Vladimir Nabokov

PF's Hazel=FW's Kate

By MARYROSS, 15 June, 2021

It occurs to me that the image of Hazel as “Mother Time” is an allusion to the character “Kate” the old charwoman in Joyce’s Finnegans Wake. Kate appears with slop pail and broom, and like Time, is always cleaning up the mess after disasters, picking out various detritus which she has been throwing on her garbage heap since the beginning of time. The word “time” is frequently found somewhere near her. I am not aware of the image of "Mother Time" with slop pail and broom occurring anywhere else except in Finnegans Wake. Here is a description of her from FW (I like the fact that the image of “footprints” is also contained here):

 

“Kate Strong, the old scavenger-widow who knew the city during those filthy times paints for us a dreary, glowing, vivid picture…she let down, as scavengers who will be scavengers must, her filth dump…And she chose this place because all over it were the complicated traceries of the past: fossil footprints, book marks, elbow dints, etc. What subtler time-place could anyone as for the hiding of a love letter, than then when ructions ended and here where race began?” (79-80)

 

Also, "HAZEL SHADE" suggests a near-anagram of "NADEZHDA" ("hope"), that is, there is "some small (part of) hope" within her name that helps her father with his existential crisis. And yet, her father despairs of her ever becoming what he thinks she should be. Hope cannot exist without Time; both cease for Hazel as a "watchman, Father Time" and his "uneasy dog" (Time and Death) come on the scene. Then the only hope is hope for eternity.

Alexey Sklyarenko

2 years 8 months ago

In his Commentary Kinbote mentions Finnegans Wake:

 

To return to the King: take for instance the question of personal culture. How often is it that kings engage in some special research? Conchologists among them can be counted on the fngers of one maimed hand. The last king of Zembla - partly under the influence of his uncle Conmal, the great translator of Shakespeare (see notes to lines 39 - 40 and 962), had become, despite frequent migraines, passionately addicted to the study of literature. At forty, not long before the collapse of his throne, he had attained such a degree of scholarship that he dared accede to his venerable uncle's raucous dying request: "Teach, Karlik!" Of course, it would have been unseemly for a monarch to appear in the robes of learning at a university lectern and present to rosy youths Finnegans Wake as a monstrous extension of Angus MacDiarmid's "incoherent transactions" and of Southey's Lingo-Grande ("Dear Stumparumper," etc.) or discuss the Zemblan variants, collected in 1798 by Hodinski, of the Kongs-skugg-sio (The Royal Mirror), an anonymous masterpiece of the twelfth century. Therefore he lectured under an assumed name and in a heavy make-up, with wig and false whiskers. All brown-bearded, apple-checked, blue-eyed Zemblans look alike, and I who have not shaved now for a year, resemble my disguised king (see also note to line 894). (note to Line 12)

 

A Russian adventurer (and author of a celebrated pastiche), Hodinski (also known as Hodyna) drowned in an ice-hole with his mistress, Queen Yaruga, during traditional New Year's festivities. The surname Hodinski comes from hodit' (to walk).

 

Speaking of Father Time's uneasy dog, Joyce believed the dog to be the most protean animal, a natural “mummer.”

 

Happy Bloomsday to all!

MARYROSS

2 years 8 months ago

Thanks. "Finnegans Wake" is misspelled by Kinbote as "Finnigan's Wake," I believe purposely by Nabokov as an incident of "misprints" in PF. Also, it may be a personal sly reference to the sort of tedium a college professor's life is continually confronted with since this passage is clearly satiric of eager students and dedicated teachers.

 

I think that "Hodinski/Hodyna" is an allusion to the great magician Harry Houdini. Houdini fits into various themes of PF – that of magician, first off; also he was a member of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR), the template for the IPH, as were a number of other luminaries alluded to in PF; he enjoyed de-bunking the tricks of fake psychics. The clincher is that he was famous for escaping from under ice-holes in the Detroit River.  I don't know what the "celebrated pastiche" refers to, or why he is apparently associated with Nordic history.

 

Back to PF and FW:  There are numerous parallels between these two novels. I uploaded a chart I made in a previous post about their similarities: http://thenabokovian.org/node/52541

When I was a child, Russia enjoyed quite a vogue at the court of Zembla but that was a different Russia - a Russia that hated tyrants and Philistines, injustice and cruelty, the Russia of ladies and gentlemen and liberal aspirations. We may add that Charles the Beloved could boast of some Russian blood. In medieval times two of his ancestors had married Novgorod princesses. Queen Yaruga (reigned 1799-1800) his great-great-granddam, was half Russian; and most historians believe that Yaruga's only child Igor was not the son of Uran the Last (reigned 1798-1799) but the fruit of her amours with the Russian adventurer Hodinski, her goliart (court jester) and a poet of genius, said to have forged in his spare time a famous old Russian chanson de geste generally attributed to an anonymous bard of the twelfth century. (note to Line 681)

 

Yaruga is an old Russian word for “ravine.” In Slovo o polku Igoreve (“The Song of Igor’s Campaign”) Wild Bull Vsevolod (Igor’s brother) mentions yarugy (the ravines):

 

Игорь ждетъ мила брата Всеволода. И рече ему Буй-Туръ Всеволодъ: "Одинъ братъ, одинъ свѣтъ свѣтлый - ты, Игорю! Оба есвѣ Святъславличя! Сѣдлай, брате, свои бързыи комони, а мои ти готови, осѣдлани у Курьска напереди. А мои ти куряни - свѣдоми къмети: подъ трубами повити, подъ шеломы възлелѣяны, конець копия въскръмлени; пути имь вѣдоми, яругы имъ знаеми, луци у нихъ напряжени, тули отворени, сабли изъострени. Сами скачють, акы сѣрыи влъци въ полѣ, ищучи себе чти, а князю славѣ".

