Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024396, Fri, 12 Jul 2013 00:53:14 +0300

Shipogradov & Bronze Horseman in LATH
Many readers of LATH recognize in I. A. Shipogradov, "eminent novelist and recent Nobel Prize winner," I. A. Bunin. In his speech Missiya Russkoy Emigratsii ("The Mission of Russian Emigration") delivered on March 29, 1924, in Paris and published on April 3 by the Berlin newspaper Rul' (Rudder) Bunin angrily mentions the recent renaming of Petrograd (grad svyatogo Petra, "the city of Saint Peter," as Bunin calls it) into Leningrad:

И если всё это соединить в одно – и эту матерщину, и шестилетнюю державу бешеного, и хитрого маньяка, и его высовывающийся язык, и его красный гроб, и то, что Эйфелева башня принимает радио о похоронах уже не просто Ленина, а нового Демиурга, и о том, что Град Святого Петра переименовывается в Ленинград, то охватывает поистине библейский страх не только за Россию, но и за Европу...

Ship means "thorn"; but is also used instead of shipenie (hissing). In Note 31 to Eugene Onegin Pushkin quotes a line from Ancient Russian Poems: on pustil ship po-zmeinomu (he let out a hiss of a snaky sort). Mgnovenno proshipevshaya zmeya (the instantaneously hissed snake) is mentioned by Pushkin in Domik v Kolomne ("The Small Cottage in Kolomna", 1830):

Тогда блажен, кто крепко словом правит
И держит мысль на привязи свою,
Кто в сердце усыпляет или давит
Мгновенно прошипевшую змию

Then blessed is he who firmly governs his word
and keeps his thought at bay,
who puts to sleep or tramples the snake
that hissed instantaneously in his heart (XII, 1-4).

Just as "The Small Cottage in Kolomna", Mednyi vsadnik ("The Bronze Horseman", 1833) belongs to Pushkin's Peterburgskie povesti (St. Petersburg Tales). The horse of Falconet's equestrian statue of Peter I (the Bronze Horseman) tramples a serpent (variously interpreted to represent treachery, evil or the enemies of Peter and his reforms). In LATH (2.4), the "Bronze Horseman" is a publishing house that brings out Vadim's and Boris Morozov's books.

Note Oleg Orlov's "serpent-mouth": 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. (5.3)

While Orlov brings to mind Orlovius, a character in VN's Despair (1932), Karl Vetrov is a namesake of Karl XII (King of Sweden who opposed Peter I in the Northern War, 1700-21). On the other hand, "Mister" Vetrov's first name corresponds to the patronymic of Despair's main character and narrator, Hermann Karlovich. The latter reminds one of Hermann (in the present case, a surname and accented on the second syllable), the hero of Pushkin's Pikovaya dama ("The Queen of Spades", 1833), a story that also belongs to the so-called St. Petersburg Tales (see Hodasevich's article Peterburgskie povesti Pushkina, 1914).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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