Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023621, Sat, 2 Feb 2013 02:34:18 +0300

A formal photograph, on a separate page: Adochka, pretty and impure in her flimsy, and Vanichka in gray-flannel suit, with slant-striped school tie, facing the kimera (chimera, camera) side by side, at attention, he with the shadow of a forced grin, she, expressionless. Both recalled the time (between the first tiny cross and a whole graveyard of kisses) and the occasion: it was ordered by Marina, who had it framed and set up in her bedroom next to a picture of her brother at twelve or fourteen clad in a bayronka (open shirt) and cupping a guinea pig in his gowpen (hollowed hands); the three looked like siblings, with the dead boy providing a vivisectional alibi. (Ada, 2.7)

Uncle Ivan's bayronka brings to mind Garol'dov plashch (Childe Harold's mantle) flaunted by Onegin in Pushkin's novel in verse:

who's he then? Can it be - an imitation,
an insignificant phantasm, or else
a Muscovite in Harold's mantle,
a glossary of other people's megrims,
a complete lexicon of words in vogue?...
Might he not be, in fact, a parody? (EO, Seven: XXIV: 9-14)

Cheepy (the guinea pig drawn by Robert Horn, a gifted but unprincipled artist) and vivisection are mentioned at the beginning of VN's Camera Obscura (1932), the novel whose main character (the art critic Bruno Kretschmar) loses his sight. Kim Beauharnais (the kitchen boy at Ardis who took this and other, less formal, photographs of Van and Ada) ends up as a blind man.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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