Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027201, Thu, 13 Oct 2016 19:55:07 +0300

John Ray, Jr. & Kumir moy in Russian Lolita
In VN’s novel Pale Fire (1962) the last (unwritten) line of Shade’s
(unfinished) poem seems to be:

By its own double in the windowpane.

Dvoynik (“The Double”) is a novel (1846) by Dostoevski and a poem (1914)
by Blok. In his poem O net, ne raskolduesh’ serdtsa ty… (“Oh no ! You
cannot disenchant my heart...” 1912) Blok mentions his shade that will
appear on the ninth and on the fortieth day after his death:

И тень моя пройдёт перед тобою

В девятый день, и в день сороковой -

Неузнанной, красивой, неживою.

Такой ведь ты искала? - Да, такой.

And suddenly you’ll see my shade appear

Before you on the ninth and fortieth day:

Unrecognized, handsome and drear,

The kind of shade you looked for, by the way!

By the way, in the Russian Lolita (1967) the name of Clare Quilty’s
co-author who wrote her memoirs about him, Kumir moy (“My Idol”),* is
Vivian d’Amor-Blok (d’Amor was her stage name, Blok was the name of one of
her first husbands). Rhymed translations are awful, by the way.

The last line of Shade’s poem (Line 1001) is its coda. According to G.
Ivanov, when he asked Blok if a sonnet needed a coda, Blok replied that he
did not know what a coda was. In his poem Kak v Gretsiyu Bayron, o, bez
sozhalen’ya… (“Like Byron to Greece, oh, without regret…” 1927) G.
Ivanov mentions blednyi ogon’ (pale fire). The title of a section in G.
Ivanov’s book Stikhi (“Verses,” 1948-58), Rayon de rayonne (“A Ray of
Artificial Silk”), brings to mind John Ray, Jr., the author of the Foreword
who tells us about Humbert Humbert’s and Lolita’s deaths. Incidentally,
ray is Russian for “paradise.”

At the end of his poem [Poet idyot]: otkryty vezhdy (“The poet goes: his
eyes are wide open”) quite arbitrarily inserted by the editors in the gap
of his unfinished novella Egipetskie nochi (“The Egyptian Nights,” 1835)
Pushkin compares the poet to Desdemona who herself, without asking anybody,
chooses kumir (the idol) for her heart:

Таков поэт: как Аквилон
Что хочет, то и носит он ―
Орлу подобно, он летает
И, не спросясь ни у кого,
Как Дездемона избирает
Кумир для сердца своего.

The name of the woman who marries Charles the Beloved (the last King of
Zembla), Disa, Duchess of Payn, of Great Payn and Mone, seems to blend
Shakespeare’s Desdemona with Leonardo’s Mona Lisa. The Leonardo is the
English title of VN’s story Korolyok (1933). Korolyok is a diminutive of
korol’ (“king”). VN’s novel Korol’, dama, valet (“King, Queen,
Knave,” 1928) was criticized by G. Ivanov in an offensive article that
appeared in the Paris émigré review Chisla (Numbers, #1, 1930).

* My Cue by Vivian Darkbloom in the English version

Alexey Sklyarenko

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