Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023448, Thu, 8 Nov 2012 03:36:43 +0300

Vadim, son of Vadim
My father was a gambler and a rake. His society nickname was Demon. Vrubel has portrayed him with his vampire-pale cheeks, his diamond eyes, his black hair. What remained on the palette has been used by me, Vadim, son of Vadim, for touching up the father of the passionate siblings in the best of my English romaunts, Ardis (1970).
The scion of a princely family devoted to a gallery of a dozen Tsars, my father resided on the idyllic outskirts of history. His politics were of the casual, reactionary sort. He had a dazzling and complicated sensual life, but his culture was patchy and commonplace. He was born in 1865, married in 1896, and died in a pistol duel with a young Frenchman on October 22, 1898, after a card-table fracas at Deauville, some resort in gray Normandy. (Look at the Harlequins! Part Two, 5)

Vadim was eighteen, when the Bolshevist Revolution struck (October 25, 1917; OS), which means that he was born before 25 October, 1899, but after 25 October, 1898 (i. e., after his father's death). Frederic Moreau, the hero of Flaubert's novel L'Education sentimentale (1869), too, was born afer his father's death in a duel. At the beginning of Flaubert's novel Frederic just returned from Normandy where he visited his uncle who, his mother hoped, would leave Frederic inheritance.

As I pointed out before,* Demon is the hero's father in Blok's poem Vozmezdie (Retribution, 1910-21). Flaubert's "strange inheritance, Education sentimentale," and Vrubel's Demon are mentioned in Chapter Three of Vozmezdie:

И жаль отца, безмерно жаль:
Он тоже получил от детства
Флобера странное наследство -
Education sentimentale.

Его опустошает Демон,
Над коим Врубель изнемог...

A character in Blok's play in verse Balaganchik (A Little Show-Booth, 1906), Arlekin (the harlequin) also appears in several poems by the author of The Twelve.

In his diary entry of November 14, 1911, Blok mentions V. V. Rozanov (Vasiliy, son of Vasiliy**) persuading his readers to mix their blood with sisters and animals (Розанова, убеждающего смеситься с сёстрами и со зверями). According to D. B. Johnson (The Ambidextrous Universe of LATH), with the exception of "you," all of Vadim's wives are his sisters and Vadim (who saw his parents infrequently, because they divorced and remarried and redivorced at a very rapid rate: 1.2) is actually the son of Count Nikifor Starov, the retired diplomat whom Vadim and Iris visit in Mentone (1.10). Note that blagorodneyshiy starik (noble old man) Nikifor appears in one of Lebyadkin's poems in Dostoevski's Besy (The Possessed, 1872). Besy (Demons) is a poem by Pushkin written in Boldino in September, 1830, when the poet's engagement with Natalia Goncharov was nearly broken. Eight and a half years earlier, in the first week of 1822, in Bessarabia, Pushkin had a pistol duel with Colonel Starov.

Btw., Vadim is the second part of Zhukovsky's The Twelve Sleeping Maidens, an Ancient Tale in Two Ballads (1810-17). In 1822 Pushkin planned to write the tragedy entitled Vadim.

On the light side: Vadim Nabokov (b. 1964) is an actor (comedian) from Boris Barsky's Comic Troupe. In The Gift the critic Mortus praises the poetry of Boris Barsky. The real Barsky is also a poet.

*In several articles (including "Ada as a Triple Dream") I compare Demon Veen (the father of Van and Ada) to Demon in Blok's Retribution. Btw., son is Russian for "dream; sleep" (and "son" is syn).
**Burenin satirized Rozanov as "Mistizm Mistizmovich" (mystic, son of a mystic).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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