Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024543, Tue, 3 Sep 2013 13:56:31 +0300

Vadim's real name in LATH
Ivor said that if ever we wanted to sell Villa Iris he knew someone who would snap it up any time. Iris, he said, knew him too: David Geller, the actor. "He was (turning to me) her first beau before you blundered in. She must still have somewhere that photo of him and me in Troilus and Cressida ten years ago. He's Helen of Troy in it. I'm Cressida." (1.13)

"Shall I grow a beard to cross the frontier?" muses homesick General Gurko in Chapter Six of Esmeralda and Her Parandrus.
"Better than none," said Harley Q., one of my gayest advisers. "But," he added, "do it before we glue on and stamp O.B.'s picture and don't lose weight afterwards." So I grew it--during the atrocious heartracking wait for the room I could not mock up and the visa I could not forge. It was an ample Victorian affair, of a nice, rough, tawny shade threaded with silver. It reached up to my apple-red cheekbones and came down to my waistcoat, commingling on the way with my lateral yellow-gray locks. Special contact lenses not only gave another, dumbfounded, expression to my eyes, but somehow changed their very shape from squarish leonine, to round Jovian. Only upon my return did I notice that the old tailor-made trousers, on me and in my bag, displayed my real name on the inside of the waistband. (5.1)

Vadim's real name displayed by his old trousers must be Yablonski.* It comes from yablonya (apple tree). In the Judgement of Paris, Paris awarded the apple ("the apple of discord") to Aphrodite, the love goddess who had offered him the world's most beautiful woman, Helen (Helen of Troy).

Gurko hints at Krug (Adam Krug, the main character in Bend Sinister). Gurke is German for "cucumber" and krug is Russian for "circle" (and German for "mug"). Kruglyi means "round." Krug's wife Olga brings to mind Vadim's novel Dr. Olga Repnin (btw., repa is Russian for "turnip"). Esmeralda is a butterfly (see VN's poem Lines Written in Oregon, 1953). Bend Sinister ends in the sentence: A good night for mothing.

I thought I had crossed the frontier when a bare-headed Red Army soldier with a Mongol face who was picking whortleberries near the trail challenged me: "And whither," he asked picking up his cap from a stump, "may you be rolling (kotishsya), little apple (yablochko)? Pokazyvay-ka dokumentiki (Let me see your papers)." (1.2)

Pnin comes from pen' (stump). Of course, the historical Pnin (Ivan Petrovich Pnin, 1773-1805, the author of On the Death of Radishchev whose early death was mourned by Batyushkov in his poem On the Death of Pnin) was the illegitimate son of Repnin (Prince Nikolay Vasilievich Repnin, 1734-1801).

*Let us suppose my real name to have been "Oblonsky" (a Tolstoyan invention); then the false one would be, for example, the mimetic "O. B. Long," an oblong blursky, so to speak. This I could expand into, say, Oberon Bernard Long, of Dublin or Dumberton, and live with it for years on five or six continents. (5.1)
In Shakespeare's play A Midsummer Night's Dream Oberon is Consort to Titania, Queen of the Fairies.

Many thanks to Sam Schuman!

Alexey Sklyarenko
----- Original Message -----
From: Samuel Schuman
Sent: Monday, September 02, 2013 6:29 PM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] Esmeralda and Her Parandrus in LATH

In the list of "Other Books by the Narrator" in LATH, under "In English" are several easily identifiable reflections of VN titles, with dates. These are: "See under Real, 1939" (The Real Life of Seb. Knight); then "Esmeralda and Her Parandrus, 1941"; "Dr. Olga Repnin, 1946" (Pnin); "Exile from Mayda, 1947" (Pale Fire); "A Kingdom by the Sea, 1962" (Lolita); and "Ardis, 1970" (Ada).

In terms of the order of composition, "Esmeralda and her Parandrus" should be "Bend Sinister." I think it is. Esmeralda is the gypsy maiden heroine of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame;" a "Parandrus" is a mythical beast, capable of changing the color of its coat. In some ways, the naive but good-hearted Esmeralda, who comes to a bad end, is like Krug; Paduk is bestial and changeable.

I am also interested in this book as a reference to Shakespeare's "Troilus and Cressida." "Parandrus" is very close to "Pandarus" (that's actually how I read it the first time through!). This possible reading is strengthened by several other "T and C" references in the novel, and by the fact that (p. 138) the title is mistaken for "Emerald and the Pander."

Does this reading make sense to other Nabokovians?

Dr. Samuel Schuman
828 258-3621
559 Chunns Cove Rd. Asheville, NC 28805

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