Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023751, Tue, 12 Mar 2013 20:06:31 +0300

Percy de Prey
Percy de Prey was not invited to the picnic party on Ada's sixteenth birthday. Nevertheless, he arrives "drunk as a welt":

Unfortunately, or maybe fortunately, at that very moment Ada emitted a Russian exclamation of utmost annoyance* as a steel-gray convertible glided into the glade. No sooner had it stopped than it was surrounded by the same group of townsmen,** who now seemed to have multiplied in strange consequence of having shed coats and waistcoats. Thrusting his way through their circle, with every sign of wrath and contempt, young Percy de Prey, frilled-shirted and white-trousered, strode up to Marina's deckchair. He was invited to join the party despite Ada's trying to stop her silly mother with an admonishing stare and a private small shake of the head. (1.39)

Just before Percy's arrival, Mlle Lariviere (the author of "The Accursed Children") mentions the Tartars: Greg, assuming with touching simplicity that Ada would notice and approve, showered Mlle Lariviere with a thousand little attentions - helping her out of her mauve jacket, pouring out for her the milk into Lucette's mug from a thermos bottle, passing the sandwiches, replenishing, replenishing Mlle Lariviere's wineglass and listening with a rapt grin to her diatribes against the English, whom she said she disliked even more than the Tartars, or the, well, Assyrians. (Greg Erminin is a Jew, and Mlle Lariviere an antisemite.)

Accoding to a Russian saying, nezvanyi gost' khuzhe tatarina (the uninvited guest is worse than a Tartar). Chapter VIII of Pushkin's short novel "The Captain's Daughter" (1836), Nezvanyi gost' (The Unexpected Visit), has this saying for epigraph. In this chapter Grinyov visits Pugachyov, the pretender to the Russian throne who led the Cossack insurrection impersonating the late Emperor Peter III. As he speaks to Grinyov, Pugachyov mentions another Pretender, Grishka Otrep'yev:

Пугачёв взглянул на меня быстро. «Так ты не веришь, — сказал он, — чтоб я был государь Пётр Федорович? Ну, добро. А разве нет удачи удалому? Разве в старину Гришка Отрепьев не царствовал?

Pugachyov cast at me a quick glance. "You do not then think that I am the Tsar Peter Fyodorovich? Well, so let it be. Is there no chance of success for the bold? In former times did not Grischka Otrep'yev reign?"
Grishka Otrep'yev was anathematized by the Russian Orthodox Church. In Dostoevski's novel Besy (The Possessed, 1872) Stavrogin hears his mad wife, poor lame Maria Lebyadkin, cry out after him: Grishka Otrep'yev anafema! The novel ends in Stavrogin's suicide.

The Engish text of Gorky's play Na dne is available (as The Lower Depths) online: http://www.google.ru/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=the%20lower%20depths%20full%20text&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&sqi=2&ved=0CC4QFjAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Farchive.org%2Fstream%2Flowerdepthsplayi00gorkiala%2Flowerdepthsplayi00gorkiala_djvu.txt&ei=lTQ_Ub-xIaPx4QTP5IHwDg&usg=AFQjCNEWj3FZTCTnclMztta7WS62pNZwaA&bvm=bv.43287494,d.bGE

The scene of cheating at cards (cited in my previous post) can be translated as follows:

(Shouts out.) That card was in your sleeve.

(Confused.) Would you like me to hide it in your nose?

Nezvanyi gost' (the uninvited guest) in Na dne is starets (a spiritual adviser) Luka. Luke (Russ., Luka) is the author of the third Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles.

*presumably, chyort tebya poberi! (the devil take you!)
**they seem to be the Apostles (their comrade whom they dispatched and buried must be Judas)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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