 

Igor waits for his dear brother Vsevolod.

And Wild Bull Vsevolod [arrives and]
says to him:
"My one brother, one bright brightness,
you Igor!
We both are Svyatoslav's sons.
Saddle, brother, your swift steeds.
As to mine, they are ready,
saddled ahead, near Kursk;
as to my Kurskers, they are famous
knights –
swaddled under war-horns,
nursed under helmets,
fed from the point of the lance;
to them the trails are familiar,
to them the ravines are known,
the bows they have are strung tight,
the quivers, unclosed,
the sabers, sharpened;
themselves, like gray wolves,
they lope in the field,
seeking for themselves honor,
and for their prince glory."

(ll. 71-90, VN’s translation)

 

Shade's, Kinbote's and Gradus' "real" name seems to be Vsevolod Botkin. An American scholar of Russian descent, Professor Vsevolod Botkin went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus (the poet's murderer) after the tragic death of his daughter Nadezhda (Hazel Shade’s “real” name).

 

The Sisters (1904) is a short story by James Joyce (Joyce's first published work of fiction), the first of a series of short stories called Dubliners. Queen Yaruga is the sister of Uran the Last:

 

Uran the Last, Emperor of Zembla, reigned 1798-1799; an incredibly brilliant, luxurious, and cruel monarch whose whistling whip made Zembla spin like a rainbow top; dispatched one night by a group of his sister's united favorites, 681. (Index)

 

In VN's Lolita (1955) Humbert mentions uranists with whom he sat in the Deux Magots and pastiches he composed in Paris:

 

The days of my youth, as I look back on them, seem to fly away from me in a flurry of pale repetitive scraps like those morning snow storms of used tissue paper that a train passenger sees whirling in the wake of the observation car. In my sanitary relations with women I was practical, ironical and brisk. While a college student, in London and Paris, paid ladies sufficed me. My studies were meticulous and intense, although not particularly fruitful. At first, I planned to take a degree in psychiatry as many manqué talents do; but I was even more manqué than that; a peculiar exhaustion, I am so oppressed, doctor, set in; and I switched to English literature, where so many frustrated poets end as pipe-smoking teachers in tweeds. Paris suited me. I discussed Soviet movies with expatriates. I sat with uranists in the Deux Magots. I published tortuous essays in obscure journals. I composed pastiches:

... Fräulein von Kulp
may turn, her hand upon the door;
I will not follow her. Nor Fresca. Nor
that Gull.

A paper of mine entitled “The Proustian theme in a letter from Keats to Benjamin Bailey” was chuckled over by the six or seven scholars who read it. I launched upon an “Histoire abrégée de la poésie anglaise” for a prominent publishing firm, and then started to compile that manual of French literature for English-speaking students (with comparisons drawn from English writers) which was to occupy me throughout the forties - and the last volume of which was almost ready for press by the time of my arrest. (1.5)

 

A rainbow top (Uran's whistling whip made Zembla spin like a rainbow top) brings to mind "a living rainbow" in Lolita:

 

We spent a grim night in a very foul cabin, under a sonorous amplitude of rain, and with a kind of prehistorically loud thunder incessantly rolling above us.

“I am not a lady and do not like lightning,” said Lo, whose dread of electric storms gave me some pathetic solace.

We had breakfast in the township of Soda, pop. 1001.

“Judging by the terminal figure,” I remarked, “Fatface is already here.”

“Your humor,” said Lo, “is sidesplitting, deah fahther.”

We were in sage-brush country by that time, and there was a day or two of lovely release (I had been a fool, all was well, that discomfort was merely a trapped flatus), and presently the mesas gave way to real mountains, and, on time, we drove into Wace.

Oh, disaster. Some confusion had occurred, she had misread a date in the Tour Book, and the Magic Cave ceremonies were over! She took it bravely, I must admitand, when we discovered there was in jurortish Wace a summer theatre in full swing, we naturally drifted toward it one fair mid-June evening. I really could not tell you the plot of the play we saw. A trivial affair, no doubt, with self-conscious light effects and a mediocre leading lady. The only detail that pleased me was a garland of seven little graces, more or less immobile, prettily painted, barelimbedseven bemused pubescent girls in colored gauze that had been recruited locally (judging by the partisan flurry here and there among the audience) and were supposed to represent a living rainbow, which lingered throughout the last act, and rather teasingly faded behind a series of multiplied veils. I remember thinking that this idea of children-colors had been lifted by authors Clare Quilty and Vivian Darkbloom from a passage in James Joyce, and that two of the colors were quite exasperatingly lovely Orange who kept fidgeting all the time, and Emerald who, when her eyes got used to the pitch-black pit where we all heavily sat, suddenly smiled at her mother or her protector. (2.18)

 

The idea of children-colors had been lifted by authors Clare Quilty and Vivian Darkbloom from a passage in Finnegans Wake. Emerald brings to mind Gerald Emerald (a young instructor at Wordsmith University who gives Gradus a lift to Kinbote's house in New Wye).

