Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025657, Mon, 1 Sep 2014 23:33:48 +0300

ivanilich & Grib in Ada
'Sit down, have a spot of chayku,' she [Marina] said. 'The cow is in the smaller jug, I think. Yes, it is.' And when Van, having kissed her freckled hand, lowered himself on the ivanilich (a kind of sighing old hassock upholstered in leather): 'Van, dear, I wish to say something to you, because I know I shall never have to repeat it again. Belle, with her usual flair for the right phrase, has cited to me the cousinage-dangereux-voisinage adage - I mean "adage," I always fluff that word - and complained qu'on s'embrassait dans tous les coins. Is that true?'

Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Ivanilich: a pouf plays a marvelous part in Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich, where it sighs deeply under a friend of the widow's.

'...A propos de coins: in Griboedov's Gore ot uma, "How stupid to be so clever," a play in verse, written, I think, in Pushkin's time, the hero reminds Sophie of their childhood games, and says:

How oft we sat together in a corner
And what harm might there be in that?

but in Russian it is a little ambiguous, have another spot, Van?' (he shook his head, simultaneously lifting his hand, like his father), 'because, you see, - no, there is none left anyway - the second line, i kazhetsya chto v etom, can be also construed as "And in that one, meseems," pointing with his finger at a corner of the room. Imagine - when I was rehearsing that scene with Kachalov at the Seagull Theater, in Yukonsk, Stanislavski, Konstantin Sergeevich, actually wanted him to make that cosy little gesture (uyutnen'kiy zhest).' (1.37)

'By the way, Demon,' interrupted Marina, 'where and how can I obtain the kind of old roomy limousine with an old professional chauffeur that Praskovia, for instance, has had for years?'
'Impossible, my dear, they are all in heaven or on Terra. But what would Ada like, what would my silent love like for her birthday? It's next Saturday, po razschyotu po moemu (by my reckoning), isn't it? Une riviere de diamants?' (1.38)

Darkbloom: po razschyotu po moemu: an allusion to Famusov (in Griboedov's Gore ot uma), calculating the pregnancy of a lady's friend.

Marina's first lover, Demon Veen (Van's and Ada's father) was a great fisherman in his youth (1.1). In Aldanov's Begstvo ("The Escape," 1932) Mme Fisher (Karl Fisher's widow) is Vitya's first mistress. After she praised him as a lover, Vitya quotes Chatski's words in Griboedov's Woe from Wit (Act Three, scene 3): "who did lack wits to have children:"

Елена Фёдоровна, вернувшись в спальню, прервала его глубокие размышления.
- Ты был очень мил, - сказала она, гладя его по голове. - Ты далеко пойдёшь.
- Правда?
В её устах эти слова были для него то же, что для молодого офицера похвала знаменитого полководца. Витя не был самодоволен, но он чувствовал, что, независимо от его воли, самодовольная улыбка всё глупее расплывается на его лице.
- Иметь детей кому ума не доставало, - сказал он, и ему стало ещё веселее: ответ показался Вите очень удачным. "Вот и находчивости теперь прибавилось..." Елена Федоровна тоже засмеялась, догадавшись, что это цитата.
Вдруг за окном послышался треск. Полутёмная комната ярко осветилась от взлетевших ракет. Елена Федоровна отворила окно. Сильный гул ворвался в комнату. На площади было светло как днём: жгли гидру контрреволюции. Двухголовая гидра на огромном костре изображала Клемансо и Ллойд Джорджа. Клемансо быстро сгорел, но Ллойд Джордж держался довольно долго. Толпа ревела. (Part One, chapter XXIII)

"Une riviere de diamants" that Demon wants to give Ada brings to mind La Riviere de Diamants, Mlle Lariviere's story that she reads at the picnic on Ada's twelfth birhtday (1.13)

'I had hoped you'd sleep here,' said Marina (not really caring one way or another). 'What is your room number at the hotel - not 222 by any chance?'
She liked romantic coincidences. Demon consulted the tag on his key: 221 - which was good enough, fatidically and anecdotically speaking. Naughty Ada, of course, stole a glance at Van, who tensed up the wings of his nose in a grimace that mimicked the slant of Pedro's narrow, beautiful nostrils. (1.38)

Klyuch ("The Key," 1929) is the first novel of Aldanov's trilogy. Marina's lover Pedro is a namesake of Don Pedro, in Aldanov's trilogy the reporter who becomes a movie man in emigration. Marina wants Pedro, a young Latin actor, to play Rene, or Renny, in the movie directed by G. A. Vronski and based on Mlle Lariviere's novel Les Enfants Maudits ("The Accursed Children"):

