Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023476, Sat, 24 Nov 2012 14:40:29 +0300

knights and rooks in Ada & in Blok's Retribution
...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)

Knight is also a chessman. In Russian we call it kon' ("horse"), which probably accounts for Greg Erminin's "hooves." Tury i koni (rooks and knights) are mentioned in Blok's poem Vozmezdie (Retribution, Chapter One):

И власть торопится скорей
Всех тех, кто перестал быть пешкой,
В тур превращать, или в коней...

And the authorities hasten
to promote to rooks or to knights
all those who ceased to be a pawn...

Both in Ada and in Blok's poem, Demon is the nickname of the hero's father. In Manhattan Van's father almost meets face to face his old acquaintance, Mrs Arfour ("Mrs R4") and then is nearly hit by a horse-drawn cart:

Next day, February 5, around nine p.m., Manhattan (winter) time, on the way to Dan's lawyer, Demon noted - just as he was about to cross Alexis Avenue, an ancient but insignificant acquaintance, Mrs Arfour, advancing toward him, with her toy terrier, along his side of the street. Unhesitatingly, Demon stepped off the curb, and having no hat to raise (hats were not worn with raincloaks and besides he had just taken a very exotic and potent pill to face the day's ordeal on top of a sleepless journey), contented himself - quite properly - with a wave of his slim umbrella; recalled with a paint dab of delight one of the gargle girls of her late husband; and smoothly passed in front of a slow-clopping horse-drawn vegetable cart, well out of the way of Mrs R4. (2.10)

Vivian Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): R4: 'rook four', a chess indication of position (pun on the woman's name).

In terms of chess, Demon ushyol iz pod boya sperva tury, a potom konya (escapes from being taken first with a rook and then with a knight).
Note that Turoboev (in Gorky's LKS, the name of the character who said that we all walk on Earth with a little bell on the neck, like a Swiss cow; see my previous post) comes from tura (rook) and bit' (to beat). Maxim Gorky (penname of A. M. Peshkov, peshka being Russian for "pawn"!) is the author of Chelovek (Man, a kind of poem in prose) and the essay on New York (known on Antiterra as Manhattan and often shortened to Man) entitled Gorod Zhyoltogo D'yavola (The City of Yellow Devil). According to Satin (a character in Gorky's play Na dne, At the Bottom), chelovek - eto zvuchit gordo ("man - this sounds proudly").

Gordo = gorod = or + god/dog = dorog
Satin/stain/Santi + L = Stalin
Satin + i = istina (or - Fr., gold; god - Russ., year; dog - Russ., great Dane; dorog - Russ., of roads; istina - Russ., truth)

Blok's poem Incognita (directly alluded to in Ada: 3.3) ends in the words ya znayu: istina v vine (I know: in wine is truth). Now, if the first letter of vine is capitalized, the meaning changes to "in Veen is truth" (Veen is the surname of almost all main characters in Ada, including Demon, Demon's first cousin Dan and their children Van, Ada and Lucette).

Turati (in The Defense, the name of Luzhin's opponent) is also a play on tura.

In V. I. Lenin Gorky mentions a game of chess that Lenin played with Bogdanov and was upset like a child, when he lost it.

Shakhmatovo (Blok's estate in the province of Moscow) comes from shakhmaty (chess).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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