NABOKV-L post 0024453, Tue, 6 Aug 2013 03:38:49 +0300

Count Starov in LATH
Nadezhda Gordonovna Starov was the wife of a leytenant Starov (Christian name unimportant), who had served under General Wrangel and now had some office job in the White Cross. I had met him in London recently, as fellow pallbearer at the funeral of the old Count, whose bastard or "adopted nephew" (whatever that meant), he was said to be. (1.11)

When Vadim meets Dora (a friend of Vadim's daughter Bel) in Leningrad, near the monument of Pushkin, she tells him:

"It's a pity A.B. is in Riga till the end of the month. You saw very little of him. Yes, it's a pity, he's a freak and a dear (chudak i dushka) with four nephews in Israel, which sounds, he says, as 'the dramatic persons in a pseudoclassical play.' One of them was my husband. Life gets sometimes very complicated, and the more complicated the happier it should be, one would think, but in reality 'complicated' always means for some reason grust' i toska (sorrow and heartache)." (5.2)

A. B.'s four nephews seem to correspond to the four sons of staraya grafinya (the old Countess) in Pushkin's Queen of Spades:

"What!" said Narumov, "you have a grandmother who knows how to hit upon three lucky cards in succession, and you have never yet succeeded in getting the secret of it out of her?"
"That's the deuce of it!" replied Tomsky: "she had four sons, one of whom was my father; all four were determined gamblers, and yet not to one of them did she ever reveal her secret, although it would not have been a bad thing either for them or for me. (Chapter I)

Like the four sons of Pushkin's old Countess, Vadim's (putative?) father was a gambler (2.5).

Before marrying Vadim, Iris Black had three lovers:

The three lovers (a figure I wrested from her with the fierceness of Pushkin's mad gambler and with even less luck) whom she had had in her teens remained nameless, and therefore spectral; devoid of any individual traits, and therefore identical. (1.10)

According to Iris, Jules (a character in the detective novel never completed by Vadim's first wife) did not make love to Diana Vane:

One afternoon, in March or early April, 1930, she [Iris] peeped into my room and, being admitted, handed me the duplicate of a typewritten sheet, numbered 444. It was, she said, a tentative episode in her interminable tale, which would soon display more deletions than insertions. She was stuck, she said. Diana Vane, an incidental but on the whole nice girl, sojourning in Paris, happened to meet, at a riding school, a strange Frenchman, of Corsican, or perhaps Algerian, origin, passionate, brutal, unbalanced. He mistook Diana--and kept on mistaking her despite her amused remonstrations--for his former sweetheart, also an English girl, whom he had last seen ages ago. We had here, said the author, a sort of hallucination, an obsessive fancy, which Diana, a delightful flirt with a keen sense of humor, allowed Jules to entertain during some twenty riding lessons; but then his attentions grew more realistic, and she stopped seeing him. There had been nothing between them, and yet he simply could not be dissuaded from confusing her with the girl he once had possessed or thought he had, for that girl, too, might well have been only the afterimage of a still earlier romance or remembered delirium. (1.12)

But it seems that one of Iris's three lovers (their number corresponds to Hermann's three cards) whom she knew before her marriage was lieutenant Starov, alias Blagidze, who eventually murders her:

The story that appeared among other faits-divers in the Paris dailies after an investigation by the police--whom Ivor and I contrived to mislead thoroughly--amounted to what follows--I translate: a White Russian, Wladimir Blagidze, alias Starov, who was subject to paroxysms of insanity, ran amuck Friday night in the middle of a calm street, opened fire at random, and after killing with one pistol shot an English tourist Mrs. [name garbled], who chanced to be passing by, blew his brains out beside her.

4 + 3 = 7

That afternoon--a sunny and windy September afternoon--I had decided, with the unaccountable suddenness of genuine inspiration, that 1969-1970 would be my last term at Quirn University. I had, in fact, interrupted my siesta that day to request an immediate interview with the Dean. I thought his secretary sounded a little grumpy on the phone; true, I declined to explain anything beforehand, beyond confiding to her, in an informal bantering manner, that the numeral "7" always reminded me of the flag an explorer sticks in the cranium of the North Pole. (6.1)

"Three, seven, ace," soon drove out of Hermann's mind the thought of the dead Countess. "Three, seven, ace," were perpetually running through his head and continually being repeated by his lips. If he saw a young girl, he would say: "How slender she is! quite like the three of hearts." If anybody asked: "What is the time?" he would reply: "Five minutes to seven." Every stout man that he saw reminded him of the ace. "Three, seven, ace" haunted him in his sleep, and assumed all possible shapes. The threes bloomed before him in the forms of magnificent flowers, the sevens were represented by Gothic portals, and the aces became transformed into gigantic spiders. (The Queen of Spades, chapter 6)

It seems that I was the first to reach the North Pole! Born in 1970, I'm forty three (43), the age of Robert Scott (1868-1912) when he reached the South Pole (see VN's drama Polyus, "The Pole," 1923).

Btw., grust'-toska gnaws Prince Gvidon, the hero of Pushkin's Skazka o tsare Saltane ("The Fairy Tale about Tsar Saltan," 1831) who wants to see his father:

"Грусть-тоска меня съедает,
Одолела молодца:
Видеть я б хотел отца".

I wonder, if Pushkin's old Countess, who is afraid of drowned bodies,* would have enjoyed LATH - the novel in which the drowned bodies of Annette Blagovo (Vadim's second wife) and Ninel Langley (a friend of Annette Blagovo) are never found:

But the prettiest lakeside cottage got swept away, and the drowned bodies of its two occupants were never retrieved. (4.2)?

Note that in Pushkin's Bronze Horseman the drowned bodies of Parasha and her mother are never retrieved either.

"You have glimpsed," he [Oks] added, "the parturition of a new literary review, Prime Numbers; at least they think they are parturiating: actually, they are boozing and gossiping." (2.4)

Chisla ("Numbers") is a literary magazine that appeared in Paris in 1930-34. 3, 7 and 11 (ace) are prime numbers.

In the first week of January, 1822, near Kishinev Pushkin had a pistol duel with Colonel Starov, commander of the Chasseur Regiment.

*"Paul," cried the Countess from behind the screen," send me some new novel, only pray don't let it be one of the present day style."
"What do you mean, grandmother?"
"That is, a novel, in which the hero strangles neither his father nor his mother, and in which there are no drowned bodies. I have a great horror of drowned persons."
"There are no such novels nowadays. Would you like a Russian one?"
"Are there any Russian novels? Send me one, my dear, pray send me one!" (The Queen of Spades, chapter II)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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