Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023635, Mon, 4 Feb 2013 12:40:39 +0300

War and Peace
Among the servants, fifteen at least were of French extraction — descendants of immigrants who had settled in America after England had annexed their beautiful and unfortunate country in 1815. (1.40)

Because Napoleon is not mentioned in Ada, we can assume that he did not exist on Antiterra (Earth's twin planet on which Ada is set). Anyway, Josephine de Beauharnais (Napoleon's first wife) is known on Demonia as "Queen Josephine" (1.5)

The Napoleonic Wars were described by Tolstoy in War and Peace (1862-69). I wonder if anybody has pointed out that the novel's title was borrowed from Pushkin's Boris Godunov (Night. Cell in the Monastery of Chudov):

[Пимен:] В часы,
Свободные от подвигов духовных,
Описывай, не мудрствуя лукаво,
Всё то, чему свидетель в жизни будешь:
Войну и мир, управу государей,
Угодников святые чудеса,
Пророчества и знаменья небесны...

[Pimen:] In hours exempt
From the soul's exercise, do thou record,
Not subtly reasoning, all things whereto
Thou shalt in life be witness; war and peace,
The sway of kings, the holy miracles
Of saints, all prophecies and heavenly signs...

Chekhov greatly admired War and Peace but disliked the scenes with Napoleon: Только не люблю тех мест, где Наполеон. Как Наполеон, так сейчас и натяжка и всякие фокусы, чтобы доказать, что он глупее, чем был на самом деле. Всё, что делают и говорят Пьер, князь Андрей или совершенно ничтожный Николай Ростов, – всё это хорошо, умно, естественно и трогательно; всё же, что думает и делает Наполеон, – это не естественно, не умно, надуто и ничтожно по значению. (Only I don't like the passages in which Napoleon appears. As soon as Napoleon comes on the scene there are forced explanations and tricks of all sorts to prove that he was stupider than he really was. Everything that is said and done by Pierre, Prince Andrey, or the absolutely insignificant Nikolay Rostov--all that is good, clever, natural, and touching; everything that is thought and done by Napoleon is not natural, not clever, inflated and worthless.)*

*a letter of October 25, 1891, to Suvorin

Alexey Sklyarenko

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