Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023664, Wed, 13 Feb 2013 22:56:48 +0300

Dr Nikulin, etc.
Demon to Van (Ada, 1.38): 'I suspect your uncle has a cache behind the solanders in his study and keeps there a finer whisky than this usque ad Russkum. Well, let us have the cognac, as planned, unless you are a filius aquae?'
(No pun intended, but one gets carried away and goofs.)
'...Only Yukonians think cognac is bad for the liver, because they have nothing but vodka.'

The last doctor of Daniel Veen (Van's uncle who 'should stop swilling tittery, and stick to French and Califrench wines - after that little stroke he had') is Dr Nikulin (2.10). VN's "late namesake", Mayakovski is the author of the lines (quoted by Nikulin in a memoir essay):

Vstretilsya s Nikulinym.
Ne vypit' kon'yaku li nam?
(I met Nikulin.*
Should we drink the cognac?)

Vivian Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): filius aquae: 'son of water', bad pun on filum aquae, the middle way, 'the thread of the stream'.
Officially, Van (son of Demon and Aqua's twin sister Marina) is Aqua's son.

"Usque ad filum aquae: as far as the middle of the stream — referring to a rule in law that when a boundary of a real property is formed by a nontidal stream, unless otherwise evident, the title extends to an imaginary line along the middle of the stream subject to the rights of the public." (Merriam Webster)

'Naturally,' continued Demon, 'there is a good deal to be said for a restful summer in the country...'
'Open-air life and all that,' said Van. (1.38)

Chapter Two of Eugene Onegin has two epigraphs: O Rus! Horace and O Rus'! In Horace's Satire 1.3 a proverbial phrase appears: ab ovo usque ad mala ("from the egg to the apples").** The author of Moya Rodoslovnaya (My Pedigree), Pushkin begins Rodoslovnaya moego geroya. Otryvok iz satiricheskoy poemy (Pedigree of my Hero. An Excerpt from the Satirical Poem, 1836) ab ovo:

Nachnyom ab ovo: moy Ezerski
proiskhodil ot tekh vozhdey,
chey v drevni veki parus derzkiy
porabotil brega morey.
(Let's begin ab ovo: my Ezerski
descended from those chieftains
whose daring sail in the old days
has enslaved the shores of seas.)

Figlyarin (Bulgarin) whom Pushkin attacks in My Pedigree is also mentioned in Pedigree of my Hero:

chto ikh ponosit i Figlyarin
(that even Figlyarin abuses them***).

As to vodka (aqua-vita), in Byron's Don Juan (Canto Two, LVI) one of Juan's servants perishes in a ship-wreck because of it:

Battista; though (a name call'd shortly Tita),
Was lost by getting at some aqua-vita.

*the writer Lev Nikulin (1891-1967); incidentally, his nephew, the actor Valentin Nikulin brilliantly played Smerdyakov in Pyr'yev's film version (1969) of Brothers Karamazov
**in this chapter of Ada (1.38) the family dinner is described "soup to nuts"
***old aristocratic families

Alexey Sklyarenko

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