Carolyn Kunin [ to JM’s In a former posting I mentioned Kinbote’s conspiratorial signature as a Black Knight by a fortunate mistake that brought “N” to my attention...]  “You know, I have to check, but it seems to me that Stauntons "signs" their sets by stamping a crown on the Knight!

Jansy Mello: I was very very wrong… but your sympathetic response is right! (Cf. underlined info below)


“The increased interest in the game of chess, particularly in international play during the late 18th century and early 19th century, brought about a renewed demand for a more universal model for chess pieces [  ] A player's unfamiliarity with an opponent's set could alter the outcome of a game[  ]By the early decades of the 19th century, it was all too clear that there was a great need for a chess set with pieces that were easy to use and universally recognized by chess players of diverse backgrounds. The solution, first released in 1849 by the purveyors of fine games, John Jaques of London, sport and games manufacturers, of Hatton Garden, London England, was to become known as the Staunton chess set after Howard Staunton (1810–1874), the chess player and writer who was generally considered the strongest player in the world from 1843 to 1851.Although Nathaniel Cook has long been credited with the design, it may have been conceived by his brother-in-law and owner of the firm, John Jaques. The first theory of the development of the set is that Mr. Cook had used prestigious architectural concepts, familiar to an expanding class of educated and prosperous gentry… There were also practical innovations: for the first time a crown emblem was stamped onto a rook and knight of each side, to identify their positioning on to the king's side of the board. The reason for this is that in descriptive chess notation, the rooks and knights were often designated by being the "queen's knight", the "king's rook", etc. The second theory is that Jaques, a master turner, had probably been experimenting with a design that would not only be accepted by players, but could also be produced at a reasonable cost…The third theory is it was a combination of both theories with the synergy of Mr. Cook the entrepreneur and Mr. Jaques the artisan. However, chess books of the day were using icons of chess pieces in diagrams of a design similar in many respects to the Staunton men from 1818. This indicates that the Staunton design was taken from these diagrams. An idea very likely picked up by a printer.” Cf. and History of Staunton Chess Pieces by Sean Evans


However, my mistake led me to learn that there’s “fairy chess” and that V.Nabokov indicated it in “Pale Fire,” besides all the other possible shifts and games associated to the letter “N” in chess.  Thanks, Carolyn.

2014-03-19 9:19 GMT-03:00 Alexey Sklyarenko <>:
'Who cares,' cried Van, 'who cares about all those stale myths, what does it matter - Jove or Jehovah, spire or cupola, mosques in Moscow, or bronzes and bonzes, and clerics, and relics, and deserts with bleached camel ribs? They are merely the dust and mirages of the communal mind.'
'How did this idiotic conversation start in the first place?' Ada wished to be told, cocking her head at the partly ornamented dackel or taksik.
'Mea culpa,' Mlle Larivière explained with offended dignity. 'All I said, at the picnic, was that Greg might not care for ham sandwiches, because Jews and Tartars do not eat pork.'
'The Romans,' said Greg, 'the Roman colonists, who crucified Christian Jews and Barabbits, and other unfortunate people in the old days, did not touch pork either, but I certainly do and so did my grandparents.' (1.14)
One is reminded of the conversation in Saltykov-Shchedrin's Gospoda Golovlyovy ("The Golovlyovs"):
Подают другое кушанье: ветчину с горошком. Иудушка пользуется этим случаем, чтоб возобновить прерванный разговор.
— Вот жиды этого кушанья не едят, — говорит он.
— Жиды — пакостники, — отзывается отец благочинный, — их за это свиным ухом дразнят.
— Однако ж, вот и татары... Какая-нибудь причина этому да есть...
— И татары тоже пакостники — вот и причина.
— Мы конины не едим, а татары — свининой брезгают. Вот в Париже, сказывают, крыс во время осады ели.
— Ну, те — французы!
