As he speaks to Cordula de Prey (Adas schoolmate at Brownhill), Van mentions the Teuton and his petit topinambour:


She shook her short curls. No - she went there very seldom. Twice to a concert, in a pine forest. She had not been aware that Ada took music lessons. How was Ada?

'Lucette,' he said, 'Lucette takes or took piano lessons. Okay. Let's dismiss Kalugano. These crumpets are very poor relatives of the Chose ones. You're right, j'ai des ennuis. But you can make me forget them. Tell me something to distract me, though you distract me as it is, un petit topinambour as the Teuton said in the story. Tell me about your affairs of the heart.' (1.42)


Darkbloom (Notes to Ada): topinambour: tuber of the girasole; pun on 'pun' ('calembour').


In a letter of Feb. 20, 1826, to Delvig Pushkin calls his and Delvigs Lyceum friend Kchelbecker tevton Kyukhlya (the Teuton Kyukhlya):  


֧ߧ ҧݧѧԧէѧ֧ ٧ ӧ ڧ٧ӧ֧ڧ, ѧէ, ֧ӧ ݧ ߧ ҧ ݧѧӧߧڧ ާ֧ݧ֧ ا ڧ.


Pushkin is glad to learn that Kchelbecker (who was arrested with other Decembrists) was not a Slav (i. e. rebel), but okhmelel v chuzhom piru (was innocent; literally: got drunk in others feast).


In a letter of Dec. 1-6, 1825, to Kchelbecker Pushkin criticizes Kchelbeckers comedy Shekspirovy dukhi (Shakespeares Spirits, 1825) and in a footnote mentions calembour:


֧اէ ֧ ҧݧѧԧէѧ ֧ҧ, ҧ ҧѧߧڧ. ݧڧ ӧ ܧާ֧էڧ, ߧѧէ֧ݧ ߧѧۧ ߧ֧ ڧާ. ק, ק ֧ اէѧ, ߧ ӧѧէ֧ ݧ ֧ӧ֧ܧ ӧ ҧާѧԧ; ߧѧѧߧ: ߧڧ֧ԧ ߧ ӧէڧ ٧ݧ է ק «»,* ֧ӧ ֧ҧ, ӧݧ.


*Calembour! reconnais-tu le sang?


In his letter (that never reached the addressee, because he was soon arrested) Pushkin praises Caliban, a character in Kchelbeckers comedy: ѧ ѧݧڧҧѧ ֧ݧ֧. According to Aqua (Marinas mad twin sister who imagined that she could understand the language of her namesake, water), bathwater (or shower) was too much of a Caliban to speak distinctly:


Bathwater (or shower) was too much of a Caliban to speak distinctly or perhaps was too brutally anxious to emit the hot torrent and get rid of the infernal ardor to bother about small talk; but the burbly flowlets grew more and more ambitious and odious, and when at her first home she heard one of the most hateful of the visiting doctors (the Cavalcanti quoter) garrulously pour hateful instructions in Russian-lapped German into her hateful bidet, she decided to stop turning on tap water altogether. (1.3)


The chapter in which Van describes his trip to Kalugano and his pistol duel with Captain Tapper in the Kalugano forest begins as follows:


Aqua used to say that only a very cruel or very stupid person, or innocent infants, could be happy on Demonia, our splendid planet. (1.42)


In a letter of Dec. 4, 1824, to his brother Lyov and to his sister Olga Pushkin complains that Kchelbecker published his (Pushkins) poem Demon (The Demon, 1823) incorrectly:


էߧ ݧ ݧ ߧѧ֧ѧѧ ڧҧߧ ާ֧ԧ «֧ާߧ»! ާ֧ԧ «֧ާߧ»! ݧ ԧ «֧» ߧѧ֧ѧѧ֧ ڧҧߧ. էѧӧѧ ֧ާ ٧ ߧ «», ߧ ܧѧݧ ڧ ާ֧ߧ.


Kalugano + bitva + parad + pater = Kaliban + otvaga + udar/dura/ruda + Tapper

Kaliban + tovar/otvar + Raduga = Kaluga + britva + ad + nora = Luga + kartina + voda + Abo

Kalugano + oblik = Kaliban + ugolok

Kalugano + Luga = Kaluga + Lugano


bitva - battle

parad - parade

pater - Pater

Kaliban - Caliban (in Russian spelling)

otvaga - courage

udar - blow; stroke, etc.

dura - fool (female)

ruda - ore

tovar - goods; wares

otvar - broth; decoction

britva - razor; a story (1926) by VN

ad - hell

nora - hole

kartina - picture

voda - water

Abo - Swedish name of Turku

oblik - look, aspect, appearance

ugolok - diminutive of ugol, corner; cf. Kak chasto my sideli v tyomnom ugolke i kazhetsya, chto v etom? (How oft we sat together in a corner / And what harm might there be in that?), Chatskis words to Sophia in Griboedovs play Gore ot uma (Woe from Wit, 1824) quoted by Marina (1.37); in his poem Uchast russkikh poetov (The Destiny of Russian Poets, 1845) Kchelbecker speaks of Pushkin, Griboedov and himself


To reach Kalugano Van has to change the train in Ladoga:


First, he decided to go to Kalugano to settle accounts with Herr Rack. Out of sheer misery he fell asleep in a corner of a compartment, full of alien legs and voices, in the crack express tearing north at a hundred miles per hour. He dozed till noon and got off at Ladoga, where after an incalculably long wait he took another, even more jerky and crowded train. (1.42)


Ladoga is the largest lake in Europe, NE of St. Petersburg. In Kchelbeckers story Ado (1824) the action takes place in Estonia on the banks of Lake Peipus (Chudskoe ozero).


Alexey Sklyarenko

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