Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025667, Sat, 6 Sep 2014 02:24:49 +0300

Dick C., King Victor, Mr Bred in Ada
'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.
'That's out of some modem novel,' said Dick, discarding his cigarette after a few avid inhales.
'That's out of Van Veen,' said Van Veen. (1.28)

A card-sharp whom Van manages to cheat in a game of poker at Chose (Van's English University), Dick C. is English. Asei (from "I say") is the obsolete Russian name of the English. Dick is a form of Richard. On Antiterra Richard Leonard Churchill is the author of a novel about a certain Crimean Khan, 'A Great Good Man:'

Van remembered that his tutor's great friend, the learned but prudish Semyon Afanasievich Vengerov, then a young associate professor but already a celebrated Pushkinist (1855-1954), used to say that the only vulgar passage in his author's work was the cannibal joy of young gourmets tearing 'plump and live' oysters out of their 'cloisters' in an unfinished canto of Eugene Onegin. But then 'everyone has his own taste,' as the British writer Richard Leonard Churchill mistranslates a trite French phrase (chacun a son gout) twice in the course of his novel about a certain Crimean Khan once popular with reporters and politicians, 'A Great Good Man' - according, of course, to the cattish and prejudiced Guillaume Monparnasse about whose new celebrity Ada, while dipping the reversed corolla of one hand in a bowl, was now telling Demon, who was performing the same rite in the same graceful fashion. (1.38)

Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Great good man: a phrase that Winston Churchill, the British politician, enthusiastically applied to Stalin.

In Aldanov's Bred (1955) the Soviet Colonel ("Colonel No. 2") mentions Winston Churchill (accenting the surname on the second syllable) and asei (i. e. the English):

-- Исчезнет Черчилль, и асеи выйдут в тираж, кончена будет совсем Англия как великая держава, -- говорил полковник. Он произносил имя Черчилля с ударением на втором слоге. "Никто и в России уже лет сто не называет англичан "асеями", там и не знают слов "I say". ("Delirium," chapter IV)

This was followed by a good bluff against a better one; and with Van's generously slipping the desperately flashing and twinkling young lord good but not good enough hands, the latter's martyrdom came to a sudden end (London tailors wringing their hands in the fog, and a moneylender, the famous St Priest of Chose, asking for an appointment with Dick's father). After the heaviest betting Van had yet seen, Jacques showed a forlorn couleur (as he called it in a dying man's whisper) and Dick surrendered with a straight flush to his tormentor's royal one. (1.28)

In Aldanov's novel Shell shows to the American Colonel ("Colonel No. 1") a similar trick:

Та же самая игра раз случилась с Людовиком XIV. Великий король не любил проигрывать, нередко мошенничал в игре и при большом проигрыше часто отделывался шуткой. В ту пору играли в какую-то игру, напоминавшую наш покер. Ставка была огромная, король проигрывал, и ему не очень хотелось платить. Он сказал победителю: "У меня три короля, но, включая меня самого, это составит четыре. Я выиграл". -- Ваше величество проиграли, -- хладнокровно ответил придворный, -- у меня четыре валета, но, включая меня самого, это составит пять."
-- Кажется, в ту пору мошенничали чуть ли не все?
-- Это случается и теперь. Дело нетрудное. Хотите, я вам покажу, как это просто? -- сказал Шелль. Он собрал карты, долго их тасовал и сдал снова. На этот раз три короля оказались у полковника, а четыре валета у него. ("Delirium," chapter I)

Shell tells an anecdote about the King Louis XIV (who often cheated at a game that resembled our poker). In his review of Aldanov's Peshchera ("The Cave") VN pairs Louis XIV with Copernicus (cf. Van's "underground observatory"):

Другой типичный для Алданова приём — это система иронических (чаще всего иронически-исторических) сопоставлений: «как Коперник...», «как Мольер...», «как Людовик XIV...» («Альфред Исаевич сокрушался, что всё ещё не знает ни Ротшильдов, ни Шиффа, — как Коперник на смертном одре выражал скорбь, что не пришлось ему увидеть Меркурий»).

The main character in "The Cave," Braun is the author of "Deveru," an inserted novella that begins with Wallenstein's horoscope composed by Kepler (the German astronomer, 1571-1630). According to VN, Braun's novella gives to the whole novel a glimpse of clear sky that it lacked:

Брауновская новелла, проникнутая высокой прохладой, выдержанная в синих тонах, даёт всему роману тот просвет в небо, которого не хватало ему.

With white-bloused, enthusiastically sweating Andrey Andreevich [Aksakov, Van's Russian tutor], he lolled for hours in the violet shade of pink cliffs, studying major and minor Russian writers - and puzzling out the exaggerated but, on the whole, complimentary allusions to his father's volitations and loves in another life in Lermontov's diamond-faceted tetrameters. (1.28)

In Aldanov's novel Shell compares himself to Lermontov's Demon:

С первых же дней его раздражала именно банальность истории: падший человек с опустошенной душой влюбляется в чистую девушку. "Вроде как лермонтовский Демон". В душе он с молодых лет считал себя демонической натурой. Что ж делать, жизнь так же пошла, как кинематограф". ("Delirium," chapter

According to Shell , life is as vulgar as the cinematograph.