At the funeral repast Iudushka (whose brother Pavel just died) remarks that Jews and Tartars do not eat pork. The priest replies that Jews are mocked "a pig's ear" for that. Iudushka adds that during the siege of Paris people are said to have eaten rats. "Well, those were the French!" the priest says.
"Bronzes" mentioned by Van bring to mind Yakov Ivanov, nicknamed Bronze, the coffin-maker in Chekhov's story Skripka Rotshilda ("Rothschild's Fiddle," 1894). Both Rothschild (the flutist in a Jewish orchestra) and Bronze are mocked by the town boys:
Rothschild was petrified with terror. He sank to the ground and waved his hands over his head as if to protect himself from falling blows; then he jumped up and ran away as fast as his legs could carry him. As he ran he leaped and waved his arms, and his long, gaunt back could be seen quivering. The little boys were delighted at what had happened, and ran after him screaming: "Jew, Jew!" The dogs also joined barking in the chase. Somebody laughed and then whistled, at which the dogs barked louder and more vigorously than ever.
Then one of them must have bitten Rothschild, for a piteous, despairing scream rent the air.
Yakov walked across the common to the edge of the town without knowing where he was going, and the little boys shouted after him. "There goes old man Bronze! There goes old man Bronze!"
Van's and Ada's father Demon Veen perishes in a mysterious airplane disaster above the Pacific and is never buried (for Van and Ada their father was buried on the same day as their uncle Daniel Veen, though: 3.8). Demon's colleague Kithar Sween is the author of The Waistline, a satire in free verse on Anglo-American feeding habits, and Cardinal Grishkin, an overtly subtle yarn extolling the Roman faith:
The last occasion on which Van had seen his father was at their house in the spring of 1904. Other people had been present: old Eliot, the real-estate man, two lawyers (Grombchevski and Gromwell), Dr Aix, the art expert, Rosalind Knight, Demon's new secretary, and solemn Kithar Sween, a banker who at sixty-five had become an avant-garde author; in the course of one miraculous year he had produced The Waistline, a satire in free verse on Anglo-American feeding habits, and Cardinal Grishkin, an overtly subtle yarn extolling the Roman faith. (3.7)
The first part of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land (1922) is entitled The Burial of the Dead and the fourth part, Death by Water. Water is the element that kills Van's and Ada's half-sister Lucette (who drowns in the Atlantic and is never buried either):
Three elements, fire, water, and air, destroyed, in that sequence, Marina, Lucette, and Demon. Terra waited. (3.1)
Van's, Ada's and Lucette's mother Marina dies of cancer (sgoret' means "to burn down" and "to die fast"). When she was pregnant with Ada (who becomes Van's mistress in the night of the Burning Barn: 1.19), Marina spent with Demon a rukuliruyushchiy month at Kitezh:
Some confusion ensued less than two years later (September, 1871 - her proud brain still retained dozens of dates) when upon escaping from her next refuge and somehow reaching her husband's unforgettable country house (imitate a foreigner: 'Signor Konduktor, ay vant go Lago di Luga, hier geld') she [Aqua] took advantage of his being massaged in the solarium, tiptoed into their former bedroom - and experienced a delicious shock: her talc powder in a half-full glass container marked colorfully Quelques Fleurs still stood on her bedside table; her favorite flame-colored nightgown lay rumpled on the bedrug; to her it meant that only a brief black nightmare had obliterated the radiant fact of her having slept with her husband all along - ever since Shakespeare's birthday on a green rainy day, but for most other people, alas, it meant that Marina (after G. A. Vronsky, the movie man, had left Marina for another long-lashed Khristosik as he called all pretty starlets) had conceived, c'est bien le cas de le dire, the brilliant idea of having Demon divorce mad Aqua and marry Marina who thought (happily and correctly) she was pregnant again. Marina had spent a rukuliruyushchiy month with him at Kitezh but when she smugly divulged her intentions (just before Aqua's arrival) he threw her out of the house. (1.3).
