Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023537, Thu, 27 Dec 2012 02:52:51 +0300

AAB is also Akakiy Akakievich Bashmachkin, the touching main character in Gogol's Shinel' (The Overcoat, 1842). Akakiy Akakievich is mentioned in VN's poem Slava (Fame, 1942):

Есть вещи, вещи,
которые... даже... (Акакий Акакиевич
любил, если помните, "плевелы речи",
и он как Наречье, мой гость восковой)
There are things, things
that... even... (Akakiy Akakievich
loved, if you remember, "the weeds of speech,"
and he is like Adverb, my waxen guest)

The author of Slava sees himself as a deity: Я божком себя вижу. Bozhok (idol; minor deity) is an anagram of Bozhko. A schoolmate of Gogol, Andrey Andreevich Bozhko is a namesake of Andrey Andreevich Vinelander, Ada's husband. Roman V (Vinelander's initial) corresponds to Cyrillic B (that looks like the Roman counterpart of Cyrillic Б, Bashmachkin's initial). AAB are Andrey Vinelander's Russian initials.

Incidentally, Bashmachkin comes from bashmak (shoe). The name of Van's University, Chose sounds rather like "shoes." On the other hand, chose is French for "thing."

One of Ada's lovers, Percy de Prey is described as "a stoutish, foppish, baldish young man" (1.31). Gogol's Akakiy Akakievich is neskol'ko ryabovat, neskol'ko ryzhevat, neskol'ko na vid dazhe podslepovat, s nebol'shoy lysinoy na lbu (somewhat pock-marked, somewhat red-haired, even somewhat short-sighted in appearance, with a little bald spot on the forehead).

In his Foreword to N. V. Gogol. Povesti* (NY, Chekhov Publishing House, 1952) VN mentions A. A. Blok (another AAB) and his Night Violet (1906):

От скромной фиалки на дне чичиковской табакерки до "Ночной Фиалки" Блока один лишь шаг - по животворной, чмокающей мочежине (с которой, между прочим, немало перешло и в толстовский ягдташ).

From the modest violet at the bottom of Chichikov's snuff-box it is but one step - on the life-giving, smacking moss bog (which, incidentally, yielded a lot to Tolstoy's Jagdtasche) - to Blok's Night Violet.


Alexey Sklyarenko

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