A friend of AAA (Van's tutor Aksakov), S. A. Vengerov (1855-1954) outlived Stalin. Soon after Stalin's death Aldanov's Colonel No. 2 comes across an old book on hunting by Sergey Aksakov (the author of The Family Cronicle and The Childhood Years of Bagrov Grandson):

Теперь, после смерти Сталина, восхвалять на каждой странице его военный гений незачем, но всё наше командование восхвалять было бы необходимо, то есть опять-таки бессовестно врать: никаких промахов, мол, не было, всё происходило по заранее разработанному плану". Об этом полковник имел определенное мнение: план был плохой, да он в начале войны и не осуществлялся, точно никакого плана вообще не было. Было сделано множество тяжких ошибок, проявилась полная растерянность начальства, и всё спасли храбрость русских войск, самоотверженная выносливость русского народа.
В свободное время полковник иногда заходил в книжный магазин. Покупал преимущественно военные книги, иногда исторические. Зашёл он в магазин и в июне. Новых военных книг не оказалось. Ему попалась старая книга Сергея Аксакова. Она привлекла его внимание переплётом, очень хорошим и превосходно сохранившимся. Переплет был жёлтый, с очень широким кожаным корешком, с такими же углами. Полковник раскрыл книгу, ему попалась фраза: "Кроме описанных мною трех пород в Оренбургской губернии изредка попадаются чёрные зайцы, обыкновенного склада и величины, мне никогда не удалось их убить". Эти слова поразили полковника: он должен убить чёрного зайца! ("Delirium," chapter XXXII)

Aksakov's chyornyi zayats (black hare) brings to mind Ada's first lover, Karol, or Karapars, Krolik (a doctor of philosophy, born in Turkey, 2.7). Krolik means "rabbit," kara means (in Turkic languages) "black."

A professional spy, Shell is commissioned by Colonel No. 1 to bring out from Moscow Nikolay Maykov, an old scholar who discovered a means to prolong human life. The scholar's name brings to mind the poet Apollon Maykov, the author of Mashen'ka ("Mary," 1846), Vesenniy Bred ("The Vernal Delirium," 1853) and Tri smerti ("Three Deaths," a lyrical drama, 1857). The action in the latter takes place in Rome in the reign of Nero; one of the three main characters is the philosopher and poet Seneca (Nero's tutor). In the floramor chapter of Ada King Victor (the Antiterran counterpart of Queen Victoria) quotes a line composed by Seneca:

In 1905 a glancing blow was dealt Villa Venus from another quarter. The personage we have called Ritcov or Vrotic had been induced by the ailings of age to withdraw his patronage. However, one night he suddenly arrived, looking again as ruddy as the proverbial fiddle; but after the entire staff of his favorite floramor near Bath had worked in vain on him till an ironic Hesperus rose in a milkman's humdrum sky, the wretched sovereign of one-half of the globe called for the Shell Pink Book, wrote in it a line that Seneca had once composed:

subsidunt montes et juga celsa ruunt,*

- and departed, weeping. (2.3)

It is Dick C. who offers Van an introduction to the Venus Villa Club:

Van fumed and fretted the rest of the morning, and after a long soak in a hot bath (the best adviser, and prompter and inspirer in the world, except, of course, the W.C. seat) decided to pen - pen is the word - a note of apology to the cheated cheater. As he was dressing, a messenger brought him a note from Lord C. (he was a cousin of one of Van's Riverlane schoolmates), in which generous Dick proposed to substitute for his debt an introduction to the Venus Villa Club to which his whole clan belonged. Such a bounty no boy of eighteen could hope to obtain. It was a ticket to paradise. Van tussled with his slightly overweight conscience (both grinning like old pals in their old gymnasium) - and accepted Dick's offer. (1.28)

"A milkman's humdrum sky" brings to mind a quite accidental milkmaid whose apron is bespatted with Demon's and d'Onsky's blood as they fight a sword duel:

The challenge was accepted; two native seconds were chosen; the Baron plumped for swords; and after a certain amount of good blood (Polish and Irish - a kind of American 'Gory Mary' in barroom parlance) had bespattered two hairy torsoes, the whitewashed terrace, the flight of steps leading backward to the walled garden in an amusing Douglas d'Artagnan arrangement, the apron of a quite accidental milkmaid, and the shirtsleeves of both seconds, charming Monsieur de Pastrouil and Colonel St Alin, a scoundrel, the latter gentlemen separated the panting combatants, and Skonky died, not 'of his wounds' (as it was viciously rumored) but of a gangrenous afterthought on the part of the least of them, possibly self-inflicted, a sting in the groin, which caused circulatory trouble, notwithstanding quite a few surgical interventions during two or three years of protracted stays at the Aardvark Hospital in Boston - a city where, incidentally, he married in 1869 our friend the Bohemian lady, now keeper of Glass Biota at the local museum. (1.2)

"Colonel St Alin, a scoundrel," in Colonel No. 1 in Ada. Colonel No. 2 is the father of the Erminin twins who "preferred to pass for a Chekhovian colonel:"