 

A little earlier Lolita draws Humbert’s attention to the three nines changing into the next thousand in the odometer:

 

“If he’s really a cop,” she said shrilly but not illogically, “the worst thing we could do, would be to show him we are scared. Ignore him, Dad.”
“Did he ask where we were going?”
“Oh, he knows that” (mocking me).
“Anyway,” I said, giving up, “I have seen his face now. He is not pretty. He looks exactly like a relative of mine called Trapp.”
“Perhaps he is Trapp. If I were you - Oh, look, all the nines are changing into the next thousand. When I was a little kid,” she continued unexpectedly, “I used to think they’d stop and go back to nines, if only my mother agreed to put the car in reverse.”

It was the first time, I think, she spoke spontaneously of her pre-Humbertian childhood; perhaps, the theatre had taught her that trick; and silently we traveled on, unpursued. (2.18)

 

Shade’s almost finished poem consists of 999 lines. Kinbote believes that, to be completed, Shade's poem needs but one line (Line 1000, identical to Line 1: “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain”). But it seems that, like some sonnets, Shade's poem also needs a coda (Line 1001: “By its own double in the windowpane”). By tracking down and murdering Quilty (who resembles Humbert’s uncle Trapp and who abducts Lolita in Elphinstone), Humbert Humbert kills his own double. Dvoynik ("The Double") is a short novel (1846) by Dostoevski and a poem (1909) by Alexander Blok. In the Russian Lolita Vivian Darkbloom (Quilty's coauthor, the author of My Cue) becomes Vivian Damor-Blok. In Lolita Humbert mentions a Dostoevskian grin and quotes two lines from Canto III (CXVI: 5-6) of Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage:

 

After a while I destroyed the letter and went to my room, and ruminated, and rumpled my hair, and modeled my purple robe, and moaned through clenched teeth and suddenlySuddenly, gentlemen of the jury, I felt a Dostoevskian grin dawning (through the very grimace that twisted my lips) like a distant and terrible sun. I imagined (under conditions of new and perfect visibility) all the casual caresses her mother’s husband would be able to lavish on his Lolita. I would hold her against me three times a day, every day. All my troubles would be expelled, I would be a healthy man. “To hold thee lightly on a gentle knee and print on thy soft cheek a parent’s kiss…” Well-read Humbert! (1.17)

 

Lolita is the daughter of Harold Haze and Charlotte Becker. A musical prodigy and an amusing pet, son of Elvina Krummholz (Joseph Lavender's famous sister), Gordon Krummholz brings to mind Catherine Gordon (Byron's mother). According to Kinbote (the author of a book on surnames), Botkin is one who makes bottekins (fancy footwear). When Byron was born, he suffered from lameness and a twisted foot. After May Gray (Byron's nurse) was fired, Byron was put in the care of a "trussmaker to the General hospital", a man named Lavender, in hopes that he could be cured; however, Lavender instead abused the boy and would occasionally use him as a servant. After Byron exposed Lavender as a fool, Gordon took her son to visit Doctor Matthew Baillie in London. They took up residence at Sloane Terrace during the summer of 1799, and there Byron started to receive treatment, such as specially designed boots.

 

Charlotte Becker was the maiden name of Fet's mother. The author of Lastochki ("The Swallows," 1884), Afanasiy Fet married Maria Botkin in 1857. The "real" name of both Sybil Shade (the poet's wife whom Kinbote calls "Sybil Swallow") and Queen Disa (the wife of Charles the Beloved) seems to be Sofia Botkin (born Lastochkin).

 

"Hodinski/Hodyna" hints at Hodasevich (the author of "The Life of Vasiliy Travnikov," 1936, a clever hoax) and at the Hodynka stampede (mentioned by Balmont, a translator of Slovo, in his poem "Our Tsar," 1906). The ice-hole in which Queen Yaruga and Hodinski drowned suggests the festivities in Lazhechnikov's novel Ledyanoy dom ("The House of Ice," 1835).

 

Shade's, Kinbote's and Gradus' birthday is July 5 (while Shade was born in 1898, Kinbote and Gradus were born in 1915). In Hodasevich's story July 6 is Vasiliy Travnikov’s birthday:

 

В то время второй уже год царствовал Павел I. Зная характер этого государя, можно вполне поверить семейному преданию Травниковых, согласно которому ходатайство увенчалось успехом лишь благодаря довольно странному обстоятельству. На докладе статс-секретаря государь собрался уже положить резолюцию отрицательную. Но тут случайно взгляд его упал на дату Васенькина рождения: 6 июля 1785 года. Император Петр III был убит 6 июля 1762-го. Заметив это совпадение, Павел с приметным удовольствием отменил повеление своей матери и повелел "выблядку без фамилии" впредь быть законным сыном дворянина Григория Травникова, прибавив, однако же, на словах: "В память в Бозе почившего родителя моего и не в пример прочим". (Chapter I)

 

The emperor Paul I (who corresponds to Uran the Last) notices the date of Vasenka’s birthday: July 6, 1785. The father of Paul I, the emperor Peter III was assassinated on July 6, 1762. This coincidence makes Paul I cancel his mother’s injunction and declare Vasenka (“a bastard without surname”) a legitimate son of the nobleman Grigoriy Travnikov. Btw., Travnikov (who as a child was attacked by the borzoy dogs) has a wooden foot.

