Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024388, Tue, 9 Jul 2013 00:34:26 +0300

Oleg Orlov & Ivan Shipogradov in LATH
"Vraiment? And maybe you visited Leningrad merely to chat with a lady in pink under the lilacs? Because, you know, you and your friends are phenomenally naive. The reason Mister (it rhymed with 'Easter' in his foul serpent-mouth) Vetrov was permitted to leave a certain labor camp in Vadim--odd coincidence--so he might fetch his wife, is that he has been cured now of his mystical mania--cured by such nutcrackers, such shrinkers as are absolutely unknown in the philosophy of your Western sharlatany. Oh yes, precious (dragotsennyy) Vadim Vadimovich--"
The swing I dealt old Oleg [Oleg Igorevich Orlov] with the back of my left fist was of quite presentable power, especially if we remember--and I remembered it as Iswung--that our combined ages made 140.
There ensued a pause while I struggled back to my feet (unaccustomed momentum had somehow caused me to fall from my seat).
"Nu, dali v mordu. Nu, tak chtozh?" he muttered (Well, you've given me one in the mug. Well, what does it matter?). Blood blotched the handkerchief he applied to his fat muzhikian nose.
"Nu, dali," he repeated and presently wandered away.
I looked at my knuckles. They were red but intact. I listened to my wristwatch. It ticked like mad. (5.3)

In a good-natured epigram on Vyazemski Baratynski compares his and Pushkin's friend who just published an article against Bulgarin, "Zhukovski. - Pushkin. - About the New Poetics of Fables [O novoy piitike basen]" (1825), to Count Alexey Orlov (1737-1808), a favorite of Catherine II who loved kulachnye boi (fisticuffs) and himself participated in them:

Войной журнальною бесчестит без причины
Он дарования свои.
Не так ли славный вождь и друг Екатерины —
Орлов — еще любил кулачные бои?

In his Razgovor o kritike ("A Talk about Criticism", 1830) Pushkin says that he loves Prince Vyazemski in a squabble with some magazine rowdy as much as he does Count Orlov in the fight with a coachman:

Мне столь же нравится кн. Вяземский в схватке с каким-нибудь журнальным буяном, как и гр. Орлов в бою с ямщиком. Это черты народности.

Alexey Orlov was the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Fleet in the battle of Chesma (1770). In several poems Pushkin mentions the capital of the Ottoman Empire, Istanbul (Constantinople): for instance, in Stamboul is by the giaours now lauded... (according to Chernyshevski, "vulgar drivel"; see The Gift, Chapter Four) and Olegov shchit ("Oleg's shield", 1829):

Когда ко граду Константина
С тобой, воинственный варяг,
Пришла славянская дружина
И развила победы стяг,
Тогда во славу Руси ратной,
Строптиву греку в стыд и страх,
Ты пригвоздил свой щит булатный
На цареградских воротах.

Настали дни вражды кровавой;
Твой путь мы снова обрели.
Но днесь, когда мы вновь со славой
К Стамбулу грозно притекли,
Твой холм потрясся с бранным гулом,
Твой стон ревнивый нас смутил,
И нашу рать перед Стамбулом
Твой старый щит остановил.

Voinstvennyi varyag ("the bellicose Varangian", as Pushkin calls him), Oleg was the first Kievan prince of the Rurik family and the guardian of Igor (who should not be confused with the hero of Slovo). In 907 Oleg attacked the Greeks and nearly took Constantinople. Oleg is also the hero of Pushkin's Pesn' o veshchem Olege ("The Song of Wise Oleg", 1822). In Pushkin's poem Oleg dies of a snake's bite. In Note 31 to Eugene Onegin Pushkin quotes a line from Ancient Russian Poems: "Hlop is used in plain-folk speech instead of hlopanie [clapping] as ship instead of shipenie [hissing]: "he let out a hiss of a snaky sort (Ancient Russian Poems)."

Ship and Tsar'grad (Russain name of Constantinople) bring to mind another character in LATH, the novelist I. A. Shipogradov:

Ivan Shipogradov, eminent novelist and recent Nobel Prize winner, would also be present, radiating talent and charm, and--after a few jiggers of vodka--delighting his intimates with the kind of Russian bawdy tale that depends for its artistry on the rustic gusto and fond respect with which it treats our most private organs. (2.1)

Bazilevs (Gk., basileus, king) being a ruler of the Byzantine Empire (Constantinople was its capital), one is also reminded of Vadim's faithful Zoilus, the critic Basilevski.

Vadim is the unfinished tragedy in verse (1821-22) by Pushkin and the title of the second part of Zhukovski's The Twelve Sleeping Maidens, an Ancient Tale in Two Ballads (1810-17). In Canto Four of Ruslan and Lyudmila (1820) Pushkin parodies Zhukovski's Vadim. (Vadim the Bold was a legendary chieftain of the Ilmen Slavs who led their struggle against Rurik and the Varangians in the 9th century. He is mentioned in the ancient chronicle Povest' vremennykh let.) The first ballad of The Twelve Sleeping Maidens is entitled Gromoboy. The title was borrowed by Zhukovski from Kamenev's story Gromoboy. G. P. Kamenev (the author of the first Russian ballad Gromval, 1804) is mentioned in 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. (7.2)

Ship means also "thorn". O divnoy roze bez shipov... ("About the Wondrous Rose without Thorns...") is a poem by Zhukovski:

О дивной розе без шипов
Давно твердят в стихах и прозе;
Издревле молим мы богов
Открыть нам путь к чудесной розе:
Её в далекой стороне
Цветущею воображаем;
На грозной мыслим вышине,
К которой доступ охраняем
Толпой драконов и духов,
Средь ужасов уединенья —
Таится роза без шипов;
Но то обман воображенья —
Очаровательный цветок
К нам близко! В райский уголок,
Где он в тиши благоухает,
Дракон путей не заграждает:
Его святилище хранит
Богиня-благость с ясным взором,
Приветливость — сестра харит —
С приятным, сладким разговором,
С обворожающим лицом —
И скромное Благотворенье
С тем очарованным жезлом,
Которого прикосновенье
Велит сквозь слёз сиять очам
И сжатым горестью устам
Улыбку счастья возвращает.
Там невидимкой расцветает
Созданье лучшее богов —
Святая Роза без шипов.

V. A. Zhukovski was the son of A. I. Bunin and his Turkish housekeeper Salha. I. A. Shipogradov = I. A. Bunin (1870-1953), the writer who won the Nobel Prize in 1933. Boginya Blagost' (Divine Beneficence) and skromnoe Blagotvorenie (modest Benevolence) mentioned in the above poem remind one of Annette Blagovo (Vadim's second wife, the mother of his beloved daughter Bel; btw., Anna means blagodat', "grace") and Mme de Blagidze (the mother of Lieutenant Starov, alias Blagidze, Iris Black's murderer?). Ocharovannyi zhezl (the enchanted rod) in the hands of Benevolence is also suggestive of LATH.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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