According to Nina Lecerf (a character in VNТs novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, 1941), the woman who attracted Sebastian is Уgood as good bread:Ф
We were silent for quite a long time. Alas, I had no more doubts, though the picture of Sebastian was atrocious Ц but then, too, I had got it second-hand.
'Yes,' I said, 'I shall see her at all costs. And this for two reasons. Firstly, because I want to ask her a certain question Ц one question only. And secondly '
'Yes?' said Madame Lecerf sipping her cold tea. 'Secondly?'
'Secondly, I am at a loss to imagine how such a woman could attract my brother; so I want to see her with my own eyes.'
'Do you mean to say,' asked Madame Lecerf, 'that you think she is a dreadful, dangerous woman? Une femme fatale? Because, you know, that's not so. She's good as good bread.' (chapter 16)
In the first stanza of his poem Shestoe chuvstvo (УThe Sixth Sense,Ф 1920) Gumilyov mentions dobryi khleb (the good bread) and zhenshchina, kotoroyu dano, sperva izmuchivshisТ, nam nasladitТsya (the woman who at first tortures and then delights us):
ѕрекрасно в нас влюблЄнное вино
» добрый хлеб, что в печь дл€ нас садитс€,
» женщина, которою дано,
—перва измучившись, нам насладитьс€.
Fine is the wine enamored of us,
and the good bread baked for our sake,
and the woman who delights us
when she's finished her tweaking games.
(transl. Burton Raffel)
Eventually V. (the narrator in TRLSK, SebastianТs half-brother) finds out that the woman who played a fatal role in SebastianТs life was Nina Lecerf (alias Mme de Rechnoy) herself. Her name hints at Nina Zarechnyi, a character in ChekhovТs play Chayka (УThe Seagull,Ф 1896). In his essay on Chekhov, Tvorchestvo iz nichego (УCreation from Nothing,Ф 1905), Lev Shestov says that one of ChekhovТs most remarkable works is his play УThe Seagull:Ф
ќдним из самых характерных дл€ „ехова, а потому и замечательных его произведений должна считатьс€ его драма У„айкаФ. ¬ ней с наибольшей полнотой получило своЄ выражение истинное отношение художника к жизни. (VIII)
According to Shestov, in УThe SeagullФ the artistТs real attitude to life was expressed most fully. In his essay Shestov points out that in ChekhovТs story Palata є 6 (УWard No. 6,Ф 1892) the doctor dies beautifully, in his last minutes he sees a herd of deer, etc.:
», кажетс€, Уѕалату є 6Ф в своЄ врем€ очень сочувственно прин€ли. стати прибавим, что доктор умирает очень красиво: в последние минуты видит стадо оленей и т. п. (VI)
The name Lecerf has cerf (Fr., deer) in it.
In a letter of Nov. 25, 1892, to Suvorin Chekhov compares his story УWard No. 6Ф to a sweet lemonade that lacks alcohol:
¬ы горький пь€ница, а € угостил ¬ас сладким лимонадом, и ¬ы, отдава€ должное лимонаду, справедливо замечаете, что в нем нет спирта. ¬ наших произведени€х нет именно алкогол€, который бы пь€нил и порабощал, и это ¬ы хорошо даете пон€ть.
You are a hard drinker, and I have regaled you with sweet lemonade, and you, after giving the lemonade its due, justly observe that there is no spirit in it. That is just what is lacking in our productionsЧthe alcohol which could intoxicate and subjugate, and you state that very well.
In the opening line of GumilyovТs poem УThe Sixth SenseФ vino (the wine) is mentioned.
Shestov is the author of Dobro v uchenii gr. Tolstogo i Nitsshe (УThe Good in the Teaching of Count Tolstoy and Nietzsche,Ф 1889) and Dostoevskiy i Nitsshe (УDoestoevski and Nietzsche,Ф 1902). The latter work is subtitled filosofiya tragedii (Уthe Philosophy of TragedyФ). The characters of TRLSK include Mr Goodman, the author of The Tragedy of Sebastian Knight. According to V., this bookТs title should have been The Farce of Mr Goodman:
Mr Goodman has never been a regular literary agent. He has only bet on books. He does not rightfully belong to that intelligent, honest and hard-working profession. We will leave it at that; but I have not yet done with The Tragedy of Sebastian Knight or rather Ц The Farce of Mr Goodman. (chapter 7)
In a letter of Sept. 15, 1903, to Maria Alekseev-Lilin (StanislavskiТs wife) Chekhov says that his new play (УThe Cherry Orchard,Ф 1904) is not a drama, but a comedy that sometimes even looks like a farce:
¬ышла у мен€ не драма, а комеди€, местами даже фарс, и € боюсь, как бы мне не досталось от ¬ладимира »вановича.
Chekhov died on July 15, 1904, in Badenweiler (a German spa). His last words were davno ya ne pil shampanskogo (УitТs a long time since I drank champagneФ). Btw., July is the sixth month of the year.
Incidentally, in VNТs play Izobretenie ValТsa (УThe Waltz Invention,Ф 1938) the Minister of War mentions prostoy khleb dobrykh sovetov (Уthe simple bread of good advicesФ):
ѕолковник. Ќе мне вам говорить, что вы незаменимы.
ћинистр. ¬место медовых пр€ников лести вы бы лучше кормили мен€ простым хлебом добрых советов. ќ, скоро одиннадцать. ажетс€, никаких дел больше нет... (Act One)
The action in УThe Waltz InventionФ (a play that sometimes looks like a farce) seems to take place in a dream that LyubovТ (a character in VNТs play УThe Event,Ф 1938, the wife of the portrait painter Troshcheykin) dreams in the Уsleep of deathФ after committing suicide on her dead sonТs fifth birthday (two days after her motherТs fiftieth birthday). The name and patronymic of LyubovТs mother, Antonina Pavlovna, hints at Chekhov, and the name and patronymic of her husband, Aleksey Maksimovich, hints at Gorky. In a letter of Nov. 25, 1892, to Suvorin Chekhov calls his correspondent and editor gorТkiy pТyanitsa (Уa hard drinkerФ).