Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023747, Sun, 10 Mar 2013 15:48:13 +0300

Peter de Rast
Uncle Dan in an overstuffed chair was trying to read, with the aid of one of the dwarf dictionaries for undemanding tourists which helped him to decipher foreign art catalogues, an article apparently devoted to oystering in a Dutch-language illustrated paper somebody on the train had abandoned opposite him - when an abominable tumult started to spread from room to room through the whole house...
'Good Lord!' he exclaimed, on catching sight of the gory trophy, 'somebody must have chopped off a thumb!'* Patting his thighs and his chair, he sought and retrieved - from under the footstool - the vestpocket wordbook and went back to his paper, but a second later had to look up 'groote,' which he had been groping for when disturbed.
The simplicity of its meaning annoyed him. (Ada, 1.11)

She [Lucette] would advance up to the center of the weedy playground in front of the forbidden pavilion, and there, with an air of dreamy innocence, start to jiggle the board of an old swing that hung from the long and lofty limb of Baldy, a partly leafless but still healthy old oak (which appeared - oh, I remember, Van! - in a century-old lithograph of Ardis, by Peter de Rast, as a young colossus protecting four cows and a lad in rags, one shoulder bare). (1.34)

Van remembered that his tutor's great friend, the learned but prudish Semyon Afanasievich Vengerov, then a young associate professor but already a celebrated Pushkinist (1855-1954), used to say that the only vulgar passage in his author's work was the cannibal joy of young gourmets tearing 'plump and live' oysters out of their 'cloisters' in an unfinished canto of Eugene Onegin. (1.38)

Groote is Dutch for "large". The tsar Peter I is often called "Peter the Great" (Dutch: Peter de Grote). In 1697 Peter I visited the Netherlands where he worked at a shipyard (under the pseudonym Pyotr Mikhailov). In the last years of his life Pushkin worked on Istoriya Petra (The History of Peter I). In the unfinished canto of Eugene Onegin ("Fragments of Onegin's Journey", [XIX], 1-4) Pushikin mentions "the Flemish School's variegated dross":

Порой дождливою намедни
Я, завернув на скотный двор...
Тьфу! прозаические бредни,
Фламандской школы пёстрый сор!

The other day, during a rainy period,
as I had dropped into the cattle yard -
Fie! Prosy divagations,
the Flemish School's variegated dross!

The Dutch minister in St. Petersburg (and, after his expulsion from Russia, in Vienna), Baron van Heeckeren (d'Anthes's adoptive father), had a good collection of paintings. On the other (left) hand, van Heeckeren was a pederast.

Peter de Rast + Tirana = pederast + Antiterra
Tirana = tiran + a, Tirana + t = tatarin, tiran + a = tatarin - t

(Tirana - Albanian capital; Antiterra, or Demonia - Earth's twin planet on which Ada is set; tiran - Russ., tyrant; tatarin - Russ., a Tatar)

Khan Sosso, the ruthless ruler of the Sovietnamur Khanate (the Antiterran name of Tartary, 2.2), is tatarin. On the other hand, tatarin is a character in Gorky's play Na dne (At the Bottom, 1902).

Daniel Veen's favorite painter, Hieronymus Bosch is also important in Gorky's novel "The Life of Klim Samgin". Gorky's hero is a namesake of Baron Klim Avidov (anagram of Vladimir Nabokov), Marina's former lover who gave her children a set of Flavita (Russian scrabble, 1.36). Flavita = alfavit (Russ., alphabet). Of the 225 squares of the Flavita board 165 are flavid (golden-yellow).

Albanians are also mentioned in Ada:

A moment later, however, Van remarked: 'I think I'll take an Alibi - I mean an Albany - myself.'
'Please note, everybody,' said Ada, 'how voulu that slip was! I like a smoke when I go mushrooming, but when I'm back, this horrid tease insists I smell of some romantic Turk or Albanian met in the woods.' (1.38)

Btw., Otrep'yev comes from otrep'ya (rags).

*The hero of Tolstoy's "Father Sergius" ("Count Tolstoy's famous anecdote") chops off his finger in order to resist the charms of a young woman who wants to seduce him (see my post "Cardinal Grishkin, Baron d'Onsky, Vatican").

Alexey Sklyarenko

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