Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023447, Sun, 4 Nov 2012 13:06:00 +0300

Hugh Person vs. Martyn Harlov
As the person, Hugh Person (corrupted "Peterson" and pronounced "Parson" by some) extricated his angular bulk from the taxi... (Transparent Things, 2).

Peterson being a Swedish name, one is reminded of Martyn Harlov, the hero of Turgenev's novella Stepnoy Korol' Lir (A Lear of the Steppes, 1870):

-- Наш род от вшеда (он так выговаривал слово швед); от вшеда Харлуса ведётся.
"Our family's descended from the Swede Harlus," he used to maintain. (chapter I)

From The Worker's Leisure-Hour, Harlov's favorite book (published in 1785 by Novikov, a famous Russian educator and freemason):

"Смерть есть важная и великая работа натуры. Она не что иное, как то, что дух, понеже есть легче, тоньше и гораздо проницательнее тех стихий, коим отдан был под власть, но и самой электрической силы, то он химическим образом чистится и стремится до тех пор, пока не ощутит равно духовного себе места..." и т. д. {См. "Покоящийся трудолюбец", 1785, III ч. Москва.}

"Death is a grand and solemn work of nature. It is nothing else than that the spirit, inasmuch as it is lighter, finer, and infinitely more penetrating than those elements under whose sway it has been subject, nay, even than the force of electricity itself, so is chemically purified and striveth upward till what time it attaineth an equally spiritual abiding-place for itself . . ." and so on. (chapter XV)

Harlov's brother-in-law (our Lear's fool) has a very strange first name: Souvenir. "He was the brother of Harlov's deceased wife, had been nicknamed Souvenir as a little boy, and Souvenir he had remained for every one, even the servants, who addressed him, it is true, as Souvenir Timofeich. His real name he seemed hardly to know himself." (chapter IV).

Probably irrelevant: the name of Turgenev's hero brings to mind Clarissa Harlowe, the heroine of Richardson's novel with whom Pushkin's Tatiana likes to identify herself (Eugene Onegin, Chapter Three, X), and Panfil Harlikov who on Tatiana's nameday comes with his family to the Larins (EO, Chapter Five).

Btw., the author of A Lear of the Steppes was a descendant of Yakov Turgenev, the court jester of Peter I.

This Henry Emery Person, our Person's father... (TT, 6)
The name of Hugh's father seems to hint at the American transcendentalists Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-82) and Henry David Thoreau (1817-62).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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