Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023355, Wed, 3 Oct 2012 22:32:32 +0300

Chose University
In 1885, having completed his prep-school education, he [Van] went up to Chose University in England (Ada, 1.28).

At Chose Van studies psychiatry and begins to perform in variety shows as Mascodagama, dancing on his hands (1.30).

Chose on the Ranta river looks not unlike Cambridge, VN's alma mater on Granta (Cam). In 1927 VN wrote The University Poem modeling it on the Onegin stanza (ababeecciddiff) turned upside down (aabeebiiccodod*).

From Pushkin's Eugene Onegin (Three: IV: 13 - V: 9):

"Боюсь: брусничная вода
Мне не наделала б вреда.

Скажи: которая Татьяна?»
— Да та, которая грустна
И молчалива, как Светлана,
Вошла и села у окна.—
Неужто ты влюблён в меньшую?»
— А что? — «Я выбрал бы другую,
Когда б я был, как ты, поэт.
В чертах у Ольги жизни нет.
Точь-в-точь в Вандиковой Мадонне"

"I fear that lingonberry water
may not unlikely do me harm.

Tell me, which was Tatiana?"
"Oh, she's the one who, melancholy
and silent like Svetlana,
entered and sat down by the window."
"How come you're with the younger one in love?"
"Why, what's the matter?" "I'd have chosen the other,
if I had been like you a poet.
In Olga's features there's no life,
just as in a Vandyke Madonna"

Unlike Lenski who fell in love with Olga, Tatiana's younger sister, Van - even though he is not a poet (or, perhaps, because he isn't one) - chose Ada, Lucette's elder sister.

Btw., lingonberries (brusnika**) are mentioned in Ada (1.38): The roast hazel-hen (or rather its New World representative, locally called 'mountain grouse') was accompanied by preserved lingonberries (locally called 'mountain cranberries'). As to voda (water), Aqua is Marina's twin sister who married Demon Veen, Marina's lover, Van's and Ada's father. It was because of poor Aqua's madness that Van chose to study psychiatry.

Of course, chose is French for "thing." On his way home from the picnic in Ardis the Second (1.39) Van, sitting in a victoria beside Ada and holding Lucette on his knees, remembers Ada's lolita (a very airy and ample skirt) and "the Chose young things:"

He remembered with a pang of pleasure the indulgent skirt Ada had been wearing then [four years ago when in similar circumstances Ada was sitting in Van's lap], so swoony-baloony as the Chose young things said, and he regretted (smiling) that Lucette had those chaste shorts on today, and Ada, husked-corn (laughing) trousers.

I notice that chose occurs in La Fontaine's Nicaise (ll. 60-61), "a slightly salacious piece of 258 lines," quoted by VN in Translator's Introduction (The "Eugene Onegin" Stanza) to EO:

Autre chose que des soupirs,
Interpretes de ses desirs.

VN points out that to a Russian ear these two lines are fascinatingly like Pushkin's clausules.

*VN had to change/reverse Pushkin's scheme of masculine and feminine rhymes
**see anagram with brusnika in one of my previous posts; in his EO Commentary VN has an interesting note on brusnika

Alexey Sklyarenko

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