Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024412, Tue, 16 Jul 2013 14:04:58 -0700

Re: Time & Crimea in Ada
By a strange coincidence, Alexey's post recalls two words I overheard two Russian ladies use many years ago. I was just starting to study Russian and there were very few emigres in Los Angeles at that time. I had gone to see Clifton Webb in "Stars and Stripes Forever" at a small theater (The Vagabond) that used to reside across the street from the old Paramount Studios near Melrose and Van Ness in Hollywood. 

It was Webb's birthday and the proprietor, a baletomane judging by the wall decorations which included a slipper worn and autographed by Pavlova, had roped off two rows of seats in the center of the theater (for Mr Webb and his guests, he later told me when I asked about it). I found another seat and was almost alone in the theater except for two Russian speaking ladies who were sitting behind me and well within earshot. I tuned into their conversation trying to make out a word here and there. One of them was reading something by "Tolstoyevsky" which I found hilarious. Then the second film, "San Francisco" with Jeanette Macdonald, began and they piped down. But when the earthquake struck they got very excited and one said to the other "nu chto, nu chto eto?" [what is it?] and the other, not being able to come up with the word right away "eto, eto -- eto earthquake!" 

Of course I went home and looked up how to say earthquake in Russian. I shall never forget that word -- zemlyatryasenie.


From: Alexey Sklyarenko <skylark1970@MAIL.RU>
Sent: Tuesday, July 16, 2013 3:45 AM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] Time & Crimea in Ada

At the beginning of Texture of Time (Part Four of Ada) Van says that his consciousness was awakened by an
My first recollection goes back to mid-July,
1870, i.e., my seventh month of life (with most people, of course, retentive
consciousness starts somewhat later, at three or four years of age) when, one
morning, in our Riviera villa, a chunk of green plaster ornament, dislodged from
the ceiling by an earthquake, crashed into my cradle.
In Ilf and Petrov's "The Twelve
Chairs" Bender and Vorob'yaninov nearly die in the disastrous Crimean
earthquake of 1927:
It was fourteen minutes past midnight. This was the first
shock of the great Crimean earthquake of 1927.
A severe earthquake, wreaking untold disaster throughout the
peninsula, had plucked the treasure from the hands of the concessionaires.
(Chapter 39, "The Earthquake")
A moment before the earthquake's first shock Bender says
of the eleventh chair:
"There it is! There is our past, present and
future. Light a match, Pussy, and I'll open it up."
Like ten previous chairs rummaged by the diamond hunters,
this one proves empty.
According to Van (who refuses to grant the future the status
of Time), future does not exist.
Van's rival Percy de Prey perishes in the Crimean War (1.42).
As a young man, Tolstoy (the author of "The Sebastopol Stories",
1855) participated in the heroic defence of Sebastopol. Ilf and Petrov's
joint pen name was Fyodor Tolstoevski. It also hints at Dostoevski, the author
of Crime and Punishment (1867). Crimea Capitulates and Crime Copulate Bessarmenia are the newspaper articles
read by Demon and James Jones, respectively, in the Goodson
Airport (2.1).
Btw., Dostoevski was a friend of the poet Sluchevski
(1837-1904), the author of Zemletryasenie ("The Earthquake"), the
dramatic scenes. The action in them takes place in South Italy, on the
Mediterranian coast, in the 16th century.
In his Lectures on Russian Literature VN speaks of
Time in Tolstoy's novels: according to VN, the chronology of Anna
Karenin is based on Tolstoy’s unique sense of literary timing.
Alexey Sklyarenko
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