Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023750, Tue, 12 Mar 2013 03:52:11 +0300

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)

The romantic Turk or Albanian Ada meets in the woods is her lover Percy de Prey. Percy is to perish soon, and it is an old Tartar who shoots him dead:

When a couple of minutes later, Percy - still Count Percy de Prey - regained consciousness he was no longer alone on his rough bed of gravel and grass. A smiling old Tartar, incongruously but somehow assuagingly wearing American blue-jeans with his beshmet, was squatting by his side. 'Bedniy, bedniy' (you poor, poor fellow), muttered the good soul, shaking his shaven head and clucking: 'Bol'no (it hurts)?' Percy answered in his equally primitive Russian that he did not feel too badly wounded: 'Karasho, karasho ne bol'no (good, good),' said the kindly old man and, picking up the automatic pistol which Percy had dropped, he examined it with naive pleasure and then shot him in the temple. (1.42)

Tatarin (a Tartar) is a character in Gorky's play Na dne (At the Bottom, 1902). It is tatarin who accuses Baron of cheating in a card game:

Татарин (кричит). А! Карта рукав совал!
Барон (конфузясь). Ну... что же мне - в нос твой сунуть?*

rukav = kurva (rukav - sleeve; Gorky's Baron slips a card in his sleeve; kurva - whore)

At an invisible sign of Dionysian origin, they all plunged into the violent dance called kurva or 'ribbon boule' in the hilarious program whose howlers almost caused [Baron Demon] Veen (tingling, and light-loined, and with Prince N.'s rose-red banknote in his pocket) to fall from his seat. (1.2)

The professional shuler (card-sharper), and raisonneur, in Gorky's play is Satin. Satin + i = istina (truth). According to the Latin saying (quoted by Blok in Incognita), istina v vine (in wine is truth). If the first letter in vine (prepositional case of vino, "wine") is capitalized, the phrase (istina v Vine) acquires a new meaning: "in Veen is truth."

*This scene is evoked by Hodasevich in his memoir essay on Gorky.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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