Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0024832, Wed, 27 Nov 2013 18:11:33 +0300

contraceptive devices in Ada & in Dead Souls
Ada, wearing an unfashionable belted macintosh that he disliked, with her handbag on a strap over one shoulder, had gone to Kaluga for the whole day — officially to try on some clothes, unofficially to consult Dr Krolik’s cousin, the gynecologist Seitz (or ‘Zayats,’ as she transliterated him mentally since it also belonged, as Dr ‘Rabbit’ did, to the leporine group in Russian pronunciation). Van was positive that not once during a month of love-making had he failed to take all necessary precautions, sometimes rather bizarre, but incontestably trustworthy, and had lately acquired the sheath-like contraceptive device that in Ladore county only barber-shops, for some odd but ancient reason, were allowed to sell. (1.37)

In a letter of February 1, 1833, to Pogodin Gogol says that in the days of Peter I all Russia (Rus) was turned into a barber's shop full of people:

Какая смешная смесь во время Петра, когда Русь превратилась на время в цирюльню, битком набитую народом; один сам подставлял свою бороду, другому насильно брили.

In Dead Souls Gogol famously compares Rus to ptitsa-troika (a bird-like troika).

Poor Gogol! His exclamation (like Pushkin's) 'Rus!' is willingly repeated by the men of the sixties, but now the troika needs paved highways, for even Russia's toska ('yearning') has become utilitarian. (The Gift, Chapter Four)

One of the landowners in Dead Souls, stingy Plyushkin, is nicknamed by local peasants "patched [condom]:"

'Don't you know the miser Plyushkin who doesn't feed his serfs properly?'
'Oh, the ... in rags and patches!' cried the peasant. He put in a substantive which was very apt but impossible in polite conversation, and so we omit it. (Chapter Five)

In the 1840s Gogol spent a few summers in Kaluga as a guest of A. O. Smirnov (born Rosset) whose husband was a governor of Kaluga (see Veresaev, Gogol in Life).

In a letter of about/not later than June 27, 1834, to his wife (who stayed in Polotnyanyi Zavod, the Goncharov family estate near Kaluga) Pushkin informs Natalie that Mme Smirnov gave birth to twins and calls Mr Smirnov krasnoglazyi krolik (a red-eyed rabbit):

Смирнова родила благополучно, и вообрази: двоих. Какова бабёнка, и каков красноглазый кролик Смирнов?

Alexey Sklyarenko

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