Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024736, Sat, 2 Nov 2013 01:03:58 +0300

flowers & doctors in Ada
Ada's narrator and main character, Van Veen, was born in Dr Lapiner's alpine chalet. From Marina's old herbarium:

Gentiane de Koch, rare, brought by lapochka [darling] Lapiner from his 'mute gentiarium' 5.I.1870. (1.1)

Vivian Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Dr Lapiner: for some obscure but not unattractive reason, most of the physicians in the book turn out to bear names connected with rabbits. The French 'lapin' in Lapiner is matched by the Russian 'Krolik', the name of Ada's beloved lepidopterist (p.13, et passim) and the Russian 'zayats' (hare) sounds like 'Seitz' (the German gynecologist on page 181); there is a Latin 'cuniculus' in 'Nikulin' ('grandson of the great rodentiologist Kunikulinov', p.341), and a Greek 'lagos' in 'Lagosse' (the doctor who attends Van in his old age). Note also Coniglietto, the Italian cancer-of-the-blood specialist, p.298.

According to Nozdryov, his land swarms with hares:

"In this field here," said Nozdryov, pointing his finger at the field, "it's so thick with hares you can't see the ground; I myself caught one by the hind legs with my bare hands."
"No, you couldn't catch a hare with your bare hands!" observed the in-law.
"But I did catch one, I caught one on purpose!" replied Nozdryov. (Dead Souls, Chapter Four)

The legend says that Zayachiy ostrov (the Hare Island on which the Peter-and-Paul Fortress was built) in St. Petersburg received its name because it swarmed with hares. Peter I is even said to have caught one with his bare hands. Nozdryov's name comes from nozdrya (nostril). Marina's lover and protege, the Latin actor Pedro, has beautiful nostrils of a lynx:

On her other side, crosslegged on a mat, sat Pedro (surname unknown, stagename forgotten), a repulsively handsome, practically naked young actor, with satyr ears, slanty eyes, and lynx nostrils, whom she [Marina] had brought from Mexico and was keeping at a hotel in Ladore. (1.32)

In a letter to Ada Dr Krolik (whose name means "rabbit") mentions the Spanish Inquisition:

Finally, Ada showed Van a letter from Dr Krolik on the same subject; it said (English version): 'Crimson-blotched, silver-scaled, yellow-crusted wretches, the harmless psoriatics (who cannot communicate their skin trouble and are otherwise the healthiest of people - actually, their bobo's protect them from bubas and buboes, as my teacher used to observe) were confused with lepers - yes, lepers - in the Middle Ages, when thousands if not millions of Vergers and Vertograds crackled and howled bound by enthusiasts to stakes erected in the public squares of Spain and other fire-loving countries.' (1.21)

When Gogol was dying, his agony was made even worse by doctors (see VN's Nikolay Gogol). Vertograd being an obsolete word for "garden," one is reminded of Plyushkin's neglected garden in Dead Souls.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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