In VNs novel Pale Fire (1962) Kinbote (Shades mad commentator who imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla) quotes a Zemblan saying in which a beautiful woman is compared to a compass rose:


In Zembla, where most females are freckled blondes, we have the saying: belwif ivurkumpf wid snew ebanumf, "A beautiful woman should be like a compass rose of ivory with four parts of ebony." And this was the trim scheme nature had followed in Disas case. (note to Lines 433-434)


In his essay Simvoly krasoty u russkikh pisateley (The Symbols of Beauty in the Works of Russian Writers) included in The Second Book of Reflections (1909) I. Annenski says that Stendhal somewhere calls beauty the promise of happiness:


֬߬լѬݬ Ԭլ- ߬Ѭ٬ӬѬ ܬѬ Ҭ֬Ѭ߬ڬ֬ Ѭ (la promesse de bonheur). ڬ٬߬Ѭ߬ڬ ެج߬ ߬Ѭ۬ լڬ ڬ ܬݬ֬ ߬ڬެѬ߬ڬ ڬ֬ܬ ܬ߬֬ڬ ܬѬ ӬҬ. Ѭ լݬ ֬ ڬݬ ܬѬ ج֬߬ڬ߬, ڬݬ ܬѬ ܬѬ ج֬߬ڬ߬. (I)


According to Annenski, for a poet beauty is either the beauty of a woman or beauty as a woman.


In a letter of August 24, 1831, to Pushkin Vyazemski says that he allows Pushkin to kiss his sokurnosaya bel-syorka (my belle-sur who is, like me, snub-nosed) and asks Pushkin if he has read Stendhals novel Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black, 1830):


߬Ѭ֬ ݬ, ݬ ߬, ֬߬ ֬Ӭ߬ڬ? , ֬ݬ ج֬߬ Ӭ ߬ ֬Ӭ߬ڬӬ, ٬Ӭݬ ֬Ҭ ѬݬӬѬ ެ ܬ߬ Ҭ֬ݬ-׬ܬ. ߬ ܬѬ٬Ѭ ߬ ެج֬, ڬҬ ٬߬Ѭ֬ ެ ѬӬ ߬Ѭ ߬֬. — ڬѬ ݬ le noir et le rouge? Ѭެ֬Ѭ֬ݬ߬ Ӭ֬߬ڬ.


In a letter of April 8, 1836, to Alexander Turgenev Vyazemski says that last Saturday at Zhukovskis Gogol read his story about the nose that suddenly disappeared from the face of a collegiate assessor:


ҬҬ ܬӬܬԬ Ӭ֬Ѭ, ߬ լѬӬ߬ Ҭ֬ ڬ֬ Ӭڬ. լڬ Ԭݬ, ܬԬ ܬӬܬڬ ߬Ѭ٬ӬѬ֬ Ԭݬ׬ (߬ڬܬ ߬ ѬӬ߬֬ ܬӬܬڬ ֬֬ܬӬ֬ܬѬ߬ڬ ڬެ׬; ެ߬ڬ ݬ, ܬԬլ ٬ӬѬ ѬܬӬ Ѭ֬߬ܬ?) جڬӬݬ֬ ڬ Ӭڬެ ѬܬѬ٬Ѭެ. ݬ֬լ߬ ҬҬ ڬѬ ߬Ѭ Ӭ֬ ߬, ܬ Ѭ ݬڬ ߬֬جڬլѬ߬߬ ܬѬܬԬ- ܬݬݬ֬جܬԬ Ѭ֬ ڬݬ ݬ Ѭ٬Ѭ߬ܬ Ҭ ެ߬լڬ ެڬ߬ڬ֬Ӭ Ӭ֬֬߬ڬ. ެڬ֬ݬ߬ ެ֬߬. ߬Ԭ ߬Ѭ֬Ԭ [ެ].


According to Vyazemski, Gogols story is incredibly funny. There is a lot of true humor.


The first essay in Annenskis Kniga otrazheniy (The Book of Reflections, 1906) is entitled Problema gogolevskogo yumora (The Problem of Gogols Humor). In the first part of his essay Nik. T-o (Annenskis penname) discusses Gogols story Nos (The Nose, 1835).


