NABOKV-L post 0024571, Wed, 11 Sep 2013 16:45:59 +0300

Valley Blondies, Blagidze et al. in LATH
Vadim's first wife, Iris Black, mispronounces the title of his Russian poem, Vlyublyonnost' (Being in Love, 1922), as "Valley Blondies":

"I now have reread your "Valley Blondies" (vlyublyonnost') a hundred times, both the English for the matter and the Russian for the music. I think it's an absolutely divine piece." (1.6)

Chekhov's friend and correspondent Lika Mizinov was a pretty blonde. In a letter of August 13, 1893, to Lika Chekhov calls her milaya blondinochka (dear blondie) and invites her to Melikhovo: Приезжайте, милая блондиночка, поговорим, поссоримся, помиримся; мне без Вас скучно, и я дал бы пять рублей за возможность поговорить с Вами хотя бы в продолжение пяти минут... Прите к нам, хорошенькая Лика, и спойте. (Do visit us, pretty Lika, and sing for us.) Trying to tempt her, Chekhov tells Lika that yabloki (apples) in his garden have ripened: У нас поспели яблоки.

In his letters of August 12, 1888, to Kazimir Barantsevich and Nikolay Leykin Chekhov says that he was enchanted with the Georgian Military Road:

"I have never in my life seen anything like it. It is not a road, but unbroken poetry, a wonderful, fantastic story written by Demon in love with Tamara."

Demon was the society nickname of Vadim's father (2.5), and Tamara is the title of Vadim's first novel. In his old age Vadim after an illness forgets his surname and remembers it only with difficulty:

Yes, I definitely felt my family name began with an N and bore an odious resemblance to the surname or pseudonym of a presumably notorious (Notorov? No) Bulgarian, or Babylonian, or, maybe, Betelgeusian writer with whom scatterbrained emigres from some other galaxy constantly confused me; but whether it was somethingon the lines of Nebesnyy or Nabedrin or Nablidze (Nablidze? Funny) I simply could not tell. I preferred not to overtax my willpower (go away, Naborcroft) and so gave up trying--or perhaps it began with a B and the n just clung to it like some desperate parasite? (Bonidze? Blonsky?--No, that belonged to the BINT business.) Did I have some princely Caucasian blood? Why had allusions to a Mr. Nabarro, a British politician, cropped up among the clippings I received from England concerning the London edition of A Kingdom by the Sea (lovely lilting title)? Why did Ivor call me "MacNab"? (7.3)

Nablidze and Bonidze are Georgian surnames. Vadim wonders if he had some princely Caucasian blood. Iris Black is murdered by Wladimir Blagidze,* alias Starov (1.13). Vadim's benefactor (and real father?), old Count Starov (an admirer of Vadim's beautiful mother) has a portrait of Mme de Blagidze:

Miss Vrode-Vorodin, the elderly cousin who kept house for him [Count Starov], made a timely entrance and led Iris to an adjacent alcove (illuminated by a resplendent portrait by Serov, 1896, of the notorious beauty, Mme. de Blagidze, in Caucasian costume) for a nice cup of tea. (1.10)

Count Starov brings to mind staraya grafinya (old Countess), a character in Pushkin's story Pikovaya dama (The Queen of Spades, 1833). Pushkin is the author of two "Georgian" poems:

Не пой, красавица, при мне
Ты песен Грузии печальной:
Напоминают мне оне
Другую жизнь и берег дальный...

My beauty, do not sing in my presence
The songs of sad Georgia:
They remind me
of other life and distant shores...


На холмах Грузии лежит ночная мгла...
The hills of Georgia are covered by the night gloom...

In his poem Kavkaz (The Caucasus, 1829) Pushkin mentions oryol (eagle) hovering evenly with him:

Орёл, с отдалённой поднявшись вершины,
Парит неподвижно со мной наравне.

Orlov, the name of a Soviet spy who accompanies Vadim in his trip to Leningrad (Part Five), comes from oryol.

Pushkin's post scriptum to Alexey Vulf's and Anna Vulf's letter of September 1, 1827, to Anna Kern (the addressee of Pushkin's poem Ya pomnyu chudnoe mgnoven'e, I remember a wondrous moment, 1825) is signed Yablochnyi Pirog (Apple Pie):

Анна Петровна, я Вам жалуюсь на Анну Николавну — она меня не целовала в глаза, как Вы изволили приказывать. Adieu, belle dame.
Весь ваш
Яблочный пирог.

Vadim's family name seems to be Yablonski. Voevoda (Polish governor of Province) Yablonski is mentioned by Pushkin in the unfinished History of Peter.

Incidentally, it was Griboedov who married a young Georgian beauty (Princess Nina Chavchavadze) and a few months later was assassinated in Teheran. In his poem Uchast' russkikh poetov (The Destiny of Russian Poets, 1845) Kuechelbecker alludes to the deaths of Pushkin and Griboedov:

Или болезнь наводит ночь и мглу
На очи прозорливцев вдохновенных;
Или рука любезников презренных
Шлет пулю их священному челу;

Или же бунт поднимет чернь глухую,
И чернь того на части разорвёт,
Чей блещущий перунами полёт
Сияньем о?блил бы страну родную.

or sickness overcasts with night and gloom
the eyes of the inspired, the seers!
Or else the hand of some vile's lady man
impels a bullet at their sacred brow;

Or the deaf rabble rises in revolt -
and him the rabble will to pieces tear
whose winged course, ablaze with thunderbolts,
might drench in radiance the motherland.

"The bullet killed Pushkin, the rabble murdered Griboedov." (EO Commentary, II, pp. 446-447)

Chern' (rabble) comes from chyornyi (black). Iris Black dies on April 23, 1930. It seems that April 23, 1899, is also Vadim's birthday.

*Blagidze brings to mind the phrase blagim matom (at the top of one's voice). In Chekhov's story Akh, zuby! (Ah, My Teeth!) a character suffering from toothache cries blagim matom: Он держится обеими руками за правую щёку, бегает из угла в угол и орёт благим матом...
— Да помогите же мне! — кричит он, топая ногами. — Застрелюсь, чёрт вас возьми! Повешусь!
The lawyer whom Dybkin visits by mistake (the dentist he needs lives below) has long fair hair:
— Что-с? Что вам угодно? — спрашивает его хозяин кабинета, длинноволосый блондин в очках.

Alexey Sklyarenko

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: