Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027106, Tue, 12 Jul 2016 15:45:54 +0300

zhiletka blades in Pale Fire, Baron Klim Avidov in Ada
He never would have reached the western coast had not a fad spread among his secret supporters, romantic, heroic daredevils, of impersonating the fleeing king. They rigged themselves out to look like him in red sweaters and red caps, and popped up here and there, completely bewildering the revolutionary police. Some of the pranksters were much younger than the King, but this did not matter since his pictures in the huts of mountain folks and in the myopic shops of hamlets, where you could buy worms, ginger bread and zhiletka blades, had not aged since his coronation. (note to Line 70)

In Ilf and Petrov’s Dvenadtsat’ stulyev (“The Twelve Chairs,” 1928) Ostap Bender offers to Father Fyodor (one of the three diamond hunters in the novel) ot zhiletki rukava (the sleeves of a waist-coat), the middle of a doughnut, and the ears of a dead donkey:

Отец Фёдор медленно направился к своему номеру.

– Старые вещи покупаем, новые крадём! – крикнул Остап вслед. Востриков вобрал голову и остановился у своей двери. Остап продолжал измываться.

– Как же насчёт штанов, многоуважаемый служитель культа? Берёте? Есть ещё от жилетки рукава, круг от бублика и от мёртвого осла уши. Оптом всю партию – дешевле будет. И в стульях они не лежат, искать не надо!? А?!

Father Fyodor slowly walked towards his room.
"We buy old stuff and steal new stuff!" called Ostap after him. Vostrikov lowered his head and stopped by the door. Ostap continued taunting him.
"What about my pants, my dear cleric? Will you take them? There's also the sleeves of a waistcoat, the middle of a doughnut, and the ears of a dead donkey. The whole lot is going wholesale-it's cheaper. And they're not hidden in chairs, so you won't need to look for them." (Part One, chapter 12 “A Passionate Woman, a Poet’s Dream”)

Vorob’yaninov sells to Bender on credit his blue zhilet (waist-coat):

Зато у Ипполита Матвеевича под известным уже читателю лунным жилетом оказался ещё один — гарусный, ярко-голубой.

— Жилет прямо на продажу, — завистливо сказал Бендер, — он мне как раз подойдёт. Продайте. Ипполиту Матвеевичу неудобно было отказывать своему новому компаньону и непосредственному участнику концессии. Он, морщась, согласился продать его за свою цену — восемь рублей.

— Деньги после реализации нашего клада, — заявил Бендер, принимая от Воробьянинова ещё тёплый жилет.

— Нет, я так не могу, — сказал Ипполит Матвеевич, краснея. — Позвольте жилет обратно. Деликатная натура Остапа возмутилась.

— Но ведь это же лавочничество! — закричал он. — Начинать полуторастотысячное дело и ссориться из-за восьми рублей! Учитесь жить широко!..

Ипполит Матвеевич покраснел ещё больше, вынул маленький блокнотик и каллиграфически записал: «25/IV-27 г. выдано т. Бендеру р.—8».

Under Ippolit Matveevich's moonlight waistcoat, already familiar to the readers, he was wearing another light-blue worsted waistcoat.
"There's a waistcoat worth buying," said Ostap enviously. "Just my size. Sell it to me!"
Ippolit Matveyevich felt it would be awkward to refuse to sell the waistcoat to his new friend and direct partner in the concession. Frowning, he agreed to sell it at its original price-eight roubles.
"You'll have the money when we sell the treasure," said Bender, taking the waistcoat, still warm from Vorobyaninov's body.
"No, I can't do things like that," said Ippolit Matveevich, flushing. "Please give it back."
Ostap's delicate nature was repulsed.
"There's stinginess for you," he cried. "We undertake business worth a hundred and fifty thousand and you squabble over eight roubles! You want to learn to live it up!"

Ippolit Matveevich reddened still more, and taking a notebook from his pocket, he wrote in neat handwriting: 25.04.27 issued to Comrade Bender 8 roubles. (Part One, chapter 6)

Ostap Bender shaves Vorob’yaninov with a Gillette razor:

Разыскав ножницы, Бендер мигом отхватил усы, они бесшумно свалились на пол. Покончив со стрижкой, технический директор достал из кармана пожелтевшую бритву «Жиллет», а из бумажника — запасное лезвие и стал брить почти плачущего Ипполита Матвеевича.

— Последний ножик на вас трачу. Не забудьте записать на мой дебет два рубля за бритье и стрижку. Содрогаясь от горя, Ипполит Матвеевич все-таки спросил:

— Почему же так дорого? Везде стоит сорок копеек!

— За конспирацию, товарищ фельдмаршал,— быстро ответил Бендер.

Bender found a pair of scissors and in a flash snipped off the moustache, which fell silently to the floor. When the hair had been cropped, the technical adviser took a yellowed Gillette razor from his pocket and a spare blade from his wallet, and began shaving Ippolit Matveevich, who was almost in tears by this time.
"I'm using my last blade on you, so don't forget to credit me with two roubles for the shave and haircut."
"Why so expensive?" Ippolit managed to ask, although he was convulsed with grief. "It should only cost forty kopeks."
"For reasons of security, Comrade Field Marshal!" promptly answered Ostap. (Part One, chapter 7)

VN, who offers to Roman Jakobson (a Harvard Professor who compared the author of The Gift and Lolita to an elephant) the ears of a live donkey, is kinder than Bender. Incidentally, in the punch line of Ivan Krylov’s fable Lyubopytnyi (“A Curious Person”) slon (elephant) is mentioned:

Slona-to ya i ne ptimetil.