In Gogols Myortvye dushi (Dead Souls, 1842) two ladies discuss fashions and Sofia Ivanovna (the simply agreeable lady) uses the phrase sovershennaya bel-fam (a perfect belle-femme):


- ڬݬ, ߬߬ ڬԬ֬Ӭ߬, լ ߬֬Ӭ֬߬; ׬ լӬ Ҭڬܬ: ڬܬڬ ۬ެ Ӭ֬... Ӭ, Ӭ ܬԬլ Ӭ ڬ٬ެڬ֬, Ӭ ܬԬլ ܬѬج֬, ... , ڬ٬ެݬ۬֬: ӬҬѬ٬ڬ, ݬڬڬܬ ݬ ֬ լݬڬ߬߬֬, Ӭ֬֬լ ެܬ, ֬֬լ߬ ܬܬ Ӭ֬ Ӭլڬ ڬ ԬѬ߬ڬ; Ҭܬ Ӭ ҬڬѬ֬ Ӭܬ, ܬѬ, ҬӬѬݬ, Ѭڬ߬ ڬجެ, լѬج ٬Ѭլ ߬֬ެ߬جܬ լܬݬѬլӬѬ ӬѬ, Ҭ Ҭݬ Ӭ֬֬߬߬Ѭ Ҭ֬ݬ-Ѭ.


"It's sweet, Anna Grigorievna, unbelievably sweet. It's made with double seams: wide armholes and above . . . But here, here is something amazing for you, now you're going to say . . . Well, be amazed: imagine, the bodices are even longer now, vee-shaped in front, and the front busk goes beyond all bounds; the skirt is gathered around as it used to be with the old-fashioned farthingale, and they even pad it out a little behind with cotton batting, so as to make for a perfect belle-femme." (Chapter Nine)


Duchess of Payn, of Great Payn and Moan, Queen Disa seems to blend Leonardos Mona Lisa with Desdemona (Othellos wife in Shakespeares Othello). In his essay Drama na dne (The Drama at the Bottom) included in The Book of Reflections Annenski speaks of Gorkys play Na dne (At the Bottom, 1902) and mentions the ancient Fate that tore out the eyes of Oedipus and strangled Desdemona:


Ѭެ ߬ ܬԬ, ܬѬ ݬ֬ެ֬߬ ѬԬ֬լڬ, ߬ ֬լѬӬݬ֬ ߬ڬܬѬܬ ߬Ӭ. Ѭڬ߬߬Ѭ լҬ, eimarmenh, ܬѬ ܬԬլ- ӬӬѬݬ ԬݬѬ٬ լڬ ٬Ѭլڬݬ ֬٬լ֬ެ߬, -- ݬܬ ֬֬ ߬ ܬѬ٬ӬѬ֬ լӬݬ߬ ߬ѬڬѬ߬߬ լج߬ڬ֬ du nouveau genre, ߬ ֬ Ѭݬڬ ެ֬ݬܬѬ ߬ ӬڬլѬ߬߬ լݬ ܬѬܬ Ӭجլ֬߬ڬ, ߬ ߬Ѭݬ֬լӬ֬߬߬ ج֬ݬ֬٬߬ ٬Ѭܬ߬ ߬ܬ.


One of the inhabitants of the doss-house in Gorkys play is Bubnov. The characters of VNs novel Podvig (Glory, 1932) include the writer Bubnov. The hero of Bubnovs fourth book is Christopher Columbus – or, rather, a Russian scribe who participated in Columbus expedition:


ڬѬ֬ݬ Ҭ߬, — Ӭ֬Ԭլ լӬݬӬڬ֬ ެ֬ѬӬڬ, ܬݬ ެ߬Ԭ ӬլѬڬ ݬڬ֬Ѭ߬ ڬެ׬ լӬѬլѬԬ Ӭ֬ܬ ߬Ѭڬ߬Ѭ֬ ߬ ҬܬӬ ҡ, — Ҭ ݬ߬, ڬլѬڬݬ֬߬ڬ, ج ݬ ެجڬ߬ Ԭެ߬ ݬҬ, ԬݬҬܬڬެ ԬݬѬ٬߬ڬѬެ ܬӬѬլѬ߬ լҬլܬ. ܬڬ Ҭܬ, — ڬݬ߬ ӬҬڬѬ ׬ܬ ܬѬجլ ٬Ѭجܬ, — ߬ڬ Ѭ ׬߬ ԬѬݬ ҬѬ߬ڬܬ ڬѬ Ѭ߬ Ѭ߬ ֬Ӭ֬۬֬. Ѭ߬ ج ݬ֬߬ݬ ֬Ԭ ߬ѬڬѬ ܬԬݬѬ ֬ Ӭݬ߬ ٬Ѭݬج֬߬߬Ѭ ڬѬ֬ݬܬѬ ݬѬӬ. ѬѬ ڬѬ ج ٬ѬԬѬ߬ڬ֬, Ҭ߬ ٬ Ԭլ Ӭڬ ֬ܬѬ߬ ܬ߬ڬԬ, ڬѬ ֬Ӭ׬, Ԭ֬֬ ֬ Ҭ ڬ ݬެ — ڬݬ, ߬֬, ܬڬ լ, լ֬߬ ѬӬڬ ެѬ ߬ լ߬ ڬ ݬެҬӬ ܬѬѬӬ֬ݬ, — Ѭ ܬѬ Ҭ߬ ߬ ٬߬Ѭ ߬ լ߬Ԭ ٬ܬ, ܬެ ܬԬ, լݬ ҬڬѬ߬ڬ ߬֬ܬ ެѬ֬ڬѬݬ, ڬެ֬Ӭڬ լѬӬ֬߬߬ ҬڬҬݬڬ֬ܬ, ߬ ҬѬ Ҭ Ѭ߬, ܬԬլ ҬӬѬ ӬҬլ֬. ֬ެ֬ܬڬ Ѭ ӬݬѬլ֬ ݬӬѬ ެ ѬլӬѬݬ, ֬ݬ ֬ܬ ѬլѬݬ Ѭ߬٬ܬڬ, Ѭ߬Ԭݬڬ۬ܬڬ, ڬݬ — ֬ ݬ — ڬѬݬ߬ܬڬ: ٬ ٬߬Ѭ, ѬӬլ, ֬ ج ߬֬ެ֬ܬԬ, ߬ ߬֬Ҭݬ Ӭ ٬߬Ѭ߬ڬ Ҭ֬߬߬ ֬߬ڬ, Ѭެ, ܬѬ ެ֬ݬѬ߬ݬڬ֬ܬڬ լլ ֬֬Ӭլڬ Ѭ߬. (Chapter XXXIV)