Khristosik (little Christ) is a negative, as it were, of Saltykov's Iudushka (little Judas). Rukuliruyushchiy (roucoulant, cooing) has the same French origin as rukuliruya (gerund of rukulirovat'), a quaint non-Russian word used by Saltykov in Gospoda Tashkenttsy (“Gentlemen of Tashkent,” 1873) instead of vorkuya (cooing).* Grombchevski and his nephew Gromwell (the lawyers who were present when Van saw his father for the last time) seem to hint at the Russian lawyers Karabchevski (the author of memoirs "What my Eyes have Seen," 1921, in which VN's father is mentioned) and Gromnitski. In "The Golovlyovs" Iudushka's brother Pavel, who believes that it is dangerous to have a real estate, is afraid of lawyers:
— А то и вздумалось, что, по нынешнему времени, совсем собственности иметь не надо! Деньги — это так! Деньги взял, положил в карман и удрал с ними! А недвижимость эта…
— Да что ж это за время такое за особенное, что уж и собственности иметь нельзя?
— А такое время, что вы вот газет не читаете, а я читаю. Нынче адвокаты везде пошли — вот и понимайте. Узнает адвокат, что у тебя собственность есть — и почнёт кружить!
— Как же он тебя кружить будет, коль скоро у тебя праведные документы есть?
— Так и будет кружить, как кружат. Или вот Порфишка-кровопивец: наймёт адвоката, а тот и будет тебе повестку за повесткой присылать!
— Что ты! не бессудная, чай, земля?
Before his death Demon bought a small, perfectly round Pacific island:
Demon had recently bought a small, perfectly round Pacific island, with a pink house on a green bluff and a sand beach like a frill (as seen from the air), and now wished to sell the precious little palazzo in East Manhattan that Van did not want. Mr Sween, a greedy practitioner with flashy rings on fat fingers, said he might buy it if some of the pictures were thrown in. The deal did not come off. (3.7)
According to a Russian saying, a man needs only three arshins of land (one arshin is equivalent to 28 inches). But Ivan Ivanovich Chimsha-Gimalayski, the main character in Chekhov's story Kryzhovnik ("The Gooseberries," 1898), disagrees:
"It is a common saying that a man needs only six feet of land. But surely a corpse wants that, not a man... A man needs, not six feet of land, not a farm, but the whole earth, all Nature, where in full liberty he can display all the properties and qualities of the free spirit."
When Ivan Ivanovich visits his brother, an elderly official who settled in the country and who can eat at last the gooseberries that grows in his own garden, the latter resembles a pig:
I went in to my brother and found him sitting on his bed with his knees covered with a blanket; he looked old, stout, flabby; his cheeks, nose, and lips were pendulous. I half expected him to grunt like a pig.
Years later, when Van meets Greg Eminin in Paris, both are fat:
Van considered for a moment those red round cheeks, that black goatee.
'Ne uznayosh' (You don't recognize me)?'
'Greg! Grigoriy Akimovich!' cried Van tearing off his glove.
'I grew a regular vollbart last summer. You'd never have known me then. Beer? Wonder what you do to look so boyish, Van.'
'Diet of champagne, not beer,' said Professor Veen, putting on his spectacles and signaling to a waiter with the crook of his 'umber.' 'Hardly stops one adding weight, but keeps the scrotum crisp.'
'I'm also very fat, yes?'
'What about Grace, I can't imagine her getting fat?'
'Once twins, always twins. My wife is pretty portly, too.'
'Tak tï zhenat (so you are married)? Didn't know it. How long?'
'About two years.'
'To whom?'
'Maude Sween.'
'The daughter of the poet?'