MARYROSS

2 years 8 months ago

So, the "celebrated pastiche" refers to the "Song of Igor's Campaign," which was a collection of Nordic lore garnered from ancient sources (hence "pastiche") by an unknown author. That explains Kinbote's Yaruga and Igor history, but not Hodinski. I'm not sure how "Hodasevich" fits into this. Nabokov translated The Song of Igor into English in 1960. This suggests hints of personal biography in the character of Hodinski, who was a "poet of genius" (an epithet Nabokov generally reserved for few besides himself), and of course, he was known for his scathing wit (jester), and he frequently referred to himself as a "conjurer" or "magician," not to mention that he was an "escape artists" from both Russia and Germany!

Alexey Sklyarenko

2 years 8 months ago

In Pushkin's poem Telega zhizni ("The Cart of Life," 1923) gray-haired Time is the dashing coachman:

 

Хоть тяжело под час в ней бремя,

Телега на ходу легка;

Ямщик лихой, седое время,

Везет, не слезет с облучка.

 

С утра садимся мы в телегу;

Мы рады голову сломать

И, презирая лень и негу,

Кричим: пошел!......

 

Но в полдень нет уж той отваги;

Порастрясло нас; нам страшней

И косогоры и овраги;

Кричим: полегче, дуралей!

 

Катит по прежнему телега;

Под вечер мы привыкли к ней

И дремля едем до ночлега -

А время гонит лошадей.

 

Although her load is sometimes heavy,

The coach moves at an easy pace;

The dashing driver, gray-haired time

Drives on, secure upon his box.

             

At dawn we gaily climb aboard her

We're ready for a crazy ride,

And scorning laziness and languor,

We shout: "Get on, there! Don't delay!'

 

But midday finds our courage wane,

We're shaken now: and at this hour

Hills and ravines inspire dread.

We shout: "Hold on, drive slower, fool!"

 

The coach drives on just as before;

By eve we are used to it,

And doze as we attain our inn.

While Time just drives the horses.

 

In the popular Russian oath (omitted at the end of the second stanza of Pushkin's original) mat' (mother) is mentioned. Ovragi (ravines) in the poem's third stanza bring to mind Queen Yaruga (yaruga is an archaic word for 'ravine'). Pushkin's poem was published by his friend Vyazemski (whose mother was Irish, born O'Reilly). Describing the Night of the Burning Barn (when he and Ada make love for the first time), Van Veen (the narrator and main character in VN’s novel Ada, 1969) mentions telegas:

 

Uncle Dan, a cigar in his teeth, and kerchiefed Marina with Dack in her clutch deriding the watchdogs, were in the process of setting out between raised arms and swinging lanterns in the runabout — as red as a fire engine! — only to be overtaken at the crunching curve of the drive by three English footmen on horseback with three French maids en croupe. The entire domestic staff seemed to be taking off to enjoy the fire (an infrequent event in our damp windless region), using every contraption available or imaginable: telegas, teleseats, roadboats, tandem bicycles and even the clockwork luggage carts with which the stationmaster supplied the family in memory of Erasmus Veen, their inventor. Only the governess (as Ada, not Van, had by then discovered) slept on through everything, snoring with a wheeze and a harkle in the room adjacent to the old nursery where little Lucette lay for a minute awake before running after her dream and jumping into the last furniture van. (1.19)

 

Van does not suspect that Ada has bribed Kim Beauharnais (the kitchen boy and photographer at Ardis) to set the barn on fire. Kim's surname hints at Josephine Beauharnais (Napoleon's first wife). 

 

The precious manuscript of the Slovo perished during the Moscow conflagration of 1812 when Musin's house was burned to the ground. All we possess in the way of basic material is the edition of 1800 and an apograph that in 1795 or 1796 Count Musin-Pushkin had a scribe make from the MS for Empress Catherine II. (from VN's Foreword to his translation of the Slovo)

 

Pushkin is the author of an amusing epigram (1824) on Catherine II (mother of Paul I and a namesake of the Kate character in FW):

 

Мне жаль великия жены,
Жены, которая любила
Все роды славы: дым войны
И дым парнасского кадила.
Мы Прагой ей одолжены,
И просвещеньем, и Тавридой,
И посрамлением Луны,
И мы      прозвать должны
Ее Минервой, Аонидой.
В аллеях Сарского Села
Она с Державиным, с Орловым
Беседы мудрые вела —

                       чай пила
С Делиньем — иногда с Барковым.
Старушка милая жила
Приятно и немного блудно, 
Вольтеру первый друг была,
Наказ писала, флоты жгла,
И умерла, садясь на судно.
С тех пор          мгла.
Россия, бедная держава,
Твоя удавленная слава
С Екатериной умерла.

 

Kinbote completes his work on Shade's poem and commits suicide on Oct. 19, 1959 (the anniversary of Pushkin's Lyceum). There is nadezhda (a hope) that, after Kinbote's death, Botkin, like Count Vorontsov (a target of Pushkin’s epigram, “half-milord, half-merchant, etc.”), will be full again.

