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 (Shade¡¯s, Kinbote¡¯s 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 VN¡¯s poem The Refrigerator Awakes) is a play on the idiom ¡°have a bee in one¡¯s 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). Bulgarin¡¯s coarse article in the Northern Bee provoked the composition of Pushkin¡¯s 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):
§²§Ö§ê§Ú§Ý §¶§Ú§Ô§Ý§ñ§â§Ú§ß, §ã§Ú§Õ§ñ §Õ§à§Þ§Ñ,
§¹§ä§à §é§×§â§ß§í§Û §Õ§Ö§Õ §Þ§à§Û §¤§Ñ§ß§ß§Ú§Ò§Ñ§Ý
§¢§í§Ý §Ü§å§á§Ý§Ö§ß §Ù§Ñ §Ò§å§ä§í§Ý§Ü§å §â§à§Þ§Ñ
§ª §Ó §â§å§Ü§Ú §ê§Ü§Ú§á§Ö§â§å §á§à§á§Ñ§Ý.
§³§Ö§Û §ê§Ü§Ú§á§Ö§â §Ò§í§Ý §ä§à§ä §ê§Ü§Ú§á§Ö§â §ã§Ý§Ñ§Ó§ß§í§Û,
§¬§Ö§Þ §ß§Ñ§ê§Ñ §Õ§Ó§Ú§Ô§ß§å§Ý§Ñ§ã§î §Ù§Ö§Þ§Ý§ñ,
§¬§ä§à §á§â§Ú§Õ§Ñ§Ý §Þ§à§ë§ß§à §Ò§Ö§Ô §Õ§Ö§â§Ø§Ñ§Ó§ß§í§Û
§²§å§Ý§ð §â§à§Õ§ß§à§Ô§à §Ü§à§â§Ñ§Ò§Ý§ñ.
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.
VN¡¯s 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 Sirin¡¯s novels and stories in Chisla (Numbers #1, 1930) G. Ivanov calls VN samozvanets, kukharkin syn, chyornaya kost¡¯, smerd (impostor, a female cook¡¯s son, etc.).
Pushkin¡¯s 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 Pushkin¡¯s 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, Shade¡¯s 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 poem¡¯s 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), Kinbote¡¯s 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 Pushkin¡¯s Lyceum). Shade, Kinbote and Gradus turn into Botkin and (like Count Vorontsov, the Governor of Novorossiya,* a target of Pushkin¡¯s epigrams) become at last ¡°full.¡±