The elephant I didn’t notice.

Pushkin’s poem Sobranie nasekomykh (“A Collection of Insects,” 1829) has for the epigraph the lines from Krylov’s Lyubopytnyi:

Какие крохотны коровки!

Есть, право, менее булавочной головки!

What tiny creatures!

Really, some are smaller than a pinhead!

The name Krylov comes from krylo (wing) and brings to mind King Wing, in VN’s novel Ada (1969) Demon’s wrestling master who taught Van to walk on his hands. For the first time Van walks on his hands at the picnic on Ada’s twelfth birthday:

The children displayed their talents: Ada and Grace danced a Russian fling to the accompaniment of an ancient music box (which kept halting in mid-bar, as if recalling other shores, other, radial, waves); Lucette, one fist on her hip, sang a St Malô fisher-song; Greg put on his sister’s blue skirt, hat and glasses, all of which transformed him into a very sick, mentally retarded Grace; and Van walked on his hands.

Two years earlier, when about to begin his first prison term at the fashionable and brutal boarding school, to which other Veens had gone before him (as far back as the days 'when Washingtonias were Wellingtonias'), Van had resolved to study some striking stunt that would give him an immediate and brilliant ascendancy. Accordingly, after a conference with Demon, King Wing, the latter's wrestling master, taught the strong lad to walk on his hands by means of a special play of the shoulder muscles, a trick that necessitated for its acquirement and improvement nothing short of a dislocation of the caryatics. (1.13)

At this picnic in “Ardis the First” Ada and Grace Erminin play anagrams and Grace innocently suggests ‘insect:’

But whatever wrath there hung in the air, it soon subsided. Ada asked her governess for pencils and paper. Lying on his stomach, leaning his cheek on his hand, Van looked at his love’s inclined neck as she played anagrams with Grace, who had innocently suggested ‘insect.’

‘Scient,’ said Ada, writing it down.

‘Oh no!’ objected Grace.

‘Oh yes! I’m sure it exists. He is a great scient. Dr Entsic was scient in insects.’

Grace meditated, tapping her puckered brow with the eraser end of the pencil, and came up with:


‘Incest,’ said Ada instantly.

‘I give up,’ said Grace. ‘We need a dictionary to check your little inventions.’ (ibid.)

There is a cruel pun on nasekomoe (insect) in Gorky’s novel Zhizn’ Klima Samgina (“The Life of Klim Samgin,” 1925-36). Its protagonist is a namesake of Baron Klim Avidov (an anagram of Vladimir Nabokov), Marina’s former lover who gave her children a set of Flavita (the Russian Scrabble):

It was, incidentally, the same kindly but touchy Avidov (mentioned in many racy memoirs of the time) who once catapulted with an uppercut an unfortunate English tourist into the porter’s lodge for his jokingly remarking how clever it was to drop the first letter of one’s name in order to use it as a particule, at the Gritz, in Venezia Rossa. (1.36)

As I pointed out before, Gritz hints at Mme Gritsatsuev, “a passionate woman, a poet’s dream” in Ilf and Petrov’s “The Twelve Chairs.”

At the same picnic Mlle Larivière (Lucette’s governess) reads her story La rivière de diamants (known on Terra as Maupassant’s La Parure, 1884). In “The Twelve Chairs” Bender, as he speaks to Varfolomey Korobeynikov, mentions Maupassant:

Остап, который к этому времени закончил свои наблюдения над Коробейниковым, решил, что "старик -- типичная сволочь".

-- Так вот, -- сказал Остап.

-- Так вот, -- сказал архивариус, -- трудно, но можно...

-- Потребует расходов? -- помог владелец мясохладобойни.

-- Небольшая сумма...

-- Ближе к телу, как говорил Мопассан. Сведения будут оплачены.

"A typical old bastard," decided Ostap, who had by then completed his observation of Korobeinikov.
"So there you are," said Ostap.
"So there you are," said the record-keeper. "It's difficult, but possible."
"And it involves expense," suggested the refrigeration-plant owner helpfully.
"A small sum . . ."
" 'Get closer to the body', as Maupassant used to say. The information will be paid for." (Part One, chapter 11 “Mirror of Life Alphabet”)

Flavita is an anagram of alfavit (alphabet):

That was why she [Ada] admitted ‘Flavita.’ The name came from alfavit, an old Russian game of chance and skill, based on the scrambling and unscrambling of alphabetic letters. It was fashionable throughout Estoty and Canady around 1790, was revived by the ‘Madhatters’ (as the inhabitants of New Amsterdam were once called) in the beginning of the nineteenth century, made a great comeback, after a brief slump, around 1860, and now a century later seems to be again in vogue, so I am told, under the name of ‘Scrabble,’ invented by some genius quite independently from its original form or forms. (1.36)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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