According to Kinbote, he became a vegetarian after reading a story about an Italian despot:


When the fallen tyrant is tied, naked and howling, to a plank in the public square and killed piecemeal by the people who cut slices out, and eat them, and distribute his living body among themselves (as I read when young in a story about an Italian despot, which made of me a vegetarian for life), Gradus does not take part in the infernal sacrament: he points out the right instrument and directs the carving. (note to Line 171)


In VNs story Krug (The Circle, 1936) Tanya mentions Revolutionary verses about the despot who feasts in his rich palace hall:


֧֧է ߧ ݧѧէڧݧѧ; ѧߧ, - ѧ, ӧ֧ݧ, ֧ ܧԧէ- ڧ ֧ӧݧڧߧߧ ڧѧ , ܧѧ է֧ ڧ֧, ԧ٧ߧ ҧܧӧ էѧӧߧ ߧ ֧ߧ ֧ڧ ܧ ܧӧѧ. "ԧڧާ ݧӧѧާ, ֧ӧѧ ֧ߧԧѧ٧֧",-- ܧѧ٧ѧ ѧ, ݧҧڧӧڧ ڧ. ӧߧڧݧ, ѧߧڧ ҧѧ اڧӧק ֧ݧڧߧ, ݧڧ٧ѧӧ֧ ѧӧݧӧߧ ڧߧݧѧ ѧܧѧ٧ӧѧ ߧק... է ߧߧܧ֧ߧڧ ӧӧӧѧ: ߧڧ-ߧڧ ߧ ѧէѧ֧, ѧާ ߧѧܧݧ ܧӧڧ, ѧ ܧ ܧݧѧէ ֧ާߧ, ݧ,-- ӧ ܧ- ֧٧اڧ ӧէ ֧ҧ֧ ҧڧҧݧڧ֧ܧѧ ܧߧڧԧ, ߧ ӧէѧӧѧӧ էӧѧէѧ ݧ֧.


The Leshino topic was falling apart; Tanya, getting it all wrong, insisted that he used to teach her the pre-Revolution songs of radical students, such as the one about the despot who feasts in his rich palace hall while destinys hand has already begun to trace the dread words on the wall. In other words, our first stengazeta (Soviet wall gazette), remarked Kutaysov, a great wit. Tanyas brother was mentioned: he lived in Berlin, and the Countess started to talk about him. Suddenly Innokentiy grasped a wonderful fact: nothing is lost, nothing whatever; memory accumulates treasures, stored-up secrets grow in darkness and dust, and one day a transient visitor at a lending library wants a book that has not once been asked for in twenty-two years.


The storys main character, Innokentiy, is a namesake of Innokentiy Annenski (1855-1909), the poet who wrote under the pseudonym Nik. T-o. Nikto (nobody) is the last word in Lermontovs poem Net, ya ne Bayron, ya drugoy ("Nay, I'm not Byron, I'm another..." 1832). The essays in Annenskis Vtoraya kniga otrazheniy (The Second Book of Reflections, 1909) include Yumor Lermontova (Lermontovs Humor). In his note to Line 172 Kinbote quotes Shades words about Russian intellectuals and humorists:


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.


Ostap Bender (the main character in Ilf and Petrovs novels The Twelve Chairs and The Golden Calf) has the same first name as Taras Bulbas elder son in Gogols story Taras Bulba (1835). In Ukrainian, bulba means potato. At the beginning of Canto Three of his poem Shade mentions the grand potato:


L'if, lifeless tree! Your great Maybe, Rabelais:
The grand potato. (ll. 501-502)

In his Commentary Kinbote writes:


An execrable pun, deliberately placed in this epigraphic position to stress lack of respect for Death. I remember from my schoolroom days Rabelais soi-disant "last words" among other bright bits in some French manual: Je men vais chercher le grand peut-tre. (note to Line 502)


In a letter of October 17, 1908, to Ekaterina Mukhin, Annenski says that the people who ceased to believe in God but continue to fear the devil have created this otzyvayushchiysya kalamburom (smacking of a pun) terror before the smell of sulfuric pitch, Le grand Peut-Etre:


է, ֧֧ѧӧڧ ӧ֧ڧ ҧԧ, ߧ էݧاѧڧ ֧֧ѧ ק... ߧ ٧էѧݧ ߧ ٧ܧ ֧ݧ֧ߧ֧ ڧߧڧ ٧ӧѧڧۧ ܧѧݧѧާҧ اѧ ֧֧ ٧ѧѧ ֧ߧ ާݧ - Le grand Peut-Etre. ݧ ާ֧ߧ peut-etre - ߧ ݧܧ ҧ, ߧ ӧ, ߧ ӧ֧, ߧ ܧ֧ߧڧ֡


According to Annenski, for him peut-tre is not just God, it is everything (although it is neither answer, nor quieting).


On the other hand, the surname Bender brings to mind VNs novel Bend Sinister (1947). Its characters include the philosopher Adam Krug and his friend Ember (a translator of Shakespeare).


Adam Krug + Ember = krug ada + member


krug ada C Russ., circle of hell


There are nine circles in Dantes Inferno. In its unfinished form Shades poem has 999 lines.


In Pushkins Mozart and Salieri (1830) Salieri (who slipped poison into Mozarts glass) listens to Mozart's Requiem and mentions a suffering member that the healing knife had chopped off:


֧ӧ ݧ: ҧݧߧ ڧߧ,
ѧ ҧէ اܧڧ ӧ֧ڧ էݧ,
ѧ ҧէ ߧ ֧ݧ֧ҧߧ ާߧ ֧
ѧէѧӧڧ ݧ֧!


Such tears as these
I shed for the first time. It hurts, yet soothes,
As if I had fulfilled a heavy duty,
As if at last the healing knife had chopped
A suffering member off. (scene II, transl. A. Shaw)


In Pushkins little tragedy Mozart uses the phrase nikto b (none would):


ԧէ ҧ ӧ ѧ ӧӧӧѧݧ ڧݧ
ѧާߧڧ! ߧ֧: ԧէ ߧ ާ
ާڧ ֧ӧӧѧ; ߧڧܧ ߧ ѧ
ѧҧڧ ߧاէѧ ߧڧ٧ܧ اڧ٧ߧ;
֧էѧݧڧ ҧ ӧݧߧާ ڧܧӧ.


If all could feel like you the power of harmony!
But no: the world could not go on then. None
Would bother with the needs of lowly life;
All would surrender to the free art. (ibid.)


Nikto b is Botkin backwards. Shades, Kinbotes and Gradus real name seems to be Botkin. An American scholar of Russian descent, Professor Vsevolod Botkin went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus after the suicide of his daughter Nadezhda (Hazel Shade of Kinbotes Commentary). There is a hope that, when Kinbote completes his work on Shades poem and commits suicide (on October 19, 1959, the anniversary of Pushkins Lyceum), Botkin, like Count Vorontsov (the governor of New Russia, a target of Pushkins epigrams), will be full again.


Btw., Lermontovs poem Nadezhda (Hope, 1831) begins: Est ptichka raya u menya (I have a bird of paradise)


Alexey Sklyarenko

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