 

Re "Hodinski/Hodasevich:" in his poem Ne yambom li chetyryokhstopnym… (“Not with the iambic tetrameter…” 1938) Hodasevich says that the first sound of Lomonosov’s Hotinskaya oda (“The Ode on the Taking of Hotin,” 1739) became our first cry of life:

 

Из памяти изгрызли годы,

За что и кто в Хотине пал,

Но первый звук Хотинской оды

Нам первым криком жизни стал.

 

Hodasevich compares the four rapids of the Russian iambic tetrameter to Derzhavin’s great ode Vodopad (“Waterfall,” 1791):

 

С тех пор в разнообразье строгом,

Как оный славный «Водопад»,

По четырем его порогам

Стихи российские кипят.

 

In his MS article Pesn’ o polku Igoreve (“The Song of Igor’s Campaign,” 1836) Pushkin (who did not question the authenticity of Slovo) says that neither Karamzin, nor Derzhavin, nor Lomonosov (the three most talented authors of the 18th century) could have forged the ancient text of Slovo:

 

Других доказательств нет, как слова самого песнотворца. Подлинность же самой песни доказывается духом древности, под который невозможно подделаться. Кто из наших писателей в 18 веке мог иметь на то довольно таланта? Карамзин? но Карамзин не поэт. Державин? но Державин не знал и русского языка, не только языка «Песни о полу Игореве». Прочие не имели все вместе столько поэзии, сколь находится оной в плаче Ярославны, в описании битвы и бегства. Кому пришло бы в голову взять в предмет песни темный поход неизвестного князя? Кто с таким искусством мог затмить некоторые места из своей песни словами, открытыми впоследствии в старых летописях или отысканными в других славянских наречиях, где еще сохранились они во всей свежести употребления? Это предполагало бы знание всех наречий славянских. Положим, он ими бы и обладал, неужто таковая смесь естественна? Гомер, если и существовал, искажен рапсодами.

Ломоносов жил не в XII столетии. Ломоносова оды писаны на русском языке с примесью некоторых выражений, взятых им из Библии, которая лежала пред ним. Но в Ломоносове вы не найдете ни польских, ни сербских, ни иллирийских, ни болгарских, ни богемских, ни молдавских и других наречий славянских.

 

Hodinski was Queen Yaruga’s court jester. In his article Puteshestvie iz Moskvy v Peterburg (“The Journey from Moscow to Petersburg,” 1833-35) Pushkin quotes the words of Lomonosov from his letter to Count Shuvalov (a patron of arts and sciences):

 

Я, ваше высокопревосходительство, не только у вельмож, но ниже Господа моего Бога дураком быть не хочу.

Your Excellency, I do not want to be not only the grandees’, but even my God the Lord’s fool.

 

Lomonosov’s Pis’mo o pol’ze stekla (“Letter on the Use of Glass,” 1752) is addressed to Shuvalov (who is mentioned in the poem’s first line):

 

Неправо о вещах те думают, Шувалов,
Которые Стекло чтут ниже Минералов...

 

According to Kinbote, Gradus never became a real success in the glass business:

 

Gradus never became a real success in the glass business to which he turned again and again between his wine-selling and pamphlet printing jobs. He started as a maker of Cartesian devils--imps of bottle glass bobbing up and down in methylate-filled tubes hawked during Catkin Week on the boulevards. He also worked as a teazer, and later as a flasher, at governmental factories--and was, I believe, more or less responsible for the remarkably ugly red-and-amber windows in the great public lavatory at rowdy but colorful Kalixhaven where the sailors are. He claimed to have improved the glitter and rattle of the so-called feuilles-d'alarme used by the grape growers and orchardmen to scare the birds. I have staggered the notes referring to him in such a fashion that the first (see note to line 17 where some of his other activities are adumbrated) is the vaguest while those that follow become gradually clearer as gradual Gradus approaches in space and time. (note to Line 171)

 

In his Commentary and Index Kinbote mentions Sudarg of Bokay (Jakob Gradus in reverse), a mirror maker of genius:

 

He awoke to find her standing with a comb in her hand before his - or rather, his grandfather's - cheval glass, a triptych of bottomless light, a really fantastic mirror, signed with a diamond by its maker, Sudarg of Bokay. She turned about before it: a secret device of reflection gathered an infinite number of nudes in its depths, garlands of girls in graceful and sorrowful groups, diminishing in the limpid distance, or breaking into individual nymphs, some of whom, she murmured, must resemble her ancestors when they were young – little peasant garlien combing their hair in shallow water as far as the eye could reach, and then the wistful mermaid from an old tale, and then nothing. (note to Line 80)

 

Sudarg of Bokay, a mirror maker of genius, the patron saint of Bokay in the mountains of Zembla, 80; life span not known. (Index)

 

In 1798 Hodinski collected the Zemblan variants of the Kongs-skugg-sio (The Royal Mirror), an anonymous masterpiece of the twelfth century:

 