Had a grotesque governess really written a novel entitled Les Enfants Maudits? To be filmed by frivolous dummies, now discussing its adaptation? To be made even triter than the original Book of the Fortnight, and its gurgling blurbs?
...'Incidentally,' observed Marina, 'I hope dear Ida will not object to our making him not only a poet, but a ballet dancer. Pedro could do that beautifully, but he can't be made to recite French poetry.'
'If she protests,' said Vronsky, 'she can go and stick a telegraph pole - where it belongs.'
The indecent 'telegraph' caused Marina, who had a secret fondness for salty jokes, to collapse in Ada-like ripples of rolling laughter (pokativshis' so smehu vrode Adi): 'But let's be serious, I still don't see how and why his wife - I mean the second guy's wife - accepts the situation (polozhenie).'
Vronsky spread his fingers and toes.
'Prichyom tut polozhenie (situation-shituation)? She is blissfully ignorant of their affair and besides, she knows she is fubsy and frumpy, and simply cannot compete with dashing Helene.' (1.32)

"Dashing Helene" is a namesake of Elena Fisher, Vitya's first mistress. Polozhenie (situation; condition; position) also means "pregnancy:"

Marina arrived in Nice a few days after the duel, and tracked Demon down in his villa Armina, and in the ecstasy of reconciliation neither remembered to dupe procreation, whereupon started the extremely interesnoe polozhenie ('interesting condition') without which, in fact, these anguished notes could not have been strung. (1.2)

Marina's former lover, G. A. Vronsky is a "namesake" of Aleksey Vronski, Anna's lover in Tolstoy's Anna Karenin. Like Vronski, Van, if he feels his superiority, smiles to the interlocutor:

Price, the mournful old footman who brought the cream for the strawberries, resembled Van's teacher of history, 'Jeejee' Jones.
'He resembles my teacher of history,' said Van when the man had gone.
'I used to love history,' said Marina, 'I loved to identify myself with famous women. There's a ladybird on your plate, Ivan. Especially with famous beauties - Lincoln's second wife or Queen Josephine.'
'Yes, I've noticed - it's beautifully done. We've got a similar set at home.'
'Slivok (some cream)? I hope you speak Russian?' Marina asked Van, as she poured him a cup of tea.
'Neohotno no sovershenno svobodno (reluctantly but quite fluently),' replied Van, slegka ulibnuvshis' (with a slight smile). 'Yes, lots of cream and three lumps of sugar.' (1.5)

Darkbloom: with a slight smile: a pet formula of Tolstoy's denoting cool superiority, if not smugness, in a character's manner of speech.

Marina and G. A. Vronski dubbed Price 'Grib:'

Another Price, a typical, too typical, old retainer whom Marina (and G. A. Vronsky, during their brief romance) had dubbed, for unknown reasons, 'Grib,' placed an onyx ashtray at the head of the table for Demon, who liked to smoke between courses - a puff of Russian ancestry. (1.38)

Grib (Russ., mushroom) seems to hint at Griboedov. In Woe from Wit (Act One, scene 7) Chatski quotes a line from Derzhavin:

И дым отечества нам сладок и приятен!
Even a smoke of fatherland to us is sweet and pleasant!*

Otechestvo being Russian for "fatherland," on Antiterra Tolstoy's Detstvo i Otrochestvo ("Childhood and Boyhood") was mistranslated as Childhood and Fatherland:

'All happy families are more or less dissimilar; all unhappy ones are more or less alike,' says a great Russian writer in the beginning of a famous novel (Anna Arkadievitch Karenina, transfigured into English by R. G. Stonelower, Mount Tabor Ltd., 1880). That pronouncement has little if any relation to the story to be unfolded now, a family chronicle, the first part of which is, perhaps, closer to another Tolstoy work, Detstvo i Otrochestvo (Childhood and Fatherland, Pontius Press, 1858). (1.1)

Otechestvo is also close to otchestvo (patronymic). Anna Karenin's patronymic is, of course, Arkadievna (see Darkbloom). When Van, after a long separation, meets Greg Erminin in Paris (on Antiterra, aka Lute), he fluffs his patronymic:

'I really know very little about music but it was a great pleasure to make your chum howl. I have an appointment in a few minutes, alas. Za tvoyo zdorovie, Grigoriy Akimovich.'
'Arkadievich,' said Greg, who had let it pass once but now mechanically corrected Van.
'Ach yes! Stupid slip of the slovenly tongue. How is Arkadiy Grigorievich?'
'He died. He died just before your aunt. I thought the papers paid a very handsome tribute to her talent. And where is Adelaida Danilovna? Did she marry Christopher Vinelander or his brother?'
'In California or Arizona. Andrey's the name, I gather. Perhaps I'm mistaken. In fact, I never knew my cousin very well: I visited Ardis only twice, after all, for a few weeks each time, years ago.'
'Somebody told me she's a movie actress.'
'I've no idea, I've never seen her on the screen.' (3.2)

Grigoriy Akimovich is Vronsky's name and patronymic.

