Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023761, Thu, 14 Mar 2013 02:25:11 +0300

Acts of the Apostles
The predominant gesture seemed to be ritually limited to this or that fist crumpling brown paper or coarse gazette paper or baker's paper (the very lightweight and inefficient sort), and discarding the crumpled bit in quiet, abstract fashion, while other sad apostolic hands unwrapped the victuals or for some reason or other wrapped them up again, in the noble shade of the pines, in the humble shade of the false acacias. (Ada, 1.39)

As you know, he [Judas] bought a plot of land with the money he was paid for his crime. He fell headlong and burst open, and all his entrails poured out. (Acts of the Apostles, 1.18)

It seems that the Apostles wrap up Judas's entrails before burying them in the nearby glade.

She [Marina] sent a footman to investigate the situation and tell those Gipsy politicians, or Calabrian laborers, that Squire Veen would be furious if he discovered trespassers camping in his woods.
The footman returned, shaking his head. They did not speak English. Van went over:
'Please go away, this is private property,' said Van in Vulgar Latin, French, Canadian French, Russian, Yukonian Russian, very low Latin again: proprieta privata. (1.39)

Apparently, it was before the Holy Spirit gave the Apostles the power to express themselves (Acts, 2.4), that's why they do not speak all these languages yet and do not understand Van.

He [Daniel Veen] had recognized at least a dozen Italian words. It was, he understood, a collation of shepherds. They thought, he thought, he was a shepherd too. A canvas from Cardinal Carlo de Medici's collection, author unknown, may have been at the base of that copy. (1.39)

One of the Italian words Uncle Dan recognized must be pastore.

The author of Acts of the Apostles, Luke is one of the four Evangelists.
In his Gabriel poem (Gavriiliada, 1821) Pushkin says that the church withheld God's talks with the Archangel Gabriel ("the Evangelist blundered a little!") and refers to an obscure (very apocryphal) Armenian legend:

Беседы их нам церковь утаила,
Евангелист немного оплошал!
Но говорит армянское преданье,
Что царь небес, не пожалев похвал,
В Меркурии архангела избрал,
Заметя в нём и ум, и дарованье, —
И вечерком к Марии подослал.

Their talks to us the church withheld,
The Evangelist blundered a little!
But an Armenian legend says
that king of heaven, not sparing the praise,
In the Mercury chose the Archangel,
Having noticed in him wit and talent,
And in the evening to Mary sent.

Van's scuffle with Percy de Prey (when Van demonstrates the grips of "Oriental Scrotomoff") seconded by Greg Erminin (who brings Ada the news that "he [Percy] is all right") is a parody of Gabriel's fight with Satan in Pushkin's poem. Greg's surname has something Armenian about it. "Oriental" seems to hint at vostochnyi, pyostryi slog (the Oriental florid style) favored by tvorets (the creator) in the Gabriel poem.

Thirteen years later Van meets Greg in Paris and exclaims Bozhe moy! (Oh my God!):

'I last saw you thirteen years ago, riding a black pony - no, a black Silentium. Bozhe moy!'
'Yes - Bozhe moy, you can well say that. Those lovely, lovely agonies in lovely Ardis! Oh, I was absolyutno bezumno (madly) in love with your cousin!' (3.2)

Van and Greg both see Ardis (Daniel Veen's estate in the Ladore County) as a kind of paradise.

To return to tatarin: in Pushkin's "Boris Godunov" Shuyski says of Godunov: vcherashniy rab, tatarin, zyat' Malyuty, / zyat' palacha i sam v dushe palach ("a slave of yesterday, a Tartar, Malyuta's* son-in-law, / a hangman's son-in-law and himself a hangman at heart"). In one of Pushkin's epigrams on Bulgarin tatarin rhymes with Figlyarin (Vidoqc Figlyarin was Bulgarin's nickname).

*Malyuta Skuratov-Bel'ski (one of the most odious leaders of the Oprichnina during the reign of Ivan the Terrible)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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