Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0023931, Tue, 16 Apr 2013 15:13:17 +0300

Pierre Legrand
Van to Ada: "You shall wear a blue veil, and I the false mustache that makes me look like Pierre Legrand, my fencing master." (Ada, 2.8)

It seems that, on Terra, Van's fencing master was none other than Peter the Great, the Emperor of Russia (1672-1725). The tsar had the whiskers of a tom-cat:

И царевич узнаёт в звериной морде лицо человечье - широкоскулое, пучеглазое, с усами торчком, как у "Кота-котабрыса". (Merezhkovski, "Peter and Alexey", Book Eight "The Werewolf", chapter III)

On Antiterra Pushkin's poem Mednyi vsadnik (The Bronze Horseman, 1833) is known as Headless Horseman: He [Van] could solve an Euler-type problem or learn by heart Pushkin's 'Headless Horseman' poem in less than twenty minutes. (1.28)

Falconet's equestrian statue of Peter I (mednyi vsadnik) is alluded to in Ilf and Petrov's "The Golden Calf" (chapter 34 "Friendship with Youth"):

Дружба, подогреваемая шутками подобного рода, развивалась очень быстро, и вскоре вся шайка-лейка под управлением Остапа уже распевала частушку:

У Петра Великого
близких нету никого.
Только лошадь и змея,
Вот и вся его семья.

Peter the Great
has no relatives at all.
Only a horse and a snake
are his whole family.

The statue's pedestal is the enormous Grom-kamen' (Thunder stone). Grom (thunder) reminds one of Mr Gromwell, Van's lawyer. While Gromwell rhymes with Cromwell, mednyi (copper; brazen) rhymes with bednyi (poor). Before shooting him dead, an old Tartar compassionately calls Percy de Prey bednyi (poor fellow):

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. (One wonders, one always wonders, what had been the executed individual's brief, rapid series of impressions, as preserved somewhere, somehow, in some vast library of microfilmed last thoughts, between two moments: between, in the present case, our friend's becoming aware of those nice, quasi-Red Indian little wrinkles beaming at him out of a serene sky not much different from Ladore's, and then feeling the mouth of steel violently push through tender skin and exploding bone. (1.42)

"Those nice, quasi-Red Indian little wrinkles" bring to mind Captain Mayne Reid, the author "The Headless Horseman" (1866).

Antilia Glems + Gerald + Ada + Sevan = Gitanilla + Esmeralda + navsegda

Antilia Glems - a character in Van's novel Letters from Terra
Gerald - Moris Gerald, the hero of Mayne Reid's The Headless Horseman
Sevan - a lake in Armenia
Gitanilla - La Gitanilla, a novel (1613) by Cervantes; on Antiterra, a novel by Osberg
Esmeralda - a character in Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris (1831); Van and Ada call Lucette "our Esmeralda and mermaid" (2.8); the butterfly in VN's poem "Lines Written in Oregon" (1953)
navsegda - Russ., for ever, for good; VN's "Lines Written in Oregon" end: Esmeralda, immer, immer

Alexey Sklyarenko

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