Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0025763, Wed, 8 Oct 2014 21:47:41 +0300

Spring in Fialta & Minataor in Ada
Spring in Fialta and a torrid May on Minataor, the famous artificial island, had given a nectarine hue to her [Lucette's] limbs, which looked lacquered with it when wet, but re-evolved their natural bloom as the breeze dried her skin. (3.5)

Spring in Fialta (Vesna v Fial'te, 1938) is a story by VN.

Minataor is an anagram of Taormina, a city in Sicily (an island in the Mediterranean, constituting a region of Italy). On the other hand, it hints at Minotaur, the bull-headed monster who lived in the Cretan Labyrinth (built by Daedalus, a legendary architect). Minotaur was killed by Theseus whom Ariadne (the daughter of Minos and Pasiphaё) gave the thread by which he escaped from the labyrinth. Ariadna is a story (1895) by Chekhov. The action in Chekhov's story Dama s sobachkoy ("The Lady with the Lap Dog," 1899) begins in Yalta. Yalta's altolike name is echoed by Fialta's viola:

I am fond of Fialta; I am fond of it because I feel in the hollow of those violaceous syllables the sweet dark dampness of the most rumpled of small flowers, and because the altolike name of a lovely Crimean town is echoed by its viola; and also because there is something in the very somnolence of its humid Lent that especially anoints one’s soul.

Viola is Sebastian's brother in Shakespeare's play "The Twelfth Night" (1623). In The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941), VN's first English novel, the narrator (V.) is Sebastian's brother. There is night in Knight and nox (Lat., night) in Knox. Violet Knox (whom Ada calls Fialochka, "little violet") is old Van's typist. Describing Lucette's suicide, Van mentions Oceanus Nox:

The sky was also heartless and dark, and her body, her head, and particularly those damned thirsty trousers, felt clogged with Oceanus Nox, n,o,x. (3.5)

The son of Dedalus Veen, Demon (Van's and Ada's father whom Ada's husband Andrey Vinelander calls "Dementiy Labirintovich," 3.8) married Marina's twin sister Aqua:

The modest narrator has to remind the rereader of all this, because in April (my favorite month), 1869 (by no means a mirabilic year), on St George's Day* (according to Mlle Lariviere's maudlin memoirs) Demon Veen married Aqua Veen - out of spite and pity, a not unusual blend.
...Actually, Aqua was less pretty, and far more dotty, than Marina. During her fourteen years of miserable marriage she spent a broken series of steadily increasing sojourns in sanatoriums. A small map of the European part of the British Commonwealth - say, from Scoto-Scandinavia to the Riviera, Altar and Palermontovia - as well as most of the U.S.A., from Estoty and Canady to Argentina, might be quite thickly prickled with enameled red-cross-flag pins, marking, in her War of the Worlds, Aqua's bivouacs. She had plans at one time to seek a modicum of health ('just a little grayishness, please, instead of the solid black') in such Anglo-American protectorates as the Balkans and Indias, and might even have tried the two Southern Continents that thrive under our joint dominion. Of course, Tartary, an independent inferno, which at the time spread from the Baltic and Black seas to the Pacific Ocean, was touristically unavailable, though Yalta and Altyn Tagh sounded strangely attractive... (1.3)

Palermontovia blends Palermo (the capital of Sicily) with Lermontov, the author of Demon (1829-40). In Chekhov's play "The Three Sisters" (on Antiterra known as "Four Sisters," 2.1, 2.9) Solyonyi (the officer who kills Tuzenbakh in a pistol duel) imagines that he resembles Lermontov. Solyonyi means in Russian "salt, salty."

Van interrupted Lucette's nervous patter by asking her if her bath taps bore the same inscriptions as his: Hot Domestic, Cold Salt. Yes, she cried, Old Salt, Old Salzman, Ardent Chambermaid, Comatose Captain! (3.5)

Poor mad Aqua believed that she could understand the language of her namesake, water:

She developed a morbid sensitivity to the language of tap water - which echoes sometimes (much as the bloodstream does predormitarily) a fragment of human speech lingering in one's ears while one washes one's hands after cocktails with strangers. (1.3)

In Drugie Berega ("Other Shores," 1954), as he speaks of chess problems, VN mentions the false Ariadne's spurious thread that would entangle everyone who enters the labyrinth:

Дело в том, что соревнование в шахматных задачах происходит не между белыми и чёрными, а между составителем и воображаемым разгадчиком (подобно тому, как в произведениях писательского искусства настоящая борьба ведётся не между героями романа, а между романистом м читателем), а потому значительная часть ценности задачи зависит от числа и качества «иллюзорных решений», - всяких обманчиво-сильных первых ходов, ложных следов и других подвохов, хитро и любовно приготовленных автором, чтобы поддельной нитью лже-Ариадны опутать вошедшего в лабиринт. (Chapter Thirteen, 4)

It should be understood that competition in chess problems is not really between White and Black but between the composer and the hypothetical solver (just as in a first-rate work of fiction the real clash is not between the characters but between the author and the world), so that a great part of a problem's value is due to the number of 'tries' -- delusive opening moves, false scents, specious lines of play, astutely and lovingly prepared to lead the would-be solver astray. (Speak, Memory, Chapter Fourteen, 3)

In her poem Lzhedmitriyu ("To False Dmitriy," 1921) Marina Tsvetaev calls Marina Mnishek (the wife of three pretenders to the Russian throne) Lzhemarina ("False Marina"):

— Своекорыстная кровь! —
Проклята, проклята будь
Ты — Лжедимитрию смогшая быть Лжемариной!