'No, no, her mother is a Brougham.' (3.2)
After the picnic in Ardis the First Grace Erminin was laid up with acute indigestion:
Greg said that both Aunt Ruth and Grace were laid up with acute indigestion - 'not because of your wonderful sandwiches,' he hastened to add, 'but because of all those burnberries they picked in the bushes.' (1.14)
Greg's and Grace's father, Colonel Erminin does not come to the picnic saying in a note that his liver (Russ., pechen') behaves like a pecheneg (savage). (1.13) Pecheneg ("The Savage," 1894) is a story by Chekhov. According to Van, Greg's father (who died just before "your aunt," as Greg calls Marina) "preferred to pass for a Chekhovian colonel" (3.2).
Van and Ada discover that Marina, not her twin sister Aqua, is Van's mother thanks to Marina's old herbarium (1.1). But, as the proverb says, this is only tsvetochki (little flowers), yagodki (little berries) are to come. Describing Aqua's suicide, Van compares her pills to berries:
Sly Aqua twitched, simulated a yawn, opened her light-blue eyes (with those startlingly contrasty jet-black pupils that Dolly, her mother, also had), put on yellow slacks and a black bolero, walked through a little pinewood, thumbed a ride with a Mexican truck, found a suitable gulch in the chaparral and there, after writing a short note, began placidly eating from her cupped palm the multicolored contents of her handbag, like any Russian country girl lakomyashchayasya yagodami (feasting on berries) that she had just picked in the woods. (1.3)
Marina Durmanov is a professional actress. The characters of "The Golovlyovs" include the twin sisters Anninka and Lyubinka, both of whom are provincial actresses. Like Aqua, Lyubinka commits suicide by taking poison.
Van had seen the picture [the Holliwood film version of Four Sisters, as Chekhov's play The Three Sisters, 1901, is known on Antiterra] and had liked it. An Irish girl, the infinitely graceful and melancholy Lenore Colline -
Oh! qui me rendra ma colline
Et le grand chêne and my colleen!
- harrowingly resembled Ada Ardis as photographed with her mother in Belladonna, a movie magazine which Greg Erminin had sent him, thinking it would delight him to see aunt and cousin, together, on a California patio just before the film was released. (2.9)
Belladonna is a poisonous plant Atropa belladonna. On the other hand, Belladonna is the eldest of the three Parcae. She is mentioned by Eliot in The Waste Land:
Here is Belladonna, the Lady of the Rocks,
The lady of situations. (chapter I "The Burial of the Dead")
Marina to Demon: 'You have no idea, Demon, how I dread meeting again, after all those years, that dislikable Norbert von Miller, who has probably become even more arrogant and obsequious, and moreover does not realize, I'm sure, that Dan's wife is me. He's a Baltic Russian' (turning to Van) 'but really echt deutsch, though his mother was born Ivanov or Romanov, or something, who owned a calico factory in Finland or Denmark. I can't imagine how he got his barony; when I knew him twenty years ago he was plain Mr Miller.'
'He is still that,' said Demon drily, 'because you've got two Millers mixed up. The lawyer who works for Dan is my old friend Norman Miller of the Fainley, Fehler and Miller law firm and physically bears a striking resemblance to Wilfrid Laurier. Norbert, on the other hand, has, I remember, a head like a kegelkugel, lives in Switzerland, knows perfectly well whom you married and is an unmentionable blackguard.' (1.38)
Fehler is German for "mistake." The girl in The Waste Land is not a Russian at all, but comes from Lithuania being echt deutsch:
Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch. ("The Burial of the Dead")
The execution [at the picnic in Ardis the Second] was interrupted by the arrival of Uncle Dan. He had a remarkably reckless way of driving, as happens so often, goodness knows why, in the case of many dour, dreary men. Weaving rapidly between the pines, he brought the little red runabout to an abrupt stop in front of Ada and presented her with the perfect gift, a big box of mints, white, pink and, oh boy, green! He had also an aerogram for her, he said, winking.
