Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024386, Thu, 4 Jul 2013 15:38:58 +0300

Kalikakov & Tornikovski
The name of a Soviet spy in LATH, Kalikakov, seems to hint not only at kalos k'agathos mentioned by Bely in "At the Border of Two Centuries" (see my recent post Tornikovski & Kalikakov) but also at kaki ("the hows", pl. of kak, "how"), Bely's bold neologism used by him in Nachalo veka ("The Beginning of the Century", Chapter Three Raznoboy*, "The Correspondence with Blok"):

лишь узнавши, о чём говорит он, я мог с ним или - согласиться, или - полусогласиться, иль - не согласиться вовсе; и многие мной к нему обращённые "кaки" (как веруешь) - ход коня логики: на "Даму" Блока
my many "hows" (how do you believe? what is your Creed?) to him were a knight move of logic - in response to Blok's Verses about the Beautiful Lady (1904).

Kalos k'agathos means "beautiful-and-good". In Speak, Memory VN reproduces the pastel portrait of his mother by Leon Bakst (the artist who also portrayed Bely and Zinaida Hippius). The portrait hanged in the music room of the Nabokov house in St. Petersburg:

the artist had drawn her face in three-quarter view, wonderfully bringing out its delicate features - the upward sweep of the ash-colored hair (it had grayed when she was in her twenties), the pure curve of the forehead, the dove-blue eyes, the graceful line of the neck. (SM, Chapter Nine, 5)

In Nachalo veka (Chapter Four "The Panopticum Museum", Moscow) Bely mentions S. I. Taneyev's vtorniki (Tuesdays): Скоро уже стали мы посещать его "вторники" (Эллис, я, Батюшков, С. М. Соловьёв). S. I. Taneyev (1856-1915) was a Russian composer, pianist, teacher of composition, music theorist and author. During the summers of 1895 and 1896, Taneyev stayed at Yasnaya Polyana, the home of Leo Tolstoy and his wife Sofia Andreyevna (whose infatuation with Taneyev and his music echoes the story of Tolstoy's "great and penetrating dissection of marital relations" in The Kreutzer Sonata). While vtornik (Tuesday) reminds one of Tornikovski, Yasnaya Polyana brings to mind yasen' (the ash-tree) used by Tornikovski and Kalikakov for their correspondence.

Tornikovski and Kalikakov remind one of Andronnikov and Niagarin, two Soviet 'experts' in VN's Pale Fire (1962):

Under the unshakable but quite erroneous belief that the crown jewels were concealed somewhere in the Palace, the new administration had engaged a couple of foreign experts (see note to line 681) to locate them. The good work had been going on for a month. The two Russians, after practically dismantling the Council Chamber and several other rooms of state, had transferred their activities to that part of the gallery where the huge oils of Eystein had fascinated several generations of Zemblan princes and princesses. While unable to catch a likeness, and therefore wisely limiting himself to a conventional style of complimentary portraiture, Eystein showed himself to be a prodigious master of the trompe l'oeil in the depiction of various objects surrounding his dignified dead models and making them look even deader by contrast to the fallen petal or the polished panel that he rendered with such love and skill. But in some of those portraits Eystein had also resorted to a weird form of trickery: among his decorations of wood or wool, gold or velvet, he would insert one which was really made of the material elsewhere imitated by paint. This device which was apparently meant to enhance the effect of his tactile and tonal values had, however, something ignoble about it and disclosed not only an essential flaw in Eystein's talent, but the basic fact that "reality" is neither the subject nor the object of true art which creates its own special reality having nothing to do with the average "reality" perceived by the communal eye. (Kinbote's note to Line 130)

Niagara, Niagarskiy vodopad (the Niagara Falls) are mentioned several times in Bely's memoirs. Bely suffered from persecution mania (shpionomaniya, as Mandelshtam calls it in his review of Bely's Zapiski chudaka) and was aware of it. As a boy, Bely met Tolstoy (who was a friend of the Bugaev family) several times. Bely's fatal illness was the result of a sunstroke. Solnechnyi udar ("Sunstroke", 1925) is a story by Bunin (who could not stand Bely and Blok and who envied Sirin). Bunin is the author of Gospodin iz San Frantsisko ("The Gentleman from San Francisco", 1915). The story's title brings to mind another Californian city, San Bernardino:

The tree, a blue-flowering ash, whose cortical wound I caught the two "diplomats," Tornikovski and Kalikakov, using for their correspondence, still stands, hardly scarred, on its hilltop above San Bernardino. (LATH, 5.1)

An amusing misprint in my previous post on Kalikakov & Tornikovski: "nest day [Wednesday]" should be "next day..."

*"Lack of Co-ordination"

Alexey Sklyarenko

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com

Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/