Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024384, Wed, 3 Jul 2013 15:13:16 +0300

royal harlequin
The scion of a princely family devoted to a gallery of a dozen Tsars, my father resided on the idyllic outskirts of history. (LATH, 2.5)

At least one of the Tsars to whom Vadim's ancestors were devoted was an harlequin:

Напрасно видишь тут ошибку:
Рука искусства навела
На мрамор этих уст улыбку,
А гнев на хладный лоск чела.
Недаром лик сей двуязычен.
Таков и был сей властелин:
К противочувствиям привычен,
В лице и в жизни арлекин.

(Pushkin, K byustu zavoevatelya, "To the Bust of a Conquerer", 1828-29. According to the poet, the tsar Alexander I, whose bust was made by Thorvaldsen, was an harlequin in his face and in his life.)

Speaking of Fonfizin (the author of Nedorosl', "The Minor"): in his EO Commentary (vol. II, p. 82) VN misspels the title of Fonfizin's fable Lisitsa kaznodey ("Fox the Preacher", 1774; kazan', kazanie means in some dialects "sermon") as Lisitsa koznodey (most editions of Fonfizin's Works have it wrong!) mistranslating it (in the Index) as Reynard the Schemer. Even VN nods (I notice that Dahl in his Dictionary makes the same mistake). Btw., Pushkin is the author of Ten' Fonfizina ("Fonvizin's Shade", 1815), a satirical poem quoted by VN in EO Commentary (vol. III, p. 141).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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