Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023376, Wed, 10 Oct 2012 00:21:12 +0300

Chose & Khan Sosso
One last remark concerning Chose, Van's University, and Khan Sosso, the ruler of the Golden Horde:

The names of two University Professors mentioned in Ada (1.3), Paar of Chose and Zapater* of Aardvark, bring to mind Akakiy Akakievich Bashmachkin, the pathetic hero of Gogol's story Shinel' (The Overcoat, 1842): "His family name was Bashmachkin. This name is evidently derived from "bashmak"** (shoe); but when, at what time, and in what manner, is not known." Bashmachkin's first name could have been Sossiy: "They [the child's god-parents] offered the mother her choice of three names, Mokiy, Sossiy, or that the child should be called after the martyr Khozdazat."

Note that Van wears shinel' as he meets his father at the Goodson Airport (2.1):

'Why gray?' asked Demon, alluding to Van's overcoat. 'Why that military cut? It's too late to enlist.'
'I couldn't - my draft board would turn me down anyway.'

It is Percy de Prey, Van's rival, who goes to the war and gets killed by an old Tartar (1.42). Percy is described as a stoutish, foppish, baldish young man (1.31).
Now, Gogol's Akakiy is neskol'ko ryabovat, neskol'ko ryzhevat, neskol'ko na vid dazhe podslepovat, s nebol'shoy lysinoy na lbu (somewhat pock-marked, red-haired, and short-sighted, with a bald forehead).

Akakiy Akakievich and veshchi (things; les choses) are paired in VN's poem Slava (Fame, 1942):

Есть вещи, вещи,
которые... даже... (Акакий Акакиевич
любил, если помните, "плевелы речи",
и он как Наречье, мой гость восковой)***

re plevely rechi (the weeds of speech) and Narech'e (adverb): "It must be known that Akakiy Akakievich expressed himself chiefly by prepositions, adverbs, and scraps of phrases which had no meaning whatever."

*zapatero - Sp., shoemaker
**like bashka (head), bashmak is a Tatar word
***for translation see Poems and Problems

Alexey Sklyarenko

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