To return to the King: take for instance the question of personal culture. How often is it that kings engage in some special research? Conchologists among them can be counted on the fngers of one maimed hand. The last king of Zembla - partly under the influence of his uncle Conmal, the great translator of Shakespeare (see notes to lines 39 - 40 and 962), had become, despite frequent migraines, passionately addicted to the study of literature. At forty, not long before the collapse of his throne, he had attained such a degree of scholarship that he dared accede to his venerable uncle's raucous dying request: "Teach, Karlik!" Of course, it would have been unseemly for a monarch to appear in the robes of learning at a university lectern and present to rosy youths Finnegans Wake as a monstrous extension of Angus MacDiarmid's "incoherent transactions" and of Southey's Lingo-Grande ("Dear Stumparumper," etc.) or discuss the Zemblan variants, collected in 1798 by Hodinski, of the Kongs-skugg-sio (The Royal Mirror), an anonymous masterpiece of the twelfth century. Therefore he lectured under an assumed name and in a heavy make-up, with wig and false whiskers. All brown-bearded, apple-checked, blue-eyed Zemblans look alike, and I who have not shaved now for a year, resemble my disguised king (see also note to line 894). (note to Line 12) 

 

Also, I notice that Old Father Time (1957) is a song by Joyce Heath (a lovely coincidence).

Alain Champlain

2 years 8 months ago

I don't know this passage all that well, and don't want to wade through all of the above... I can't speculate too much on the Hodasevich-as-Hodinski proposition, but I'd like to at least present some counter-evidence to your (Mary's) argument against (or at least uncertainty of) it, along with a few other notes related to Hodinski.

Quote from Mary: "I'm not sure how "Hodasevich" fits into this. Nabokov translated The Song of Igor into English in 1960. This suggests hints of personal biography in the character of Hodinski, who was a "poet of genius" (an epithet Nabokov generally reserved for few besides himself)[...]"

Re: poet of genius, here's an excerpt from Verses and Versions in which Nabokov introduces Hodasevich:

"This poet, the greatest Russian poet of our time, Pushkin's literary descendant in Tyutchev's line of succession, shall remain the pride of Russian poetry as long as its last memory lives. What makes his genius particularly striking [...]" (p. 336)

(Note: his introduction to Hodasevich has the word 'genius' four times, by my count.)

It does seem both Nabokov and Hodasevich are linked with their 'pastiches' — The Garland Companion to Vladimir Nabokov has this: "The two writers performed together as 'co-conspirators' [...]" I haven't read these texts, but from what I gather, Hodasevich had his The Life of Vasily Travnikov and Nabokov had his Vasiliy Shishkov

If I had to guess, I'd say the passage in question is meant as a parody of Russian lit, that mixes rather than mirrors its history, similar to this passage from LATH:

“In the year of grace 1798, Gavrila Petrovich Kamenev, a gifted young poet, was heard chuckling as he composed his Ossianic pastiche Slovo o polku Igoreve. Somewhere in Abyssinia drunken Rimbaud was reciting to a surprised Russian traveler the poem Le Tramway ivre (… En blouse rouge, à face en pis de vache, le bourreau me trancha la tête aussi…). Or else I’d hear the pressed repeater hiss in a pocket of my brain and tell the time, the rime, the meter that who could dream I’d hear again?” (Penultimate paragraph of Part Seven, 2) (This last phrase, I've noted elsewhere, is from a cancelled line from Eugene Onegin which Nabokov has also used in PF.)

Note: the '1798' from LATH passage above happens to be the same year as this from PF: “[...] or discuss the Zemblan variants, collected in 1798 by Hodinski, of the Kongsskuggsio (The Royal Mirror), an anonymous masterpiece of the twelfth century” (Note to Line 12)

I suggest this Kongsskuggsio is the "celebrated pastiche" (index Hodinski) in question, as well as the "forged [...] famous old Russian chanson de geste, generally attributed to an anonymous bard of the twelfth century." (Note to Line 681)

The art/joke (of the end of the Note to Line 681) is that Hodinski's child, Igor II, is attributed to another father (Uran), just like his book, Kongsskuggsio, is attributed to another author. And so, once we trace the lineage through 681 and the index, we can go back to the Note to Line 12 and see that the king (in disguise) is teaching the work of his great-great-grandfather (doubly disguised).

And Kongsskuggsio is a parody of Konungs skuggsja, a text from circa 1250 (not exactly the twelfth century), in which a king gives advice to his son, the future king. The Kongsskuggsio is written during the reign of "Uran the Last, Emperor of Zembla", a "cruel monarch" (index Uran), and Igor II's real father presumably taught him to be a "wise, benevolent king" unlike his "father" Uran. Despite Charles Xavier teaching this text, he seems not to have understood it properly, since he's shirking his responsibilities as king, and the kingdom is falling apart: at the beginning of Note to Line 12 we're told his reign “(1936-1958) will be remembered by at least a few discerning historians as a peaceful and elegant one," though by the end of the note, he contrasts the palace to his life as a teacher: “How far from this limpid simplicity seemed the palace and the odious Council Chamber with its unsolvable problems and frightened councilors!”

Last tiny note: I wonder whether “Igor’s four hundred favorite catamites, in pink marble” (Index Igor II) are meant as precursors to Xavier's pupils, his "rosy youths" (Note to Line 12).

MARYROSS

2 years 8 months ago

Thank you so much for this, Alain. I know very little about the Russian side of Nabokov's influencers. I was not arguing against Hodasevich, but as you say, the uncertainty of it. You have cleared that up nicely.

