Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024823, Sun, 24 Nov 2013 01:47:15 +0300

red-shirted Yukonets & red-kerchiefed Lyaskanka in ADA
The unmentionable magnetic power denounced by evil lawmakers in this our shabby country — oh, everywhere, in Estoty and Canady, in ‘German’ Mark Kennensie, as well as in ‘Swedish’ Manitobogan, in the workshop of the red-shirted Yukonets as well as in the kitchen of the red-kerchiefed Lyaskanka, and in ‘French’ Estoty, from Bras d’Or to Ladore — and very soon throughout both our Americas, and all over the other stunned continents — was used on Terra as freely as water and air, as bibles and brooms. (1.3)

Yukonets means "a Yukonian, citizen of Yukon." Aqua’s and Marina’s father, General Ivan Durmanov was a Commander of Yukon Fortress (1.1). On Antiterra Pushkin lived in Yukon: 'Sladko! (Sweet!)’ Pushkin used to exclaim in relation to a different species [of mosquitoes] in Yukon. (1.17)

According to Lapin (a local tradesman whose name brings to mind Ada's Dr Lapiner), in Mihaylovskoe (Pushkin's country place in the Province of Pskov) Pushkin wore "a peasant shirt of red calico, with a sky-blue ribbon for sash. He carried an iron club."

In his EO Commentary (vol. II, p. 458) VN explains: Pushkin carried an iron club to strengthen and steady his pistol hand in view of a duel he intended to have with Fyodor Tolstoy at the first opportunity (see n. to Four: XIX: 5).

Count Fyodor Tolstoy who took part in the first lap of Admiral Krusenstern's famous voyage around the world and who was dumped for insubordination on Rat Island, in the Aleutians, was nicknamed Amerikanets, "the American." In a poem addressed to Chaadaev Pushkin calls Tolstoy "that philosopher who in past days / amazed four continents with his lewd ways" (EO Commentary, vol. II, p. 429, note).

In Chapter Eight of EO sila magnetizma (the power of magnetism) almost makes Onegin, who is in love with Princess N., grasp the mechanism of Russian verses:

А точно: силой магнетизма
Стихов российских механизма
Едва в то время не постиг
Мой бестолковый ученик.

And true: by dint of magnetism,
the mechanism of Russian verses
at that time all but grasped
my addleheaded pupil. (XXXVIII: 5-8)

Lyaskanka means "a female inhabitant of Lyaska." The Antiterran name of Alaska, Lyaska rhymes with plyaska (Russ., dance; folk-dancing).

At an invisible sign of Dionysian origin, they all plunged into the violent dance called kurva or ‘ribbon boule’ in the hilarious program whose howlers almost caused Veen (tingling, and light-loined, and with Prince N.’s rose-red banknote in his pocket) to fall from his seat.
His heart missed a beat and never regretted the lovely loss, as she [Marina] ran, flushed and flustered, in a pink dress into the orchard, earning a claque third of the sitting ovation that greeted the instant dispersal of the imbecile but colorful transfigurants from Lyaska — or Iveria. (1.2)

"The red-kerchiefed Lyaskanka" reminds me of the girl in Rodchenko's famous poster (http://affiliates.allposters.com/link/redirect.asp?item=2885523&AID=36616835&PSTID=1&LTID=2&lang=1). It depicts Mayakovski's muse Lilya Brik (Elsa Triolet's sister). In Ilf and Petrov's The Twelve Chairs (Chapter IXXX "The Author of the Gavriliad") she seems to be satirized as Hina Chlek (chelovek, "human being," compressed to four letters; or chlen, "member," badly disfigured), Lapis-Trubetskoy's mistress. The poet "Lapsus" Trubetskoy is an ignoramus who believes, for instance, that pen'yuar (peignoir) is a ball-dress:

"Honestly, Lapis, why do you write about things you've never seen and haven't the first idea about? Why is the peignoir in your poem Canton a ball-dress?"

As she speaks by dorophone with Demon Marina mentions penyuar:

Your voice was remote but sweet; you said you were in Eve’s state, hold the line, let me put on a penyuar. Instead, blocking my ear, you spoke, I suppose, to the man with whom you had spent the night (and whom I would have dispatched, had I not been overeager to castrate him). (1.2)

The name of Marina's lover, d'Onsky, and his nickname Skonky (anagram of konsky, "of a horse") seem to hint at Onegin's Don stallion (EO, Two: V: 4).
Hodasevich's article on Mayakovski (VN's "late namesake who used to write verse, in rank and in file, at the very dawn of the Soviet Small-Bourgeois order"*) is entitled Dekol'tirovannaya Loshad' (The Decollete Horse, 1927).

