Vladimir Nabokov

Kinbote and Oleg - half brothers?

By MARYROSS, 27 February, 2020


Has it ever been noted that Prince Charles (Kinbote) and his first love, Oleg may be half brothers? (Both sons of Col. Gusev)


It seems to me that Prince Charles’ mother, Blenda, and Colonel Gusev are intimated in an affaire and were likely in cahoots with the airplane crash demise of King Alfin (sort of a Hamlet scenario). Kinbote is likely the son of Gusev.


See attached diagram






Alexey Sklyarenko

4 years ago

Gusev (1890) is a story by Anton Chekhov and the writer's nickname for his elder brother Alexander (father of the celebrated actor and director Mikhail Chekhov, 1891-1955, who played Hamlet and Khlestakov). In his review of Mikhail Chekhov's stage version of Gogol's Inspector, Po povodu "Revizora" ("Apropos of 'The Inspector'", Vozrozhdenie, Feb. 12, 1935), Hodasevich writes:


В беседе с сотрудником нашей газеты М. А. Чехов сказал, что трактует Хле­стакова как «сон», приснившийся городничему.
(According to M. A. Chekhov, Khlestakov is but a dream of the Town Mayor.)


At the beginning of VN's novel Look at the Harlequins! (1974) Vadim Vadimovich mentions Gogol's play:


Some time during the Easter Term of my last Cambridge year (1922) I happened to be consulted, "as a Russian," on certain niceties of make-up in an English version of Gogol's Inspector which the Glowworm Group, directed by Ivor Black, a fine amateur actor, intended to stage... Ivor Black wanted Gogol's Town Mayor to wear a dressing gown because "wasn't it merely the old rascal's nightmare and didn't Revizor, its Russian title, actually come from the French for 'dream,' reve?" (1.1)


Vadim's first wife, Iris Black (Ivor's sister) brings to mind Iris Acht, the celebrated actress and mistress of Thurgus the Third (btw., King Alfin is not the son of Iris Acht). Like Annette Blagovo and Louise Adamson (Vadim's second and third wives), Iris Black seems to be a daughter of Count Starov and Vadim's half-sister.


In another article Hodasevich criticizes Mikhail Chekhov's stage version of Shakespeare's Hamlet:


Чехов делает именно эту ошибку. Он играет галлюцината и по меньшей мере меланхолика, играет с большим умением, с изяществом, даже с психологической тонкостью - но всё это пропадает даром. Его Гамлет есть Гамлет, разжалованный из страдающего философа и героя в бедного и больного юношу, довольно нелюбопытного и произносящего порой слова чьи-то чужие, вовсе к нему не идущие слова. (In Mikhail Chekhov's interpretation Hamlet is mad.)


Mary, in your diagram you forgot Uran the Last (Queen Yaruga's husband), the king of Zembla who seems to correspond to the tsar Paul I (whom some historians and poets call "the Russian Hamlet").


Btw., Leopold O'Donnell (father of Odon and Nodo) brings to mind Anna Leopoldovna, a regent of Russia in 1740-41 during the minority of her infant son Emperor Ivan VI (poor Ivan Antonovich who was killed by his guards after spending more than twenty years as a prisoner). Anna Leopoldovna was a granddaughter of Ivan V (the elder brother of Peter I).


4 years ago

Alexey, thanks for the correction about Uran the Last. I should have included him, although I am guessing because of his 'uranism' he was not the likely sire of Igor II. Queen Yaruga had an affaire with Hodinski, so it would be more likely that they were the parents.

I am guessing too about Iris Acht, but I couldn't find reference to a queen for Thurgus.



4 years ago

Correction: Queen Yaruga was Uran's SISTER

Leopold O'Donnell is Irish - makes me think of Joyce's Leopold Bloom. Leopold O'Donnell, like Bloom appears to be cuckolded. His wife Sylvia gives birth to Odon in 1915, and by 1916 she is married to Gusev and gives birth to Oleg.

I just read a synopsis of Chekhov's 'Gusev'; it's about Death and return to Russia, the basic them of Death & Return in PF. Wikipedia describes Gusev as " a mild, slightly dim character," whereas in PF Gusev, for the little we know about him, seems more a calculating swain. He steals two wives and seems to be behind King Alphin's death, in a Hamletian parody. 

What does this say about Prince Charles and Oleg? I don't know. Is the suggestion of incest just to heighten the illicitness of their relationship?


Yes, "husband" was a slip of finger (I was misled by the fact that officially Igor II seems to be the son of Uran the Last). In my recent post I mentioned Leopold Bloom (in connection with Leopold O'Donnell). Btw., Sylvia O'Donnell (née O'Connell) makes me think of Joyce's friend Sylvia Beach (whom VN met in Paris).

K Geneology_0.docx (56.09 KB)