Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023585, Mon, 14 Jan 2013 11:09:28 +0300

Sosed in Pale Fire
Everybody, in a word, was content--even the political mischiefmakers who were contentedly making mischief paid by a contented Sosed (Zembla's gigantic neighbor). (Pale Fire, Kinbote's Note to Line 12)

In the Prologue to The Bronze Horseman (1833) Pushkin calls Sweden nadmennyi sosed ("[Russia's] arrogant neighbor"):

И думал он:
Отсель грозить мы будем шведу,
Здесь будет город заложён
На зло надменному соседу.
(And thus He [Peter I] mused:
From here, indeed
Shall we strike terror in the Swede;
And here a city by our labor
Founded, shall gall our haughty neighbor*)

Peter's opponent, Charles XII (king of Sweden in 1697-1718) is a namesake of Kinbote (Charles Xavier Vseslav, last King of Zembla).

The author of Verses on the Soviet Passport (1929), Mayakovski does not hold Swedes in esteem:

И не повернув
головы кочан
и чувств
не изведав,
не моргнув,
паспорта датчан
и разных
(And without a turn
of their cabbage heads,
their feelings
hidden in lower regions,
they take without blinking,
the passports from Swedes
and various
old Norwegians.**)

Pushkin called Peter I velikiy Pyotr (Peter the Great). Ot velikogo do smeshnogo tol'ko odin shag (it is only a step from the sublime to the ridiculous). This proverb is quoted by Lev Kassil in his memoir essay on Mayakovski (Na kapitanskom mostike, On the Captain's Bridge, 1934):

Маленький толстый человек, проталкиваясь, карабкается на эстраду. Он клеймит Маяковского за гигантоманию (He [a short man from the audience] accuses Mayakovski of gigantomania).
- Я должен напомнить товарищу Маяковскому, - горячится коротышка, - старую истину, которая была ещё известна Наполеону: от великого до смешного - один шаг...
Маяковский вдруг, смерив расстояние, отделяющее его от говоруна, соглашается.
- От великого до смешного - один шаг, - и показывает на себя и на коротенького оратора.
А зал надрывается от хохота.

In Yubileynoe (The Anniversary Poem, 1924) Mayakovski addresses Pushkin and says that, after his, Mayakovski's, death, they are to stand almost beside each other. "Your name begins with a P and my name with an M, who is between us [in the alphabet]?" Incidentally, in Yubileynoe Mayakovski shortens his name-and-patronymic to "Vladim Vladimych."

*Waclaw Lednicki
**Herbert Marshall

Alexey Sklyarenko

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,nabokv-l@holycross.edu
Visit Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
View Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com

Manage subscription options: http://listserv.ucsb.edu/