Demon had a sword duel with d'Onsky:

The challenge was accepted; two native seconds were chosen; the Baron plumped for swords; and after a certain amount of good blood (Polish and Irish — a kind of American ‘Gory Mary’ in barroom parlance) had bespattered two hairy torsoes, the whitewashed terrace, the flight of steps leading backward to the walled garden in an amusing Douglas d’Artagnan arrangement, the apron of a quite accidental milkmaid, and the shirtsleeves of both seconds, charming Monsieur de Pastrouil and Colonel St Alin, a scoundrel, the latter gentlemen separated the panting combatants, and Skonky died, not ‘of his wounds’ (as it was viciously rumored) but of a gangrenous afterthought on the part of the least of them, possibly self-inflicted, a sting in the groin... (1.2)

Lapis-Trubetskoy is author of The Ballad of the Gangrene:

"Gavrila took to bed with gangrene.
The gangrene made Gavrila sick..."

The fat samovar face of Douglas Fairbanks (a Hollywood actor who played d'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers) is mentioned in Ilf and Petrov's The Golden Calf (Chapter Five "The Underground Kingdom"). Pushkin and Dumas (the author of The Three Musketeers) are paired by Van's Russian tutor:

AAA explained, he remembered, to a Negro lad with whom Van had scrapped, that Pushkin and Dumas had African blood, upon which the lad showed AAA his tongue, a new interesting trick which Van emulated at the earliest occasion and was slapped by the younger of the Misses Fortune, put it back in your face, sir, she said. (1.24)

For many years Demon was blackmailed by Norbert von Miller, a professional smuggler of neonegrine:

Dr Lapiner's wife, born Countess Alp,** not only left him, in 1871, to live with Norbert von Miller, amateur poet, Russian translator at the Italian Consulate in Geneva, and professional smuggler of neonegrine — found only in the Valais — but had imparted to her lover the melodramatic details of the subterfuge which the kindhearted physician had considered would prove a boon to one lady and a blessing to the other. Versatile Norbert spoke English with an extravagant accent, hugely admired wealthy people and, when name-dropping, always qualified such a person as ‘enawmously rich’ with awed amorous gusto, throwing himself back in his chair and spreading tensely curved arms to enfold an invisible fortune. He had a round head as bare as a knee, a corpse’s button nose, and very white, very limp, very damp hands adorned with rutilant gems. His mistress soon left him. Dr Lapiner died in 1872. About the same time, the Baron married an innkeeper’s innocent daughter and began to blackmail Demon Veen; this went on for almost twenty years, when aging Miller was shot dead by an Italian policeman on a little-known border trail, which had seemed to get steeper and muddier every year. (2.11)

In The Golden Calf Ostap Bender successfully blackmails Koreiko (a secret Soviet millionaire). The novel ends in Ostap's attempt to cross the Rumanian border.
An amateur smuggler, he is robbed by frontier-guards.

Valais (Wallis) is a Canton in SW Switzerland. Canton is a poem by "Lapsus" Trubetskoy. Now, one of the six bastions of the Peter-and-Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg is the Trubetskoy bastion. General Ivan Nabokov (brother of VN's great-grandfather) was the Fortress's commander. In 1849 one of his prisoners was the writer Dostoevski, author of The Double, etc., to whom the kind general lent books (Speak, Memory, Chapter Three, 1). It seems to me that the Antiterran L disaster in the beau milieu of the 19th century that caused the ban of electricity ("the unmentionable magnetic power") corresponds to the mock execution of Dostoevski and the Petrashevskians on January 3, 1850 (NS). January 3, 1876, is Lucette's birthday (1.1).

Speaking of Pushkin and Lyaska: according to a fat little Russian encyclopedia consulted by Van and Ada, guba means “a district court in ancient Lyaska” and “Arctic gulf" (1.17). But, first of all, guba is Russian for lip, "either of the two fleshy parts or folds forming the margins of the mouth." Van's and Ada’s lips are “absurdly similar in style, tint and tissue.” Van describes Ada’s lips as “practically Moorish.”

In his poem “Ya rodilsya v Moskve. Ya dyma…” (“I was born in Moscow. I [never saw] the smoke…” 1923) Hodasevich speaks of Pushkin's saintly Moorish lips:

A ya gde b ni byl – shepchut mne

Arapskie svyatye guby

O nebyvaloy storone.

And wherever I might be,

The saintly Moorish lips whisper me

Of a fabulous land.

*On Rulers.
**Alp may hint at Anna Livia Plurabelle, a character in James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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