Van was about to leave when a smartly uniformed chauffeur came up to inform 'my lord' that his lady was parked at the corner of rue Saigon and was summoning him to appear.
'Aha,' said Van, 'I see you are using your British title. Your father preferred to pass for a Chekhovian colonel.'
'Maude is Anglo-Scottish and, well, likes it that way. Thinks a title gets one better service abroad. By the way, somebody told me - yes, Tobak! - that Lucette is at the Alphonse Four. I haven't asked you about your father? He's in good health?' (Van bowed,) 'And how is the guvernantka belletristka?'
'Her last novel is called L'ami Luc. She just got the Lebon Academy Prize for her copious rubbish.' (3.2)

Sir Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill got the Nobel prize for literature in 1953 (the year of Stalin's death).

In Speak, Memory (2.4) VN pairs Maykov with Mayakovski, the poet mentioned in On Rulers (1945) as "my late namesake:"

Покойный мой тёзка,
писавший стихи и в полоску,
и в клетку, на самом восходе
всесоюзно-мещанского класса,
кабы дожил до полдня,
нынче бы рифмы натягивал
на "монументален",
на "переперчил"
и так далее.

If my late namesake
who used to write verse, in rank
and in files, at the very dawn
of the Soviet Small-Bourgeois order,
had lived till its noon,
he would be now finding taut rhymes
such as "praline"
or "air chill",
and others of the same kind.

VN's footnote: "praline"... "air chill." In the original, monumentalen, meaning "[he is] monumental" rhymes pretty closely with Stalin; and pereperchil, meaning "[he] put in too much pepper" offers an ingenuouse correspondence with the name of the British politician [Winston Churchill] in slovenly Russian pronunciation ("chair-chill").

The title of Aldanov's Bred brings to mind a Mr Brod or Bred who marries Dorothy Vinelander (Ada's sister-in-law):

After helping her to nurse Andrey at Agavia Ranch through a couple of acrimonious years (she begrudged Ada every poor little hour devoted to collecting, mounting, and rearing!), and then taking exception to Ada's choosing the famous and excellent Grotonovich Clinic (for her husband's endless periods of treatment) instead of Princess Alashin's select sanatorium, Dorothy Vinelander retired to a subarctic monastery town (Ilemna, now Novostabia) where eventually she married a Mr Brod or Bred, tender and passionate, dark and handsome, who traveled in eucharistials and other sacramental objects throughout the Severniya Territorii and who subsequently was to direct, and still may be directing half a century later, archeological reconstructions at Goreloe (the 'Lyaskan Herculanum'); what treasures he dug up in matrimony is another question. (3.8)

Dorothy's pet nightmare has to do with the eruption of a dream volcano:

Dorothy preambled her long-delayed report on her pet nightmare with a humble complaint ('Of course, I know that for your patients to have bad dreams is a zhidovskaya prerogativa'), but her reluctant analyst's attention every time it returned to her from his plate fixed itself so insistently on the Greek cross of almost ecclesiastical size shining on her otherwise unremarkable chest that she thought fit to interrupt her narrative (which had to do with the eruption of a dream volcano) to say: 'I gather from your writings that you are a terrible cynic. Oh, I quite agree with Simone Traser that a dash of cynicism adorns a real man; yet I'd like to warn you that I object to anti-Orthodox jokes in case you intend making one.' (ibid.)

The hero of Aldanov's trilogy, Braun is a cynic. Perhaps it is Braun's cynicism that makes Musya (who admires Sartre, a friend of Simone de Beauvoir) fall in love with him. As he speaks to Clareville (Musya's husband), Braun compares Europe after the Versailles treaty to a volcano:

Помните ли вы ту пышную залу, в которой говорил Вильсон? Чувствовали ли вы весь трагикомизм этой сцены? Проповедь идеализма слушал Клемансо, проповедь разоружения — лучшие боевые генералы мира. Историческую Францию, историческую Англию поучал человек — в политическом смысле без роду и племени. Мехи были старые, но дорогие, вино новое, но не первого качества. Впрочем, и не очень новое… Этот американец, трижды застрахованный и перестрахованный географией, помог европейцам создать вулкан, а затем, уезжая за море, предложил им устроиться на вулкане возможно лучше, прочнее и покойнее. ("The Cave," Part One, chapter XX)

Braun compares the speech of President Wilson to a new but not quite first rate wine (cf. the name Vinelander).

Ardis Hall - the Ardors and Arbors of Ardis - this is the leitmotiv rippling through Ada, an ample and delightful chronicle, whose principal part is staged in a dream-bright America - for are not our childhood memories comparable to Vineland-born caravelles, indolently encircled by the white birds of dreams? The protagonist, a scion of one of our most illustrious and opulent families, is Dr Van Veen, son of Baron 'Demon' Veen, that memorable Manhattan and Reno figure. (5.6)

Reno = Nero = Oregon + rod - gorod (rod - family; origin; genus; gender; gorod - city)

Maykov is also the author of Sny ("The Dreams," 1859).

*mountains subside and heights deteriorate (Darkbloom)

Alexey Sklyarenko, "007"

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