What I find fascinating is that it is quite likely that VN had both Houdini and Hodasevich in mind. I find both arguments compelling and I think it is actually typical of VN's allusions to be multi-layered.

Also, I looked up the Hodynka Stampede, which Alexey mentions, and that fits in, too. It was a crowd-crush tragedy that trapped festival-goers in a ravine (yaruga).

According to Kinbote, on his deathbed Conmal (the Zemblan translator of Shakespeare) called his nephew, Charles Xavier Vseslav, "Karlik:"

 

To return to the King: take for instance the question of personal culture. How often is it that kings engage in some special research? Conchologists among them can be counted on the fngers of one maimed hand. The last king of Zembla - partly under the influence of his uncle Conmal, the great translator of Shakespeare (see notes to lines 39 - 40 and 962), had become, despite frequent migraines, passionately addicted to the study of literature. At forty, not long before the collapse of his throne, he had attained such a degree of scholarship that he dared accede to his venerable uncle's raucous dying request: "Teach, Karlik!" Of course, it would have been unseemly for a monarch to appear in the robes of learning at a university lectern and present to rosy youths Finnegans Wake as a monstrous extension of Angus MacDiarmid's "incoherent transactions" and of Southey's Lingo-Grande ("Dear Stumparumper," etc.) or discuss the Zemblan variants, collected in 1798 by Hodinski, of the Kongs-skugg-sio (The Royal Mirror), an anonymous masterpiece of the twelfth century. Therefore he lectured under an assumed name and in a heavy make-up, with wig and false whiskers. All brown-bearded, apple-checked, blue-eyed Zemblans look alike, and I who have not shaved now for a year, resemble my disguised king (see also note to line 894). (note to Line 12)

 

Karlik is Russian for "dwarf." The main character in VN's story Kartofel'nyi el'f ("The Potato Elf," 1929), Fred Dobson is a circus dwarf. The characters in VN's story include the conjuror Shock (a rather unpleasant figure). In his Foreword to Shade’s poem Kinbote mentions a conjuror whom he saw in his uncle’s castle:

 

We never discussed, John Shade and I, any of my personal misfortunes. Our close friendship was on that higher, exclusively intellectual level where one can rest from emotional troubles, not share them. My admiration for him was for me a sort of alpine cure. I experienced a grand sense of wonder whenever I looked at him, especially in the presence of other people, inferior people. This wonder was enhanced by my awareness of their not feeling what I felt, of their not seeing what I saw, of their taking Shade for granted, instead of drenching every nerve, so to speak, in the romance of his presence. Here he is, I would say to myself, that is his head, containing a brain of a different brand than that of the synthetic jellies preserved in the skulls around him. He is looking from the terrace (of Prof. C.'s house on that March evening) at the distant lake. I am looking at him, I am witnessing a unique physiological phenomenon: John Shade perceiving and transforming the world, taking it in and taking it apart, re-combining its elements in the very process of storing them up so as to produce at some unspecified date an organic miracle, a fusion of image and music, a line of verse. And I experienced the same thrill as when in my early boyhood I once watched across the tea table in my uncle's castle a conjurer who had just given a fantastic performance and was now quietly consuming a vanilla ice. I stared at his powdered cheeks, at the magical flower in his buttonhole where it had passed through a succession of different colors and had now become fixed as a white carnation, and especially at his marvelous fluid-looking fingers which could if he chose make his spoon dissolve into a sunbeam by twiddling it, or turn his plate into a dove by tossing it up in the air.

 

Upon unexpectedly returning from a trip to Sweden, Queen Disa (the wife of Charles the Beloved) finds the Palace transformed into a circus:

 

She had recently lost both parents and had no real friend to turn to for explanation and advice when the inevitable rumors reached her; these she was too proud to discuss with her ladies in waiting but she read books, found out all about our manly Zemblan customs, and concealed her naive distress under a great show of sarcastic sophistication. He congratulated her on her attitude, solemnly swearing that he had given up, or at least would give up, the practice of his youth; but everywhere along the road powerful temptations stood at attention. He succumbed to them from time to time, then every other day, then several times daily--especially during the robust regime of Harfar Baron of Shalksbore, a phenomenally endowed young brute (whose family name, "knave's farm," is the most probably derivation of "Shakespeare"). Curdy Buff--as Harfar was nicknamed by his admirers--had a huge escort of acrobats and bareback riders, and the whole affair rather got out of hand so that Disa, upon unexpectedly returning from a trip to Sweden, found the Palace transformed into a circus. He again promised, again fell, and despite the utmost discretion was again caught. At last she removed to the Riviera leaving him to amuse himself with a band of Eton-collared, sweet-voiced minions imported from England. (note to Line 433)

 

The action in The Potato Elf takes place in London and in rural England. Fred Dobson’s colleague, the famous Swiss dwarf Zimmermann, was dubbed “Prince Balthazar:”

 

Было ему двадцать лет от роду, весил он около десяти килограммов, а рост его превышал лишь на несколько сантиметров рост знаменитого швейцарского карлика Циммермана, по прозванию Принц Бальтазар. Как и коллега Циммерман, Фред был отлично сложен, и,-- если бы не морщинки на круглом лбу и вокруг прищуренных глаз, да еще этот общий немного жуткий вид напряженности, словно он крепился, чтобы не расти,-- карлик бы совсем походил на тихого восьмилетнего мальчика. Волосы его цвета влажной соломы были прилизаны и разделены ровной нитью пробора, который шёл как раз посредине головы, чтобы вступить в хитрый договор с макушкой. Ходил Фред легко, держался свободно и недурно танцевал, но первый же антрепренер, занявшийся им, счел нужным отяжелить смешным эпитетом понятие "эльфа", когда взглянул на толстый нос, завещанный карлику его полнокровным озорным отцом.

