Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023604, Tue, 22 Jan 2013 03:19:21 +0300

la duree & krestik in Ada
Van (crossly): 'I don't understand the first word... What's that? L'adoree? Wait a second' (to Lucette). 'Please, stay where you are.' (Lucette whispers a French child-word with two 'p's.). 'Okay' (pointing toward the corridor). 'Sorry, Polly. Well, is it l'adoree? No? Give me the context. Ah - la duree. La duree is not... sin on what? Synonymous with duration. Aha. Sorry again, I must stopper that orgiastic soda. Hold the line.' (Yells down the 'cory door,' as they called the long second-floor passage at Ardis.) 'Lucette, let it run over, who cares!'
He poured himself another glass of brandy and for a ridiculous moment could not remember what the hell he had been - yes, the polliphone.
It had died, but buzzed as soon as he recradled the receiver, and Lucette knocked discreetly at the same time.
'La duree... For goodness sake, come in without knocking... No, Polly, knocking does not concern you - it's my little cousin. All right. La duree is not synonymous with duration, being saturated - yes, as in Saturday - with that particular philosopher's thought. What's wrong now? You don't know if it's doree or duree? D, U, R. I thought you knew French. Oh, I see. So long.
'My typist, a trivial but always available blonde, could not make out duree in my quite legible hand because, she says, she knows French, but not scientific French.'
'Actually,' observed Lucette, wiping the long envelope which a drop of soda had stained, 'Bergson is only for very young people or very unhappy people, such as this available rousse.'
'Spotting Bergson,' said the assistant lecher, 'rates a B minus dans ton petit cas, hardly more. Or shall I reward you with a kiss on your krestik - whatever that is?' (Ada, 2.5)

Bergson's la duree is mentioned by Zinaida Hippius in Opravdanie svobody (Justification of Freedom, 1924), a review of Berdyaev's Filosofiya neravenstva (The Philosophy of Inequality):

Революция не имеет дленья (la duree, по Бергсону), и когда мы говорим о "революции" -- мы говорим, в сущности, о временах, окружающих этот миг; о времени "послереволюционном", о революционных "эпохах"... (Revolution does not have la duree...)

As to krestik (little cross), it brings to mind Georgiy Ivanov's famous poem (1949):

Эмалевый крестик в петлице
И серой тужурки сукно...
Какие печальные лица
И как это было давно.

Какие прекрасные лица
И как безнадежно бледны -
Наследник, императрица,
Четыре великих княжны...

(Enamel cross in his lapel,
And a gray jacket cloth...
What sad faces,
And how long ago it was.

What beautiful faces,
and how hopelessly pale
are Heir, the Empress
and four Great Princesses...)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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