Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023440, Thu, 1 Nov 2012 16:58:21 +0300

Avenue Guillaume Pitt
On a bleak morning between the spring and summer of 1901, in Paris, as Van, black-hatted, one hand playing with the warm loose change in his topcoat pocket and the other, fawn-gloved, upswinging a furled English umbrella, strode past a particularly unattractive sidewalk cafe among the many lining the Avenue Guillaume Pitt, a chubby bald man in a rumpled brown suit with a watch-chained waistcoat stood up and hailed him. (Ada, 3.2)

Lute being on Antiterra (Earth's twin planet on which Ada is set) the other name of Paris, one is reminded of lyutyi Pit (ferocious Pitt) mentioned by Pushkin in his Ode to his Excellency Count Dm. Iv. Khvostov (1825):

Султан ярится. Кровь Эллады
И peзвocкачет, и кипит.
Открылись грекам древни клады,
Трепещет в Стиксе лютый Пит.

The sultan gets furious. Hellas's blood
is galloping fast and boiling.
The Greeks discovered ancient treasures,
ferocious Pitt trembles in Styx.

In his footnotes (as parodic as the Ode to which they are appended) Pushkin comments on "Pit" as follows:

Г. Питт, знаменитый английский министр и известный противник Свободы.
(G. Pitt, the famous English minister and notorious enemy of Freedom.)

"G. Pitt" is William Pitt (1759-1806), British statesman, prime minister in 1783-1801 and 1804-06. On Antiterra, England annexed France in 1815 (1.40), hence "Avenue Guillaume Pitt." Cf. Guillaume de Monparnasse [sic], Mlle Lariviere's nom de plume (1.31) that also hints at Montparnasse (an area of Paris). According to Mlle Lariviere (btw., an Anglophobe), the leaving out of the 't' made her penname more intime. Note that Pushkin, too, omits the second t in Pitt's name. Mount Parnassus is not mentioned, though, in Pushkin's Ode (showing old Count Khvostov, whom the author compares to Lord Byron, and his wife visiting Greece).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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