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)
Gritz hints at Mme Gritsatsuev, "a passionate woman, a poet's dream," in Ilf and Petrov's The Twelve Chairs. In Sorbonne (a cheap hotel in Stargorod, the city where Mme Gritsatsuev lives) Father Fyodor attempts to sting Bender with a pencil pushed through a keyhole, but Bender snatches it, with a pocket-knife carves a rude word on its edge and pushes it back through the keyhole of the priest's door (see my previous post).
In his essay Venetsiya ("Venice," 1911) Kuprin confesses that he was tempted to steal an engraved steel key of one of the doors in the Doge's Palace:
Простой стальной ключ, всунутый в замок двери, отчеканен рукой великолепного мастера, который, может быть, даже не оставил своего имени истории, и я должен, к моему стыду, признаться, что только большое усилие воли помешало мне украсть этот ключ на память о Венеции.
In his essay Kuprin mentions Botticelli's mosaic in the tomb of Cardinal Zeno depicting the whole story of Herod, Herodias, Salome and John the Baptist. According to Kuprin, Salome's famous dance as painted by Botticelli would have made Ida Rubinstein (the ballerina who was portrayed as Salome by Serov) blush and turn away:
А знаменитый танец Саломеи заставил бы покраснеть и отвернуться Иду Рубинштейн.
На Саломее... на ней, то есть, я хотел сказать, на этой длинноногой прекрасной женщине, с невинно наклонённой набок головой и с удивлённо поднятыми кверху тонкими бровями... вы понимаете, что я хочу сказать?.. На ней нет совсем ничего.
Pokrasnet' (to blush) comes from krasnyi (red). Hence "Venezia Rossa" (rosso is Italian for "red"). In Botticelli's painting the head of naked Salome is innocently bent nabok (on one side). Ada's habit to blush distresses Van "as being much more improper than any act that might cause it" (1.20). Ida Rubinstein is a namesake of Ida Larivière (Lucette's prim governess).
At the end Kuprin gives an advice to all Russian tourists:
P.S. Неизбежный совет всем русским туристам. Оставляйте Венецию и кардинала Зено в виде десерта: после них все кажется пресным.
"Leave Venice and Cardinal Zeno for the dessert. Everything after them seems insipid." The same can be said of VN and his writings, no?
Remarkably, in the second of the three poems dedicated to Venice (included in "Italian Verses," 1909), "Холодный ветер от лагуны..." ("The cold wind from the lagoon..."), Blok (the author of "The Twelve," 1918) mentions Salome carrying his blood-stained head:
В тени дворцовой галлереи,
Чуть озарённая луной,
Таясь проходит Саломея
С моей кровавой головой.
In Ada (3.3) Lucette is linked to Blok's Incognita, and Van Veen is modeled partly on the romantic image of the author of The Night Violet, the poem (1906) subtitled "A Dream." Btw., Nochnaya fialka (The Night Violet, 1933) is a story by Kuprin.
Alexey Sklyarenko
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