In Kalugano Van Veen has a pistol duel with Captain Tapper, of Wild Violet Lodge (1.42). Vivian Darkbloom ('Notes to Ada'): Tapper: 'Wild Violet', as well as 'Birdfoot', reflects the 'pansy' character of Van's adversary and of the two seconds.
The name of Van's adversary hints at tapette (Fr., passive homosexual). In the days of VN's youth there was a slang word tapetka (which rhymes with nimfetka, Humbert Humbert's "nymphet," and means in Russian what tapette does in French). I quote from Oleg Volkhovski's* novel FilFak (2009):
На лавочке неподалёку сидели два пассивных гомосексуалиста, на жаргоне - тапетки, от французского "tapette" - колотушка. На том же языке банщики именовались "наядами", солдаты - "маркитантками", бани - "теплицами", а активные гомосексуалисты - "тётками". (p. 375)
The poet and composer Mikhail Kuzmin meets Sergey Dyagilev and his two friends in the Tavricheski Garden in St. Petersburg. Kuzmin notices two pretty tapettes sitting on a garden bench. The author informs us that naiad was gay slang for "bath-house attendant," "sutler woman" for "soldier," "hothouse" for "bath-house," and tante (aunt) for "active homosexual."
On the other hand, a member of the Do-Re-La country club, Tapper brings to mind Chekhov's story Tapyor (The Ballroom Pianist, 1885). There are many military men in Chekhov's stories and plays but, as far as I know, no gay characters. But Chekhov's collection of stories Khmurye lyudi (Gloomy People, 1890) was dedicated to P. I. Chaykovski, a gay composer who is known on Antiterra as Tshchaikow, the author of the opera Onegin and Olga (1.25). Van's duel with Tapper is a parody of Onegin's duel with Lenski in Pushkin's Eugene Onegin. According to VN (EO Commentary, vol.III, p. 45), "the description of the Lenski-Onegin duel is, on our poet's part, a personal recollection in regard to various details, and, in regard to its issue, a personal prediction." Pushkin's adversary in his fatal duel, d'Anthès, was the adopted son and bardache of the Dutch Minister in St. Petersburg Baron Jackob Theodore van Heeckeren.
Gekkern = Gnekker = G + Nekker = keg + Kern
tapetka = apteka + t = aptekarsha + t - shar
Gekkern - Russian spelling of Heeckeren
Gnekker - the fiancé of the professor's daughter in Chekhov's Skuchnaya istoriya (A Dull Story, 1889) included in Gloomy People.
Nekker - Russian spelling of Necker (Mme de Staёl's father). "La morale est dans la nature des choses. Necker." is the epigraph to Chapter Four of Eugene Onegin.
Kern - Anna Kern, the addressee of Pushkin's poem K*
apteka - Russ., chemist's shop; "Noch'. Ulitsa. Fonar'. Apteka..." ("Night. Street. Lamp. Chemist's shop...") is a famous poem by Blok; with Milton Abraham's invaluable help Aqua organized a Phree Pharmacy in Belokonsk (1.3)
aptekarsha - chemist's wife; Aptekarsha (A Chemist's Wife, 1886) is a story by Chekhov.
shar - Russ., sphere; globe; in Chekhov's story Kryzhovnik (The Gooseberries, 1898) Chimsha-Gimalayski says that man needs ves' zemnoy shar (the whole globe), not the proverbial three arshins of land; Mr Arshin, an acrophobe, is Van's patient in Kingston (2.6).
*Oleg Volkhovski turned out to be the penname of Natalia Tochilnikov (b. 1969). In FilFak VN is mentioned twice (Lolita and the Lolita scandal are alluded to).
Alexey Sklyarenko
Google Search
the archive
the Editors
NOJ Zembla Nabokv-L
Subscription options AdaOnline NSJ Ada Annotations L-Soft Search the archive VN Bibliography Blog

All private editorial communications are read by both co-editors.