Ada tore it open - and saw it was not for her from dismal Kalugano, as she had feared, but for her mother from Los Angeles, a much gayer place. Marina's face gradually assumed an expression of quite indecent youthful beatitude as she scanned the message. Triumphantly, she showed it to Larivière-Monparnasse, who read it twice and tilted her head with a smile of indulgent disapproval. Positively stamping her feet with joy:
'Pedro is coming again,' cried (gurgled, rippled) Marina to calm her daughter.
'And, I suppose, he'll stay till the end of the summer,' remarked Ada - and sat down with Greg and Lucette, for a game of Snap, on a laprobe spread over the little ants and dry pine needles.
'Oh no, da net zhe, only for a fortnight' (girlishly giggling). 'After that we shall go to Houssaie, Gollivud-tozh' (Marina was really in great form) - 'yes, we shall all go, the author, and the children, and Van - if he wishes.'
'I wish but I can't,' said Percy (sample of his humor). (1.39)
Gollivud-tozh brings to mind "Gimalayskoe tozh," the country place of Ivan Ivanovich's brother in "The Gooseberries." Its name comes from Gimalai (the Himalayas).
Now Lucette demanded her mother's attention.
'What are Jews?' she asked.
'Dissident Christians,' answered Marina.
'Why is Greg a Jew?' asked Lucette.
'Why-why!' said Marina; 'because his parents are Jews.'
'And his grandparents? His arrière grandparents?'
'I really wouldn't know, my dear. Were your ancestors Jews, Greg?'
'Well, I'm not sure,' said Greg. 'Hebrews, yes - but not Jews in quotes - I mean, not comic characters or Christian businessmen. They came from Tartary to England five centuries ago. My mother's grandfather, though, was a French marquis who, I know, belonged to the Roman faith and was crazy about banks and stocks and jewels, so I imagine people may have called him un juif.'
'It's not a very old religion, anyway, as religions go, is it?' said Marina (turning to Van and vaguely planning to steer the chat to India where she had been a dancing girl long before Moses or anybody was born in the lotus swamp). (1.14)
At the end of her life Marina confessed with an enigmatic and rather smug smile that much as she liked the rhythmic blue puffs of incense, and the dyakon's rich growl on the ambon, and the oily-brown ikon coped in protective filigree to receive the worshipper's kiss, her soul remained irrevocably consecrated, naperekor (in spite of) Dasha Vinelander, to the ultimate wisdom of Hinduism. (3.1) It seems that Marina is not a vegetarian, though.
It is Tolstoy, the author of Yagody ("The Berries," 1906), who was a confirmed vegetarian. In Ilf and Petrov's "The Twelve Chairs" Leo Tolstoy is mentioned by Kolya Kalachov:
"Leo Tolstoy," said Kolya in a quavering voice, "didn't eat meat either."
"No," retorted Liza, hiccupping through her tears, "the count ate asparagus."
"Asparagus isn't meat."
"But when he was writing War and Peace he did eat meat. He did! He did! And when he was writing Anna Karenin he stuffed himself and stuffed himself."
"Do shut up!"
"Stuffed himself! Stuffed himself!"
"And I suppose while he was writing The Kreutzer Sonata he also stuffed himself?" asked Nicky venomously.
"The Kreutzer Sonata is short. Just imagine him trying to write War and Peace on vegetarian sausages! "
"Anyway, why do you keep nagging me about your Tolstoy?"
(chapter XVII "Have Respect for Mattrasses, Citizens!")
In one of the next chapters, "From Seville to Granada," Vorob'yaninov invites Liza Kalachov to a posh restaurant. The name Vorob'yaninov comes from vorobey (sparrow). And so does vorobeynik, the Russian name of gromwell (Lithospermum gen.). The great Grombchevski's nephew, Mr Gromwell is Van's lawyer (2.2).
p. s. to my previous post: Iuda Apostol ("Judas the Apostle," 1919) is a poem by Voloshin included in his book Neopalimaya kupina ("The Burning Bush").
*see in Zembla my article "The Naked Truth, or the Reader's Sentimental Education in Ada's Quelque Chose University"
Alexey Sklyarenko
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