ada] had placed all her live pupae in his open coffin where he lay, she said, as plump and pink as in vivo. (1.35)

Gogol feared that he would be buried alive. His "Testament" (1845) begins as follows:

Завещаю тела моего не погребать по тех пор, пока не покажутся явные признаки разложения. Упоминаю об этом потому, что уже во время самой болезни находили на меня минуты жизненного онемения, сердце и пульс переставали биться... Будучи в жизни своей свидетелем многих печальных событий от нашей неразумной торопливости во всех делах, даже и в таком, как погребение, я возвещаю это здесь в самом начале моего завещания, в надежде, что, может быть, посмертный голос мой напомнит вообще об осмотрительности. Предать же тело моё земле, не разбирая места, где лежать ему, ничего не связывать с оставшимся прахом; стыдно тому, кто привлечётся каким-нибудь вниманием к гниющей персти, которая уже не моя: он поклонится червям, её грызущим; прошу лучше помолиться покрепче о душе моей, а вместо всяких погребальных почестей угостить от меня простым обедом нескольких не имущих насущного хлеба.

Gogol asks not to worship his ashes. Van refuses to visit Dr Krolik's grave:

...he indulged in a brutal outburst triggered by her suggesting - quite sweetly and casually (as she [Ada] might suggest walking a little way on the edge of a bog to see if a certain orchid was out) - that they visit the late Krolik's grave in a churchyard by which they were passing - and he had suddenly started to shout ('You know I abhor churchyards, I despise, I denounce death, dead bodies are burlesque, I refuse to stare at a stone under which a roly-poly old Pole is rotting, let him feed his maggots in peace, the entomologies of death leave me cold, I detest, I despise...' (1.41)

When Marina gave birth to Van, Demon sent her 99 orchids:

Petal of orchid, one of 99 orchids, if you please, mailed to me yesterday, Special Delivery, c'est bien le cas de le dire, from Villa Armina, Alpes Maritimes. Have laid aside ten for Aqua to be taken to her at her Home. Ex en Valais, Switzerland. 'Snowing in Fate's crystal ball,' as he used to say. (Date erased.)
Gentiane de Koch, rare, brought by lapochka [darling] Lapiner from his 'mute gentiarium' 5.I.1870. (1.1)

With the help of Dr Lapiner (Marina's "own Dr Krolik," Van calls him) Marina managed to persuade mad Aqua that Van was her, Aqua's, son. The name of Marina's doctor comes from lapin (Fr., rabbit). The French idiom poser un lapin (literally: "to lay a bunny") means "to stand smb. up." In the drafts of the second volume of "The Gift" Yvonne (a Paris prostitute) tells Fyodor that she nikogda ne podkladyvaet nikakikh krolikov (never stands anybody up):

Назначают третье свидание на будущую среду, и Ивонна уверяет Фёдора, используя французскую идиому «poser un lapin», что никогда никого не подводит: «Она ответила, что никогда не подкладывает никаких кроликов». (Jane Grayson, "The Metamorphosis of Nabokov's The Gift")

A few weeks before his death Gogol burned the second volume of Dead Souls. VN never completed the second volume of "The Git." But perhaps we should see in Ada a continuation of Dar, VN's last completed and best Russian novel?*

*Some scholars regard Solus Rex and Ultima Thule as the continuation of "The Gift."

Alexey Sklyarenko

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