From Kinbote’s note to Line 71:


Alfin the Vague (1873-1918; regnal dates 1900-1918, but 1900-1919 in most biographical dictionaries, a fumble due to the coincident calendar change from Old Style to New) was given his cognomen by Amphitheatricus, a not unkindly writer of fugitive poetry in the liberal gazettes (who was also responsible for dubbing my capital Uranograd!).


As I pointed out before, in his story Tochka opory ("The Point of Rest," 1923), Aleksandr Amfiteatrov (the author of Gospoda Obmanovy, “The Obmanovs,”* 1902) mentions Uranus: Эйфелева башня кувыркалась где-то далеко, между Сатурном и Ураном, в перегонку с неистово визжавшей Айседорой Дункан.


The title of Amfiteatrov's story hints at the “Archimedean point” (Archimedes is among the great geniuses of the past who are mentioned in Tochka opory), a hypothetical vantage point from which an observer can objectively perceive the subject of inquiry, with a view of totality. In his poem Da, Vy sderzhali Vashe slovo (“Yes, you have kept your word...” 1870) Tyutchev (the author of Urania, 1820) mentions tochka Arkhimeda (the Archimedean point): Schastliv v nash vek, komu pobeda / Dalas' ne krov'yu, a umom, / Schastliv, kto tochku Arkhimeda / Syskat' umel v sebe samom ("In our days happy's he who managed to gain victory using his brain, without spilling a drop of blood; happy's he who managed to find in himself the Archimedean point").


From the Index to Pale Fire:


Uran the Last, Emperor of Zembla, reigned 1798-1799; an incredibly brilliant, luxurious, and cruel monarch whose whistling whip made Zembla spin like a rainbow top; dispatched one night by a group of his sister's united favorites, 681.


In his Ode to Liberty (Vol’nost’. Oda, 1817) Pushkin describes zabven’yu broshennyi dvorets (a palace to oblivion cast) where the tsar Paul I (the Russian counterpart of Uran the Last) was strangled by a gang of courtiers on the night of March 11, 1801. Tyutchev is the author of K ode Pushkina na vol’nost’ (“To Pushkin’s Ode on Liberty,” 1820). Kinbote commits suicide on October 19, 1959, after completing the Foreword to Pale Fire. October 19 is the Lyceum Anniversary. It was the tsar Alexander I (the elder son of Paul I) who founded the Lyceum.


From Kinbote’s note to Line 71:


On the serene, and not too cold, December morning that the angels chose to net his mild pure soul, King Alfin was in the act of trying solo a tricky vertical loop that Prince Andrey Kachurin, the famous Russian stunter and War One hero, had shown him in Gatchina.


The author of Lyudi-ptitsy ("Men-Birds," 1917), Poteryannoe serdtse ("The Lost Heart," 1931), a story about Russian aviation pioneers, and a memoir essay (1915) on Utochkin (the sprotsman and airman whose name comes from utochka, little duck), A. I. Kuprin lived in Gatchina. On the other hand, Gatchina was the residence of the Grand Duke Pavel Petrovich (the future tsar Paul I) prior to his mother’s death.


Alfin = final


*a play on obman (fraud, deception) and on Romanov, the surname of Russian tsars


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.