Nova Zembla + ya + nikto + yabloko + tail = Novaya Zemlya + Botkin + Nabokov + Lolita

Nova Zembla + nekto + yabloko + Italiya = Novaya Zemlya + Kinbote + Nabokov + Lolita

bonnet + king + sto + radius + nekto = sonnet + Kinbote + Gradus + nikto


ya C I (first person pronoun)

nikto C nobody

yabloko C apple

Botkin C an American scholar of Russian descent (Shades, Kinbotes and Gradus real name)

Lolita C a novel (1955) by VN

nekto C someone

Italiya C Italy in Russian spelling

sto - 100


Nova Zembla, poor thing, with that B in her bonnet (a line in VNs poem The Refrigerator Awakes) is a play on the idiom have a bee in ones bonnet (to keep talking about something again and again because one thinks it is very important). In his Commentary Kinbote (who imagines that he is the last self-exiled king of Zembla, Charles the Beloved) constantly speaks of Zembla. He certainly has a bee in his bonnet.


B is the initial of Bulgarin, one of the editors of Severnaya pchela (Northern Bee). Bulgarins coarse article in the Northern Bee provoked the composition of Pushkins poem Moya Rodoslovnaya (My Pedigree, 1830). In its Post Scriptum Pushkin mentions nasha zemlya (our land) and rul rodnogo korablya (the rudder of the native ship):


֧ڧ ڧԧݧڧ, ڧէ էާ,
קߧ է֧ ާ ѧߧߧڧҧѧ
ܧݧ֧ ٧ ҧݧܧ ާ
ܧ ܧڧ֧ ѧ.

֧ ܧڧ֧ ҧ ܧڧ֧ ݧѧӧߧ,
֧ ߧѧ էӧڧԧߧݧѧ ٧֧ާݧ,
ڧէѧ ާߧ ҧ֧ է֧اѧӧߧ
ݧ էߧԧ ܧѧҧݧ.


Sitting at home, Figliarin decided

That my black grandfather Gannibal

Was purchased for a bottle of rum

And fell into the hands of a skipper.


This skipper was that renowned skipper

By whom our land was moved,

Who mightily imparted a powerful course

To the rudder of the native ship.


VNs father, Vladimir Dmitrievich Nabokov (1870-1922), was the editor of Rul (The Rudder, an migr newspaper that came out in Berlin in 1920-31). In his coarse review of Sirins novels and stories in Chisla (Numbers #1, 1930) G. Ivanov calls VN samozvanets, kukharkin syn, chyornaya kost, smerd (impostor, a female cooks son, etc.).


Pushkins poem Rodoslovnaya moego geroya (The Pedigree of my Hero, 1832) is written in the Onegin stanza. In his poem On Translating Eugene Onegin (1955) VN (the author of a thousand-page-long Commentary to his translation of EO) says that he turned Pushkins stanza patterned on a sonnet into his honest roadside prose:


What is translation? On a platter

A poets pale and glaring head,

A parrot's screech, a monkey's chatter,

And profanation of the dead.

The parasits you were so hard on

Are pardoned if I have your pardon,

O, Pushkin, for my stratagem:

I travelled down your secret stem,

And reached the root, and fed upon it;

Then, in a language newly learned,

I grew another stalk and turned

Your stanza patterned on a sonnet,

Into my honest roadside prose--

All thorn, but cousin to your rose.


According to G. Ivanov, when he asked Alexander Blok (the author of The Twelve whose name begins with a B) if a sonnet needed a coda, Blok replied that he did not know what a coda was. There is Blok in yabloko (apple). In his poem Kak v Gretsiyu Bayron (Like Byron to Greece 1930) G. Ivanov mentions blednyi ogon (pale fire). It seems to me that, to be completed, Shades unfinished poem needs not one but two lines:


I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By its own double in the windowpane.


Line 1000 = Line 1, Line 1001 is the poems coda. But since in Italian poetry the coda (which means tail) is often longer that the sonnet itself (as pointed out by Gogol in his fragment Rome, 1841), Kinbotes entire Commentary (including his Foreword and Index) can be regarded as the coda. Kinbote completes his work on Pale Fire and commits suicide on October 19, 1959 (the anniversary of Pushkins Lyceum). Shade, Kinbote and Gradus turn into Botkin and (like Count Vorontsov, the Governor of Novorossiya,* a target of Pushkins epigrams) become at last full.


*New Russia


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.