Marina Tsvetaev (the poet of genius who in the late 1930s returned to Russia and perished there) was the mother of Ariadna ("Alya") Efron (1912-75). In Marina Tsvetaev's memoir essay Geroy truda ("The Hero of Toil," 1925) eight-year-old Alya compares Bryusov to Shere Khan (the tiger in Kipling's Jungle Book) and Bryusov's mistress Adalis, to a young wolf from Shere Khan's retinue:

Москва, начало декабря 1920 г.
Несколько дней спустя, читая "Джунгли".
— Марина! Вы знаете — кто Шер-Хан? — Брюсов! — Тоже хромой и одинокий, и у него там тоже Адалис. (Приводит:) «А старый Шер-Хан ходил и открыто принимал лесть»… Я так в этом узнала Брюсова! А Адалис — приблуда, из молодых волков.

As she speaks to Van onboard Admiral Tobakoff, Lucette quotes Kipling:

They examined without much interest the objects of pleasure in a display window. Lucette sneered at a gold-threaded swimsuit. The presence of a riding crop and a pickax puzzled Van. Half a dozen glossy-jacketed copies of Salzman were impressively heaped between a picture of the handsome, thoughtful, now totally forgotten, author and a Mingo-Bingo vase of immortelles.
He clutched at a red rope and they entered the lounge;
'Whom did she [Miss Condor] look like?' asked Lucette. 'En laid et en lard?'
'I don't know,' he lied. 'Whom?'
'Skip it,' she said. 'You're mine tonight. Mine, mine, mine!'
She was quoting Kipling - the same phrase that Ada used to address to Dack. He cast around for a straw of Procrustean procrastination. (3.5)

Condor and My vse Robinzony ("We all are Robinson Crusoes") are poems by Bryusov.

From Van's letter to Ada: The Robinsons, Robert and Rachel, who, I know, planned to write to you through my father, were the penultimate people to talk to her that night. (3.6) Before jumping into the Atlantic, Lucette takes the Quietus pills given her by the Robinsons. In his famous monologue ("To be, or not to be..." 3.1) Hamlet mentions quietus ("when he himself might his quietus make with a bare bodkin...").

Like Nina in Spring in Fialta, the son of the Robinsons was killed in a car accident:

She turned toward him, brushing back the flying hair from her face with a mixture of triumph and embarrassment in her expression, and presently they took leave of Rachel and Robert who beamed after them, waving similarly raised hands to her, to him, to life, to death, to the happy old days when Demon paid all the gambling debts of their son, just before he was killed in a head-on car collision.
She [Lucette] dispatched the pozharskiya kotleti with gratitude: he was not scolding her for popping up as some sort of transcendental (rather than transatlantic) stowaway; and in her eagerness to see him she had botched her breakfast after having gone dinnerless on the eve. (3.5)

The pozharskiya kotleti (chops) bring to mind Minin and Pozharski, the heroes of the Patriotic war of 1612 against the Polish invaders.

Minin + Efron + ya + altar' = Erminin + fonar' + Yalta

ya - I (first person pronoun)
altar' - altar
Erminin - the Erminin twins, Greg and Grace
fonar' - lantern, lamp

Fonar' is mentioned in Blok's famous poem Noch'. Ulitsa. Fonar'. Apteka... (1912):

Night, street, lamp, drugstore,
A dull and meaningless light.
Go on and live another quarter century -
Nothing will change. There's no way out.

You'll die, then start from the beginning,
It will repeat, just like before:
Night, icy ripples on a canal,
Drugstore, street, lamp.

In her erratic student years Aqua organized with Milton Abraham's invaluable help a Phree Pharmacy in Belokonsk, and fell grievously in love there with a married man, who after one summer of parvenu passion dispensed to her in his Camping Ford garconniere preferred to give her up rather than run the risk of endangering his social situation in a philistine town where businessmen played 'golf' on Sundays and belonged to 'lodges.' (1.3)

Aqua's poor little letters from the homes of madness to her husband were sometimes signed: Madame Shchemyashchikh-Zvukov ('Heart rending-Sounds'). (ibid.)

The phrase shchemyashchie zvuki (heart-rending sounds) occurs in at least three poems of Blok. Blok is the author of Nochnaya fialka ("The Night Violet. A Dream," 1906) and Pesn' ada ("The Song of Hell," 1909). Blok's Neznakomka ("Incognita," 1906) is alluded to in Ada (3.3). Marina Tsvetaev is the author of Stikhi k Bloku ("Verses to Blok," 1921). One of Blok's poems begins: Ya - Gamlet... (1914):

I’m Hamlet. And my blood runs cold
When treachery is up to scheming;
My only love in the whole wide world.
Is in my heart, among the living.

Ophelia, the cold of life
Has taken you away, my dear;
The prince of Demark, in a strife,
Hit with a blade, I am dying here.

*Mount St. George is mentioned at the beginning of Spring in Fialta.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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