Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024482, Fri, 16 Aug 2013 03:24:50 +0300

irises in LATH
I met the first of my three or four successive wives in somewhat odd circumstances, the development of which resembled a clumsy conspiracy, with nonsensical details and a main plotter who not only knew nothing of its real object but insisted on making inept moves that seemed to preclude the slightest possibility of success. (1.1)

Vadim's first wife is Iris Black. In his Second ("Dramatical") Symphony (1901) Andrey Bely mentions irises:

Это ей рассказала безумная заря, хохоча до упаду, и сказка рыдала над разбросанными ирисами.
The crazy dawn, laughing ecstatically, told this to her, and the fairy tale sobbed over the scattered irises. (Part II)

In his Symphony Bely makes a little apple tree (yablon'ka) shed its white fragrant blossom on a black nun:

И обсыпала яблонька чёрную монашку белыми, душистыми цветами. (ibid.)

In a letter of January 3,* 1903, to Bely (it was the first of Alexander Blok's letters to Boris Bugaev with whom he was not yet acquainted) Blok speaks of the black nun strewn with white apple blossom in Bely's genial'naya ("great") Symphony and stresses the difference between Isis (Izida) and Deva raduzhnykh vorot (The Girl of Iridescent Gate, a gnostic term used by V. Solov'yov). Blok also confesses that he has absolutely no ear for music.

Vadim's Russian pen name that he drops after Iris's death is V. Irisin: All I did finally was drop my pen name, the rather cloying and somehow misleading "V. Irisin" (of which my Iris herself used to say that it sounded as if I were a villa), and revert to my own family name. (2.5)

I suspect that Vadim's family name (never mentioned in LATH) is Yablonsky. Btw., in Transparent Things Armande's mother, the owner of Villa Nastya, tells Hugh Person that Diablonnet (where R. lives) reminds her of yabloni (apple trees): "Diablonnet always reminds me of the Russian for 'apple trees': yabloni. He has a nice house?" (chapter 12)

*If I'm not mistaken, January 3 is the birthday of Lyubov' Dmitrievna Mendeleev whom Blok married in August, 1903. Bely, whom Blok had asked to the bride's best man (shafer) at his wedding, later fell in love with Blok's wife. To Bely she was zhena, oblechyonnaya v solntse (woman clothed with the sun).

On 23 April (Vadim's birthday?), 1930, Iris Black is assassinated by one of her former lovers (a White Russian, Wladimir Blagidze, alias Starov, 1.13). Slaughter in the Sun is the English title of Vadim's novel Camera Lucida (1931).

Vadim's first novel is Tamara (1925). When VN first met Tamara, she was fifteen and he was a year older (Speak, Memory, Chapter Twelve, 1). 15 + 16 = 31. If Vadim shares with VN his birthday, he turns thirty one on April 23, 1930. Btw., Bely's father Nilolay Bugaev was a distinguished professor of mathematics. To quote Hodasevich's memoir essay on Bely:

Меня ещё и на свете не было, когда в Москве, на Пречистенском бульваре, с гувернанткой и пёсиком, стал являться необыкновенно хорошенький мальчик — Боря Бугаев, сын профессора математики, известного Европе учёными трудами, московским студентам — феноменальной рассеянностью и анекдотическими чудачествами, а первоклассникам-гимназистам — учебником арифметики, по которому я и сам учился впоследствии.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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