In "The Key" Yatsenko (Vitya's father) fluffs Fomin's patronymic:

— А, Николай Петрович, — сказал Фомин, увидев входившего Яценко. — Тоже бываете в этой обираловке?
— Меня не очень-то оберут, — ответил, улыбаясь, следователь. — Картины покупаете, Платон Иванович?
— Платон Михайлович…
— Простите, Платон Михайлович… Это ведь в «Горе от ума» Платон Михайлович?.. (Part One, chapter XVI)

As Yatsenko points out, Platon Mikhailovich [Gorich] is a character in Woe from Wit. Another character in Griboedov's play, Anton Antonovich Zagoretski, brings to mind Zaretski (Lenski's second in Pushkin's Eugene Onegin) and Zagryatski, in Aldanov's novel Mme Fisher's lover whom the police (including Yatsenko, the investigator) suspects of murdering Fisher. The Death of Ivan Ilyich is Yatsenko's favorite book:

Наступала усталость, Яценко откладывал философские книги и раскрывал «Смерть Ивана Ильича», которая волновала его неизмеримо больше.
С Толстым у Николая Петровича был старый счёт. Он думал, что другого такого писателя никогда не было и не будет; в творениях Толстого видел подлинную книгу жизни, где на всё, что может случиться в мире с человеком, дан не ответ, конечно, но настоящий, единственный отклик. Николай Петрович был ещё молодым судебным деятелем, когда появилось «Воскресение». Любя свое дело, гордясь судом, он болезненно принял этот роман, почти как личное оскорбление. Юридические ошибки, найденные им у Толстого, даже чуть-чуть его утешили, точно свидетельствуя, что не всё правда в «Воскресении». Именно отсюда и началась глухая внутренняя борьба Николая Петровича с Толстым. Однако со «Смертью Ивана Ильича» и бороться было невозможно. Яценко понимал, что уж в этой книге всё правда, самая ужасная, последняя правда, на которую никто ничего ответить не может, как не может ответить и сам автор. Правда других книг Толстого была менее обязательной и общей. С Николаем Петровичем могло и не случиться то, что случалось с Болконским, Лёвиным, Нехлюдовым, Безуховым. Но от участи Ивана Ильича уйти было некуда, и Яценко иногда недоумевал, зачем, собственно, написан этот страшный рассказ. Самый тон, зловеще-шутливый, почти издевательский тон книги, особенно срединных глав, в которых Толстой, как убийца, подкрадывается к Ивану Ильичу, по мнению Яценко, свидетельствовал о полном отсутствии ответа. Николай Петрович раз двадцать читал «Смерть Ивана Ильича», и всякий раз якобы примирённая книга эта вызывала у него лишь приступ тоски. Впрочем, и это впечатление скоро проходило — чаще всего от общения с приятными людьми, от успешной повседневной работы. Николай Петрович приходил к мысли, что без твёрдой религиозной веры никак не может быть оптимистического миропонимания. У него твёрдой веры не было, настроен же он был в нормальное время оптимистически и потому в тяжёлые свои дни представлялся самому себе живым парадоксом. (Part Two, chapter V)

Yatsenko compares Tolstoy to the murderer who steals up to his victim (Ivan Ilyich). Golovin, Ivan Ilyich's surname, comes from golova (head). The surname Veen looks like decapitated Golovin. Aldanov is also the author the tetralogy about the Great French Revolution (when a lot of people were beheaded).

A parody of Tolstoy's Anna Karenin, Ada is also a parody of Aldanov's trilogy ("The Key," "The Escape," "The Cave") and tetralogy ("The Ninth Thermidor," "The Devil's Bridge," The Conspiracy," "Saint Helena, a Small Island").

*btw., Dym bez otechestva ("Smoke without Fatherland," 1921) is a book of poetry by Don Aminado.

Alexey Sklyarenko (with a slight smile:)

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