Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023597, Sun, 20 Jan 2013 15:27:16 +0300

children of Venus
Knowing how fond his sisters were of Russian fare and Russian floor shows, Van took them Saturday night to 'Ursus,' the best Franco-Estotian restaurant in Manhattan Major... Mixed metaphors and double-talk became all three Veens, the children of Venus. (Ada, 2.8)

The author of Song of Myself, Walt Whitman called himslef "of Manhattan the son." In his memoir essay on V. V. Mayakovski (VN's "late namesake") Korney Chukovski quotes a line from Whitman's poem in his own translation:

Я Уитмен, я космос, я сын Манхаттана...
(Walt Whitman, a kosmos, of Manhattan the son...)

According to Hodasevich (VN's best friend in Paris), Mayakovski was greatly indebted to Whitman:

Если бы Хлебников, Брюсов, Уитман, Блок, Андрей Белый, Гиппиус да еще раёшники доброго старого времени отобрали у Маяковского то, что он взял от них, -- от Маяковского бы осталось пустое место. (The Horse in a Decolette Dress, 1927)

The five other poets who influenced Mayakovski were Khlebnikov, Bryusov, Blok, Bely and Zinaida Hippius. The latter mentions Mayakovski in Nov', an essay in The Contemporary Notes (Paris, 1925): Первые декаденты -- Бальмонт, Брюсов, -- никак не укладываются в "отцы" Блоку, а он, в свою очередь, не отец Пильняку с Есениным, и уж наверно не отец Маяковскому. У этого же, если есть потомство, то прямо комсомольские "внуки", да и те под сомнением.

Nov' (The Virgin Soil) is a novel by Turgenev, the author of Fathers and Children (1861). In her essay Hippius speaks of fathers and children in modern Russian literature. Because the word "Russia" was banned at the time (in the Soviet Union), Hippius uses the acronym URSS: Я уж не говорю о подспудной молодой России в URSS (ведь слово "Россия" -- запрещено). URSS + U = URSUS (btw., for the French title of his Animal Farm George Orwell suggested URSA, "Union des Republiques Socialistes Animales").

On Antiterra (Earth's twin planet on which Ada is set), Manhattan is often shortened to Man. Hippius is the author of Velikiy chelovek (The Great Man), an article on VDN's tragic death in Berlin (Obshchee Delo, April 7, 1922). According to Hippius (who in 1916 had asked VDN to tell his son that he will never, never be a writer*), VN's father was murdered by the bolshevists:

Большевики убили Набокова.
Нет, нет, это не ошибка. Я знаю, что убийцы называются "монархистами". Но как бы им было ни угодно себя называть, монархистами или коммунистами, они, главным образом, убийцы. И это деление людей -- на убийц и не убийц -- для нашего времени самое правильное и единственно реальное.
С этой точки зрения я и утверждаю, что Набокова убили большевики -- не монархисты, не коммунисты, не другие какие-нибудь "исты", а, прежде всего, -- убийцы.

The pro-bolshevist Mayakovski is responsible for the famous lines (quoted by Hodasevich in his devastating essay):

Ешь ананасы, рябчиков жуй, -
День твой последний приходит, буржуй!
(Gobble up pineapples and munch hazel-hens -
Your final hours are approaching, you vicious capitalist!)

In Ya sam (About Myself) Mayakovski proudly says that he composed them in Brodyachaya Sobaka (the Stray Dog cabaret), after it had moved to dom Adamini at the corner of the Moyka Canal and Marsovo Pole in St. Petersburg.

In Pro eto (About this, 1923) Mayakovski associates himself with a polar bear drifting on a block of ice.

He went back to whatever he was eating, and cruelly stroked Lucette's apricot-bloomed forearm, and she said in Russian 'I'm drunk, and all that, but I adore (obozhayu), I adore, I adore, I adore more than life you, you (tebya, tebya), I ache for you unbearably (ya toskuyu po tebe nevinosimo), and, please, don't let me swill (hlestat') champagne any more, not only because I will jump into Goodson River if I can't hope to have you, and not only because of the physical red thing... (2.8)

Mayakovski is the author of The Brooklyn Bridge (1925), a poem that ends in the line: " Brooklyn Bridge—yes . . . That’s quite a thing!" Gudzon is also mentioned in Mayakovski's poem: "From this spot, jobless men leapt headlong into the Hudson." (The Brooklyn Bridge actually crosses East River.)

Mayakovski was a friend of Igor Severyanin, the author of Ananasy v shampanskom (Pineapples in the Champagne, 1915).

Re Napoleon: see my post "Sosed in Pale Fire" in which Napoleon's words are quoted by the short man who opposed Mayakovski: Я должен напомнить товарищу Маяковскому, - горячится коротышка, - старую истину, которая была ещё известна Наполеону: от великого до смешного - один шаг...

*Speak, Memory, p. 184

Alexey Sklyarenko

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