NABOKV-L post 0022094, Mon, 17 Oct 2011 15:34:38 +0300

architect is too blame
too many erotic works his grandfather [the architect David van Veen] had bought near Vence from Count Tolstoy, a Russian or Pole (Ada, 2.3)

In a letter of May 2, 1896, to the critic V. V. Stasov (1824-1906, a son of the famous architect Vasiliy Stasov,* 1769-1848), Leo Tolstoy mentions the architect I. P. Ropet (I. N. Petrov, 1845-1908) who visited him in Yasnaya Polyana on that day. In the same letter Tolstoy says that he has the book ("De la prostitution dans la ville de Paris," 1836) by Parent du Chatelet and asks Stasov to send him more literature on the subject (Stasov sent Tolstoy six French books on prostitution, with some facts and data concerning the situation in Russia**). Tolstoy's note begins with apologies:

Виноват перед вами, дорогой Владимир Васильевич, за то, что не отвечал и не благодарил за прекрасный портрет Герцена и ещё что-то.

As I pointed out before (see my earlier post on this subject, in which I mention Herzen, the author of "Кто виноват?"***), архитектор виноват ("the architect is to blame") was a proverbial phrase in Tolstoy's family.

There is vino (wine) in vinovat (mea culpa). In a letter of September 14, 1891, to P. G. Gansen, Tolstoy mentions Kierkegaard's articles "In Vino Veritas. The Reminiscences" and "Don Juan in Music and Literature."

In his Incognita (mentioned in Ada: 3.3), Blok (the author of "Шаги командора," "The Commander’s Footsteps," a poem whose hero is Don Juan) has drunks with the red eyes of rabbits cry out: "In vino veritas." Btw., Blok's Incognita is a prostitue; and Blok's father (whom the poet calls Demon in his "Retribution," 1910-21) spent the second half of his life and died in Warsaw (cf. "a Russian or Pole").

On the other hand, in a letter of November 25, 1892, to Suvorin, Chekhov**** complains of the lack of alcohol in the works of contemporary authors and mentions V. V. Stasov, the critic who can get drunk even on slops:

Наука и техника переживают теперь великое время, для нашего же брата это время рыхлое, кислое, скучное, сами мы кислы и скучны, умеем рождать только гуттаперчевых мальчиков, и не видит этого только Стасов, которому природа дала редкую способность пьянеть даже от помоев. Причины тут не в глупости нашей, не в бездарности и не в наглости, как думает Буренин, а в болезни, которая для художника хуже сифилиса и полового истощения. У нас нет "чего-то", это справедливо, и это значит, что поднимите подол нашей музе, и Вы увидите там плоское место ("...lift up the hem of our Muse's skirt and you'll see a flat spot there").

Chekhov was both writer and doctor and his diagnosis was probably correct. Incidentally, in "Woman from the Point of View of a Drunkard" Chekhov compares girls under sixteen to distilled water (Humbert would disagree). I speak in more detail about it in my book (to be published posthumously?) on Ada as a charade-like novel: "Истина в вине" ("In Wine is Truth").

*the author of, among other cathedrals in St. Petersburg, the Konyushennaya (Royal Stables) Church where the burial service for Pushkin was read
**the celebrated syphilologist V. M. Tarnovski (1839-1906), the husband of VN's Aunt Pasha (whose last words were всё - вода, "everything is water," see Speak, Memory, p. 55), is the author of a book on prostitution in St. Petersburg ("Prostitution and Abolutionism," 1888); the author of "Resurrection" (1899) must have studied it
***"Who is to Blame?" (1847)
****Chekhov met VN's Aunt Pasha in the Crimea (Speak, Memory, Ibid.)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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