Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024607, Fri, 20 Sep 2013 22:00:57 +0300

mysticism in LATH
According to Roman Bogdanovich, Smurov (the narrator and main character in The Eye) is seksual'nyi levsha (a sexual lefty):

"I have the impression, dear friend, that I have already written to you of the fact that Smurov belongs to that curious class of people I once called 'sexual lefties.'" (Chapter Five)

Levsha (The Tale of a Lefty from Tula, 1881) is Leskov's best-known story. Like Weinstock (a bookseller in The Eye), Leskov was a mystic. Leskov is the author of Ovtsebyk (Musk-Ox, 1862) and Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (1865). The characters of LATH include Oks (Osip Lvovich Oksman, an elderly man with a Shakespearean pate), the owner of a Russian bookshop in Paris.

Leskov's tale Ocharovannyi strannik (The Enchanted Wanderer, 1873) brings to mind Strannik (The Wanderer, 1835), Pushkin's adaptation in Alexandrines of the opening chapter of John Bunyan's The Pilgrim's Progress from This World to That Which Is to Come (1678). Among the authors mentioned in LATH is Ian Bunyan:

Take tenses: how different their elaborate and strict minuet in English from the free and fluid interplay between the present and the past in their Russian counterpart (which Ian Bunyan has so amusingly compared in last Sunday's NYT to "a dance of the veil performed by a plump graceful lady in a circle of cheering drunks"). (2.10)

"Ian" was Vera Muromtseva's name for her husband Ivan Bunin (1870-1953). The writer was a descendant of Afanasiy Bunin, a Tula landowner, father of the poet V. A. Zhukovski (1783-1852). Zhukovski (another mystic) is the author of To the Emperor Alexander (1814), an epistle in 484 Alexandrines. The father of Lyuba Savich (Vadim's typist) is the author of The Monarch and the Mystic, a biography of Alexander the First (2.2).

Alexander the First died in Taganrog. Taganrog is Chekhov's home city. Grad being an archaic form of gorod (city), one wonders if Shipogradov (a recognizable portrait of Bunin in LATH) also hints at Taganrog, a port on the Azov Sea. Like St. Petersburg, Taganrog was founded (in 1698) by Peter I (the tsar and the ship-builder).

Btw., Leskov is mentioned by VN in his Post Scriptum to the Russian edition of Lolita.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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