Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024583, Sat, 14 Sep 2013 12:40:38 +0300

Dolly Borg (Blok, Flaubert & Hugo) in LATH
According to Vadim, his father died six months before he was born (2.4). Vadim's father (whose society nickname was Demon and who was portrayed by Vrubel) "died in a pistol duel with a young Frenchman on October 22, 1898, after a card-table fracas at Deauville, some resort in gray Normandy." (2.5)

Frederic Moreau, the protagonist in Flaubert's novel L'Education sentimentale (1869), too, was born after his father's death in a duel. Flaubert's novel begins when Frederic just returned from Normandy where he had visited his uncle who, as Frederic's mother hoped, would leave her son inheritance.

In Blok's Retribution the hero's father (who is known as Demon) had also received Flaubert's "strange inheritance, Education sentimentale:"

И жаль отца, безмерно жаль:
Он тоже получил от детства
Флобера странное наследство -
Education sentimentale. (Chapter Three)

Like Flaubert, Vrubel (the author of Demon Seated and Demon Overthrown) is mentioned in Chapter Three of Retribution:

Его опустошает Демон,
Над коим Врубель изнемог
(He [the hero's father] is devastated by Demon
over whom Vrubel has exhausted).

There is Blok in yabloko (apple). According to a Russian saying (quoted by a character in Pushkin's Boris Godunov), yabloko ot yabloni nedaleko padaet (an apple always falls near the apple tree, in the sense: "like mother, like child"). Flaubert said of his Emma: Madame Bovary, c'est moi.

Emmochka (Emmie) is a nymphet in VN's Priglashenie na kazn' (Invitation to a Beheading, 1938). VN's Invitation corresponds to Vadim's novel Krasnyi Tsilindr (The Red Top Hat, 1934), in which there is a girl named Amy:

Every afternoon, at the same hour, a silent push opened the door wider, and the granddaughter of the Stepanovs brought in a tray with a large glass of strong tea and a plate of ascetic zwiebacks. She advanced, eyes bent, moving carefully her white-socked, blue-sneakered feet; coming to a near stop when the tea tossed; and advancing again with the slow steps of a clockwork doll. She had flaxen hair and a freckled nose, and I chose the gingham frock with the glossy black belt for her to wear when I had her continue her mysterious progress right into the book I was writing, The Red Top Hat, in which she becomes graceful little Amy, the condemned man's ambiguous consoler. (2.1)

Dolly Borg (the granddaughter of the Stepanovs) is eleven when Vadim writes The Red Top Hat. A dozen years later Dolly becomes Vadim's lover ruining his marriage with Annette Blagovo (3.3).

Vadim and Annette have a daughter Isabel (Bel). After Annette's tragic death, eleven-year-old Bel comes to live with Vadim who soon decides to marry Louise Adamson. When Vadim and Louise visit Bel at her boarding school in Switzerland, Vadim for some reason calls his daughter "Dolly:"

"Come and see us at Quirn soon, soon, Dolly," I said, as we all stood on the sidewalk with mountains outlined in solid black against an aquamarine sky, and choughs jacking harshly, flying in flocks to roost, away, away.
I cannot explain the slip, but it angered Bel more than anything had ever angered her at any time.
"What is he saying?" she cried, looking in turn at Louise, at her beau, and again at Louise. "What does he mean? Why does he call me 'Dolly'? Who is she for God's sake? Why, why (turning to me), why did you say that?"
"Obmolvka, prosti (lapse of the tongue, sorry)," I replied, dying, trying to turn everything into a dream, a dream about that hideous last moment. (4.7)

Vadim feels that a demon is forcing him to impersonate some other writer who is and will always be incomparably greater, healthier, and crueler than he (2.3). That other writer is Nabokov, the author of Lolita (1955). She [Lolita] was Dolly at school (1.1).

Because Lolita is a first-person narrative, readers are apt to confuse the author with Humbert Humbert. Actually, of course, VN could say: "Dolores Haze, it's me."

Borg is grob (coffin) backwards and an anagram of gorb (hump). Quasimodo, a character in Hugo's Notre-Dame de Paris (1831) is a hunchback. The novel's characters include Esmeralda, a gypsy street dancer. One of Vadim's novels is Esmeralda and Her Parandrus (1941). Hugo is also the author of The Last Day of a Condemned Man (1829).

Btw., Harlequin is a character in Blok's play Balaganchik (The Puppet Show, 1906). The surname of LATH's main harlequin, Vadim Vadimovich N., seems to be Yablonski (yablonya means "apple tree").

Alexey Sklyarenko

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