Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023581, Sun, 13 Jan 2013 03:54:06 +0300

taking bull by horns
Daniel Veen's mother was a Trumbell, and he was prone to explain at great length - unless sidetracked by a bore-baiter - how in the course of American history an English 'bull' had become a New England 'bell.' (Ada, 1.1)

In his memoir essay on Chekhov (Ob A. P. Chekhove, 1904) M. M. Kovalevski quotes Turgenev's words about Maupassant (with whom French readers often compared Chekhov):

Говоря однажды со мною об авторе "Одной жизни" и стольких неподражаемых повестей и повестушек, Тургенев сказал мне: "Вот человек, который обладает тем качеством, которое Гомер передал бы словами: взять быка за рога". ("Here is the man who has the quality that Homer would have described in the words: to take the bull by the horns.")

It was Turgenev who gave Tolstoy Maupassant's collection Maison Tellier (the title story was dedicated to Turgenev) and recommended him the young French writer. Many years later Tolstoy translated (as Fransuaza) Maupassant's stroy Le Port, about the brother-and-sister incest, to Russian and wrote the preface to Maupassant's oeuvre in Russian.

According to Kovalevski, Chekhov's affinity with Maupassant hampers his popularity with the French readers who prefer to him Maxim Gorky, the author of Na dne (At the Bottom):

сходство нашего писателя с автором "Одной жизни" до некоторой степени даже мешает успеху его в среде французских читателей, которые предпочитают ему яркого изобразителя жизни "На дне" - Максима Горького.

Gorky is also the author of Vas'ka krasnyi (Red Vaska), a story about the cruel bouncer (vyshibala) in a Volgan brothel.

In society Daniel Veen (Walter D. Veen) is known as Durak Walter or simply Red Veen (1.1). Like his father-in-law, the "sur-royally antlered" general Ivan Durmanov, Daniel Veen is a cuckold.

According to Horace (Ars Poetica), Homer does not begin the Trojan war from the twin egg. VN follows Pushkin, the author of Ezerski, in beginning Ada ab ovo (the family tree, etc.), but he also takes the bull by the horns.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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