Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023470, Tue, 20 Nov 2012 00:51:55 +0300

Sir Greg's hooves
...mistaking her look of surprise at the sound of his thudding hooves for one of concern, good Sir Greg hastened to cry out from afar: 'He's all right! He's all right, Miss Veen' - blind compassion preventing the young knight from realizing that she could not possibly have known yet what a clash had occurred between the beau and the beast. (Ada, 1.39)

Greg's noble surname, Erminin, comes from "ermine." Ermines do not have hooves, but horses certainly do. In Turgenev's story Lebedyan' (included in A Hunter's Notes, 1852), Gornostay (Russ, "ermine") is a horse (two other horses mentioned in this story have avian names Sokol* and Pavlin**). Similarly, in Ertel's novel The Gardenins, Krolik (Russ., "rabbit") is a thorough-bred trotter (racehorse).

According to Lidiya Varavka (a character in Gorky's The Life of Klim Samgin, Klim's mistress and the daughter of his step-father), "in Tolstoy's Anna Karenin everybody is a horse: this Anna, and Vronsky, and all the rest." The characters of Ada include G. A. Vronsky, the movie man, and Dr Krolik, the local entomologist. Gavronsky's name and manners suggest that he is a sow (havron'ya). The name of Dr Krolik's brother, Karapars, turns him into a black panther. But, like Baron d'Onsky (the art expert whose name and nickname Skonky*** remind one of Onegin's Don stallion), all of them - G. A. Vronsky, Dr Krolik, Colonel Erminin and his twins Greg and Grace - can be horses. After all, according to the poet Sluchevski (1837-1904), "we all are a bit racers from birth." And the readers of Chekhov know that a "horsey" name is not always connected to horses.
In Turgenev's story The End of Chertopkhanov (also included in A Hunter's Notes) the hero names his horse Malek-Adhel (after the character in Cottin's novel Mathilde who is also mentioned by Pushkin in Eugene Onegin: Three: IX; a few stanzas further into the Chapter Pushkin says that he may descend one day to humble prose and write a novel in the old mood describing in it "traditions of a Russian family, love's captivating dreams, and manners of our ancientry").

Эрминин + карета + ж = Эрмитаж + Каренин
Эрминин + гардероб = эмир + бор + Гарденин
Эрминин + Тель = Эртель + Минин

(Эрминин - Erminin; карета - Russ., carriage, coach; ж - a Cyrillic letter that does not have a counterpart in the Latin alphabet; Эрмитаж - Hermitage; Каренин - Karenin; гардероб - wardrobe; cloakroom; эмир - emir; бор - coniferous forest, pine wood; Гарденин - Gardenin; Тель - Wilhelm Tell; Эртель - Alexander Ertel, author of The Gardenins; Минин - Koz'ma Minin-Sukhoruk, a hero of the Patriotic war of 1612)

***anagram of konsky ("of a horse")

Alexey Sklyarenko

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