Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024557, Sat, 7 Sep 2013 13:46:33 +0300

Medor in LATH
Iris to Vadim: "You make it sound rather creepy. And I want to add something. Among the blackberries, Ivor and I discovered a crooked old tombstone with the inscription Dors, Medor! and only the date of death, 1889; a found dog, no doubt. It's just before the last tree on the left side." (1.8)

In one of her poems Vadim's daughter Bel mentions Medor, a dead dog:

There is a hollow of dimness again in the sequence, but it must have been soon after that, in the same motor court, or in the next, on the way home, that she [Vadim's daughter Bel] slipped into my room at dawn, and sat down on my bed--move your legs--in her pyjama top to read me another poem:

In the dark basement, I stroked
the silky head of a wolf.
When the light returned
and all cried: "Ah!,"
it turned out to be only
Medor, a dead dog. (3.3)

In Ariosto's Orlando furioso (1532) Medor is a lover of Angelica. Here are stanzas 106-109 of the poem's Canto XXIII, in which the hero finds the names of Medor and Angelica carved on the trees and written with chalk or charcoal on the stones, as well as Medor's Arabic verses, in Pushkin's translation (1826):

Кривой, бродящей павиликой
Завешен был тенистый вход.
Медор с прелестной Анджеликой
Любили здесь у свежих вод
В день жаркой, в тихой час досуга
Дышать в объятиях друг друга,
И здесь их имена кругом
Древа и камни сохраняли;
Их мелом, углем иль ножом
Везде счастливцы написали.

Туда пешком печальный граф
Идёт и над пещерой тёмной
Зрит надпись - в похвалу забав
Медор ее рукою томной
В те дни стихами начертал;
Стихи, чувств нежных вдохновенье,
Он по-арабски написал,
И вот их точное значенье:

"Цветы, луга, ручей живой,
Счастливый грот, прохладны тени,
Приют любви, забав и лени,
Где с Анджеликой молодой,
С прелестной дщерью Галафрона,
Любимой многими - порой
Я знал утехи Купидона.
Чем, бедный, вас я награжу?
Столь часто вами охраненный,
Одним лишь только услужу -
Хвалой и просьбою смиренной.

Господ любовников молю,
Дам, рыцарей и всевозможных
Пришельцев, здешних иль дорожных,
Которых в сторону сию
Фортуна заведёт случайно,-
На воды, луг, на тень и лес
Зовите благодать небес,
Чтоб нимфы их любили тайно,
Чтоб пастухи к ним никогда
Не гнали жадные стада".

Spying had been my clystere de Tchekhov even before I married Iris Black whose later passion for working on an interminable detective tale had been sparked by this or that hint I must have dropped, like a passing bird's lustrous feather, in relation to my experience in the vast and misty field of the Service. In my little way I have been of some help to my betters. The tree, a blue-flowering ash, whose cortical wound I caught the two "diplomats," Tornikovski and Kalikakov, using for their correspondence, still stands, hardly scarred, on its hilltop above San Bernardino. (5.1)

Andzhelika (Angelica) and Kalikakov both have Lika in them. Chekhov first met Lika Mizinov even before he went to Sakhalin (April, 1890). Chekhov is the author of Kashtanka (1887), a dog story, and Belolobyi (1895), a story about the wolf pup. Box II, a dachshund of the Nabokovs, was a grandson of Dr. Chekhov's Quina and Brom (Speak, Memory, pp. 39-40).

Bel must have stroked the silky head of Medor in the basement of her grandmother's house in Carnavaux, the former Villa Iris in the French Riviera. Bel's mother, Annette Blagovo, is a namesake of Anyuta Blagovo, a character in Chekhov's story My Life (1986). In the late 1890s Chekhov spent several winters in Nice. VN's story Lik (1939) "reflects the miragy Riviera surroundings among which I composed ot and attempts to create the impression of a stage performance engulfing a neurotic performer, though not qquite in the way that the trapped actor expected when dreaming of such an experience" (V.N., Tyrants Destroyed and Other Stories, 1975). Igor, a young Russian whom Lik plays in a stage version of Suire's play L'Abime, falls in love with Anzhelika (Angelique).

Anton Chekhov's brother Nikolay, the painter, died in 1889 (the year of Medor's death). The writer's nephew Mikhail Chekhov (son of his brother Alexander) was a famous actor and director (1891-1952) who played Hamlet and Khlestakov. In his review of Mikhail Chekhov's stage version of Gogol's Inspector, Po povodu "Revizora" (Apropos of "The Inspector", Vozrozhdenie, February 12, 1935), Hodasevich writes:

В беседе с сотрудником нашей газеты М. А. Чехов сказал, что трактует Хле­стакова как «сон», приснившийся городничему.
(According to M. A. Chekhov, Khlestakov is but a dream of the Town Mayor.)

Some time during the Easter Term of my last Cambridge year (1922) I happened to be consulted, "as a Russian," on certain niceties of make-up in an English version of Gogol's Inspector which the Glowworm Group, directed by Ivor Black, a fine amateur actor, intended to stage... Ivor Black wanted Gogol's Town Mayor to wear a dressing gown because "wasn't it merely the old rascal's nightmare and didn't Revizor, its Russian title, actually come from the French for 'dream,' reve?" (1.1)

Gogol's Town Major is mentioned elsewhere in LATH:

"Well, I seem to have goofed again (opyat' oskandalisya)," observed Oks, after taking quite a minute to find his handkerchief, blow his nose with the grandiose deliberation of Varlamov in the role of Gogol's Town Mayor, wrap up the result, and pocket the swaddle. (2.4)

Hodasevich criticized Mikhail Chekhov's stage version of Shakespeare's Hamlet:

Чехов делает именно эту ошибку. Он играет галлюцината и по меньшей мере меланхолика, играет с большим умением, с изяществом, даже с психологической тонкостью - но всё это пропадает даром. Его Гамлет есть Гамлет, разжалованный из страдающего философа и героя в бедного и больного юношу, довольно нелюбопытного и произносящего порой слова чьи-то чужие, вовсе к нему не идущие слова. (In Mikhail Chekhov's interpretation Hamlet is mad.)

Hamlet Godman is a character in Vadim's novel See under Real (1939):

An English novelist, a brilliant and unique performer, was supposed to have recently died. The story of his life was being knocked together by the uninformed, coarse-minded, malevolent Hamlet Godman, an Oxonian Dane, who found in this grotesque task a Kovalevskian "outlet" for the literary flops that his proper mediocrity fully deserved. The biography was being edited, rather unfortunately for its reckless concocter, by the indignant brother of the dead novelist. (2.10)

See under Real corresponds to VN's novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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