Perfunctorily she [Disa] inquired about the crown jewels; he [Kinbote] revealed to her their unusual hiding place, and she melted in girlish mirth as she had not done for years and years. "I do have some business matters to discuss," he said. "And there are papers you have to sign." Up in the trellis a telephone climbed with the roses. One of her former ladies in waiting, the languid and elegant Fleur de Fyler (now fortyish and faded), still wearing pearls in her raven hair and the traditional white mantilla, brought certain documents from Disa's boudoir. Upon hearing the King's mellow voice behind the laurels, Fleur recognized it before she could be misled by his excellent disguise. Two footmen, handsome young strangers of a marked Latin type, appeared with the tea and caught Fleur in mid-curtsey. A sudden breeze groped among the glycines. Defiler of flowers. He asked Fleur as she turned to go with the Disa orchids if she still played the viola. She shook her head several times not wishing to speak without addressing him and not daring to do so while the servants might be within earshot. (note to Lines 433-434)


The name of Queen Disa’s lady in waiting seems to hint not only at Florence, but also at Khlestakov’s credo in Gogol’s play Revizor (“The Inspector,” 1836): sryvat’ tsvety udovol’stviya (to pick the flowers of pleasure). Gogol was a close friend A. O. Smirnov (b. Rosset), a former lady in waiting of Aleksandra Fyodorovna (the wife of Nicholas I). Her husband N. M. Smirnov was a governor of Kaluga and then of St. Petersburg. In a letter of Sept. 8, 1891, to Suvorin Chekhov says that Tolstoy’s Afterword to The Kreutzer Sonata is even more stupid than Pis’ma k gubernatorshe (“The Letters to the Governor’s Wife”), as Chekhov contemptuously calls Gogol’s Vybrannye mesta iz perepiski s druz’yami (“The Selected Passages from the Correspondence with Friends,” 1847):


Толстой отказывает человечеству в бессмертии, но, боже мой, сколько тут личного! Я третьего дня читал его «Послесловие». Убейте меня, но это глупее и душнее, чем «Письма к губернаторше», которые я презираю. Чорт бы побрал философию великих мира сего! Все великие мудрецы деспотичны, как генералы, и невежливы и неделикатны, как генералы, потому что уверены в безнаказанности. Диоген плевал в бороды, зная, что ему за это ничего не будет; Толстой ругает докторов мерзавцами и невежничает с великими вопросами, потому что он тот же Диоген, которого в участок не поведёшь и в газетах не выругаешь. Итак, к чорту философию великих мира сего! Она вся, со всеми юродивыми послесловиями и письмами к губернаторше, не стоит одной кобылки из «Холстомера».


According to Chekhov, “all great sages are as despotic as generals, and as ungracious and indelicate as generals, because they are confident of their impunity.” Chekhov compares Tolstoy to Diogenes, the philosopher who lived in a barrel (in Pushkin’s “Fairy Tale about the Tsar Saltan” Prince Gvidon and his mother cross the sea in a barrel) and who spat at the beards knowing that nobody would do him anything for that. According to Chekhov, the entire philosophy of this world’s great men is not worth one little mare from Kholstomer (“Strider,” 1886).


Chekhov is the author of Duel’ (“The Duel,” 1891). The author of Poedinok (“The Single Combat,” 1905), Kuprin dedicated his story about a racehorse, Izumrud (“Emerald,” 1907), to the memory of Tolstoy’s Kholstomer. The characters of PF include Gerald Emerald, a young instructor at the New Wye University, and Izumrudov, one of the greater Shadows (a regicidal organization which commissioned Gradus to assassinate the self-banished King of Zembla). A precious stone, izumrud/emerald brings to mind the crown jewels that Baron Bland, the Keeper of the Treasure, had succeeded in hiding before he jumped or fell from the North Tower (note to Line 681). In order to locate them, the Extremists had engaged two Soviet experts, Andronnikov and Niagarin whom Izumrudov calls Andron and Niagarushka:


Yes, after a thorough perlustration of the loot that Andron and Niagarushka had obtained from the Queen's rosewood writing desk (mostly bills, and treasured snapshots, and those silly medals) a letter from the King did turn up giving his address which was of all places—Our man, who interrupted the herald of success to say he had never—was bidden not to display so much modesty. A slip of paper was now produced on which Izumudrov, shaking with laughter (death is hilarious), wrote out for Gradus their client's alias, the name of the university where he taught, and that of the town where it was situated. (note to Line 741)


In Chapter Eight of Myortvye dushi (“Dead Souls,” 1842) Gogol uses the phrase Androny edut (nonsense):


Какая же причина в мёртвых душах? Даже и причины нет. Это, выходит, просто: Андроны едут, чепуха, белиберда, сапоги всмятку! Это, просто, чёрт побери!..

What reason could there be in dead souls? None whatsoever. It was all sheer nonsense, absurdity, moonshine! It was simply....oh, the Devil take it all!...


After completing his work on Shade’s poem, Kinbote commits suicide. The last word in Kinbote’s Commentary is Gradus:


But whatever happens, wherever the scene is laid, somebody, somewhere, will quietly set out - somebody has already set out, somebody still rather far away is buying a ticket, is boarding a bus, a ship, a plane, has landed, is walking toward a million photographers, and presently he will ring at my door - a bigger, more respectable, more competent Gradus. (note to Line 1000)


In his Afterword to Revizor Gogol says that the real inspector who arrives at the end of the play is our conscience that meets us at the grave’s portals:


Мне показалось, что этот настоящий ревизор, о котором одно возвещенье в конце комедии наводит такой ужас, есть та настоящая наша совесть, которая встречает нас у дверей гроба.


In his poem Slava (“Fame,” 1942) VN mentions starshiy shpion (the head spy), the Influence on the the Balkan Novella of the Symbolist School, Akakiy Akakievich (the main character in Gogol’s story Shinel’, “The Carrick,” 1842) and parodiya sovesti v drame bezdarnoy (a mockery of conscience in a cheap drama).


In Canto Three of his poem Shade mentions gloomy Russian spies (according to Kinbote, Andronnikov and Niagarin are not gloomy):


Mars glowed. Shahs married. Gloomy Russians spied. (l. 681)


and the Balkan King:


It did not matter who they were. No sound,
No furtive light came from their involute
Abode, but there they were, aloof and mute,
Playing a game of worlds, promoting pawns
To ivory unicorns and ebony fauns;
Kindling a long life here, extinguishing
A short one there; killing a Balkan king… (ll. 816-822)


Akakiy Akakievich’s surname, Bashmachkin, comes from bashmachok (little shoe). According to Kinbote (the author of a remarkable book of surnames), Botkin is the one who makes bottekins, fancy footwear (note to Line 71). Kinbote mentions Prof. Botkin (Shade’s, Kinbote’s and Gradus’ “real” name) in the same sentence in which he quotes Shade’s words about Russian humorists (including Gogol, Chekhov and the authors of “The Twelve Chairs” and “The Golden Calf”):


Speaking of the Head of the bloated Russian Department, Prof. Pnin, a regular martinet in regard to his underlings (happily, Prof. Botkin, who taught in another department, was not subordinated to that grotesque "perfectionist"): "How odd that Russian intellectuals should lack all sense of humor when they have such marvelous humorists as Gogol, Dostoevski, Chekhov, Zoshchenko, and those joint authors of genius Ilf and Petrov." (note to Line 172)


Alexey Sklyarenko

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