 

He was twenty, and weighed less than fifty pounds, being only a couple of inches taller than the famous Swiss dwarf, Zimmermann (dubbed “Prince Balthazar”). Like friend Zimmermann, Fred was extremely well built, and had there not been those wrinkles on his round forehead and at the corners of his narrowed eyes, as well as a rather eerie air of tension (as if he were resisting growth), our dwarf would have easily passed for a gentle eight-year-old boy. His hair, the hue of damp straw, was sleeked down and evenly parted by a line which ran up the exact middle of his head to conclude a cunning agreement with its crown. Fred walked lightly, had an easy demeanor, and danced rather well, but his very first manager deemed it wise to weight the notion of “elf” with a comic epithet upon noticing the fat nose inherited by the dwarf from his plethoric and naughty father. (1)

 

According to Kinbote, he nicknamed his black gardener “Balthasar, Prince of Loam:”

 

I am happy to report that soon after Easter my fears disappeared never to return. Into Alphina's or Betty's room another lodger moved, Balthasar, Prince of Loam, as I dubbed him, who with elemental regularity fell asleep at nine and by six in the morning was planting heliotropes (Heliotropium turgenevi). This is the flower whose odor evokes with timeless intensity the dusk, and the garden bench, and a house of painted wood in a distant northern land. (note to Line 62)

 

In VN's novel Dar ("The Gift," 1937) Fyodor describes his first love and mentions a Turgenevian odor of heliotrope in his mistress’s bedroom:

 

По вечерам я провожал её домой. Эти прогулки мне когда-нибудь пригодятся. В её спальне был маленький портрет царской семьи, и пахло по-тургеневски гелиотропом. Я возвращался за-полночь, благо гувернёр уехал в Англию, -- и никогда я не забуду того чувства лёгкости, гордости, восторга и дикого ночного голода (особенно хотелось простокваши с чёрным хлебом), когда я шёл по нашей преданно и даже льстиво шелестевшей аллее к тёмному дому (только у матери -- свет) и слышал лай сторожевых псов.

 

Those walks will come in handy sometime. In her bedroom there was a little picture of the Tsar's family and a Turgenevian odor of heliotrope. I used to return long after midnight (my tutor, fortunately, had gone back to England), and I shall never forget that feeling of lightness, pride, rapture and wild night hunger (I particularly yearned for curds-and-whey with black bread) as I walked along our faithfully and even fawningly soughing avenue toward the dark house (only Mother had a light on) and heard the barking of the watchdogs. (Chapter Three)

 

Among the people who were executed with the family of the last Russian tsar was Dr Evgeniy Botkin. The “real” name of the poet Shade, his commentator Kinbote and his murderer Gradus seems to be Vsevolod Botkin. In The Song of Igor's Campaign Wild Bull Vsevolod is Igor's brother. In lines 631-679 of Slovo Vseslav's fate is recalled.

 

Hodinski seems to have little in common with Garri Gudini ("Harry Houdini" in Russian spelling). The connection between them, if it exists at all, is very subtle.

MARYROSS

2 years 8 months ago

Alain, just to clear this bit up, Uran was not Igor's ostensible father because he was not Yaruga's husband, but her brother. I did a geneology on Kinbote a while back, and it seems there is no reference to Yaruga having a husband, only a lover (Hodinski).  (http://thenabokovian.org/node/50859)

BTW, this genealogy also suggests that Kinbote's ostensible father, Alfin the Vague, may not have been his real father, but Colonel Gusev, who seems to have been having an affaire with Blenda. 

MARYROSS

2 years 8 months ago

correction and apologies, (this becomes so convoluted at times), but Kinbote does intimate that some believed Uran to be the father of Igor (even though he was homosexual and Yaruga's brother):

 

"and most historians believe that Yaruga's only child Igor was not the son of Uran the Last (reigned 1798-1799)"

MARYROSS

2 years 8 months ago

Also, Alain, I hope this doesn’t seem picky, but I needed to get this straight for myself: I seemed to remember that Priscilla Meyer (Find What the Sailor Has Hidden) wrote about the Kongsskuggsio (with that spelling) as a real edda. I looked it up:

 

“The Kongs-skugg-sjo, which does mean Royal (King’s) Mirror in Old Icelandic, is the most important scholastic work of medieval Scandinavia. It was written in Icelandic in the thirteenth century; Kinbote is off by a hundred years, conflating the Scandinavian document with the Song of Igor’s Campaign of the twelfth century.”

 

Apparently Kongsskuggsio and Konungs skuggsja are just different transliterations. The main thing is that, while Kinbote is off by a century, Nabokov certainly was not and intended to conflate it with the Song of Igor’s Campaign, another example of piling on the allusions!