Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023752, Tue, 12 Mar 2013 14:50:47 -0700

Re: tatarin
Turks and Albanians were stock romantic figures in Mozart's (and Pushkin's) day.

Satin is the French pronunciation of the Hebrew satan - meaning originally a
worthy opponent or prosecuting attorney (as in the book of Job). We do not have
a devil as such, but the fallen angel, the bringer of light, I forget his other
names. Anyway, he opposes 'the One who must be obeyed' at every possible
opportunity. It's his job, so to speak.

I like the somewhat incomplete ruka/kurva association. But isn't there a
Rukavishnikov, somewhere? That would make kurva and then some.Kurvaishnikov,

By the way, tatarin could either be a lady tartar or a tarte tatin.


From: Alexey Sklyarenko <skylark1970@MAIL.RU>
Sent: Mon, March 11, 2013 6:47:10 PM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] tatarin

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. 'Bednïy, bednïy' (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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