Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024634, Sat, 28 Sep 2013 13:52:09 +0300

General Gurko in LATH
"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. (5.1)

In Rasputin and the Jews (Riga, 1921) Aron Simanovich (Rasputin's private secretary) mentions General Gurko:

Она [Alexandra Fyodorovna] поручила статскому советнику Валуеву съездить в ставку и там принять шаги к прекращению дела. Она посоветовала ему сперва обратиться к генералу Гурко с просьбой сообщить все данные о деле. Гурко высказался, что, по его мнению, арест Рубинштейна не имеет достаточно оснований.

Like all Russian muzhiks, Grigoriy Rasputin had a beard (not as broad and thick as, say, Tolstoy's). On December 30, 1916 (NS), Rasputin was assassinated in the Yusupov Moika palace, some 500 m west of the Nabokov house in the Morskaya Street. Rasputin is a namesake of Grigoriy Otrepiev (False Dmitriy I), a character in Pushkin's Boris Godunov (1825). Vadim's crossing the Russian frontier westward (1.2) brings to mind the famous scene at the Lithuanian frontier in Boris Godunov.

On the other hand, Gurko seems to hint at Krug, the main character in VN's Bend Sinister (1947). Krug (The Circle, 1936) is a story by VN, "a small satellite [that] separated itself from the main body of the novel [The Gift] and started to revolve around it." The main character and part-time narrator of Dar (The Gift, 1952) is Fyodor Konstantinovich Godunov-Cherdyntsev. The novel's characters include Boris Shchyogolev ("Boris the Brisk").

Alexey Sklyarenko

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