There were compasses with compass roses on Columbus caravels. In a heart-to-heart conversation with Martin (the main character in Podvig) Bubnov compares the pale skin of his beloved to precious porcelain:


Ѭ߬, ܬ, ܬެ ڬ֬ ެѬ֬, ߬ڬ֬Ԭ ߬ ڬѬ, ( Ҭ ٬ ٬ӬѬ լ߬ڬ ݬӬ ߬Ѭ ެѬլѬ լ ֬Ӭڬ߬֡), Ҭ߬ լجڬ ڬܬ֬߬߬ Ҭ֬٬Ҭ٬߬֬߬߬, Ѭ լѬج, ݬ ֬֬ ܬجܬ ڬݬ٬߬֬, Ӭ֬ ߬Ѭݬڬ Ӭ֬ݬ ڬӬ, Ӭ֬ Ԭ ٬Ѭ߬, ެ֬Ѭ֬ݬ߬ ٬ѬԬӬڬ ( ߬Ѭެ߬ڬݬ ۬ݬ, ܬ׬) լ֬Ӭܬ, ܬ ׬ լ, ԬݬѬ٬, ܬج Ҭݬ֬լ߬, ܬѬ լԬ Ѭ, — ٬Ѭ֬ Ӭڬ֬ Ԭݬ߬ ߬ Ѭ߬ ܬѬ٬Ѭ: , ݬ, ݬѬլܬ, ӬѬڬ֬ݬ߬, ... ֬٬ڬѬ ެ֬߬, ܬѬ Ҭ֬٬լѬ, ߬ ֬ ݬҬݬ. ڬެ, ܬѬ ܬ, ܬѬ Ӭڬ ԬݬҬڬ߬ ܬ, Ӭڬج Ӭ֬ ֬ ڬެ֬߬, Ҭ Ӭ֬, ܬѬ߬-ڬ߬ޡ Ѭ Ѭլڬܬڬ ެլ֬, — Ӭ֬ լ, Ӭܬ, — , ҬݬѬ Ѭ۬߬, Ѭ߬Ѭ Ѭ۬߬ѡ; ج ڬ߬ ֬: ֬߬ܬѬ ֬ݬ֬ Ѭ߬, — ߬ڬެѬ֬ ެ֬߬, — Ѭ߬. ֬ݬܬ ߬֬ Ѭ߬, Ѭ߬... (ibid.)


Bubnov tells Martin that he can see light in the name of his sweetheart and compares her name to a cupola (her name is like a cupola, like rustling of the pigeons wings). Martin does not realize that Bubnovs girlfriend is Sonya Zilanov (with whom Martin is hopelessly in love and whose name reminds Bubnov of Hagia Sophia, a Greek Orthodox basilica in Constantinople). Treacherous Sonya gives away to Bubnov the secret of Zoorland, a totalitarian country that she invented with Martin. A distant northern land, Kinbotes Zembla has a lot in common with Martins and Sonyas Zoorland.


Sonya Zilanov has the same first name as Martins mother, Sofia Dmitrievna. Like Hamlets mother, Sofia Dmitrievna marries her late husbands brother. In his famous monologue in Shakespeares play (3.1) Hamlet mentions a bare bodkin. In his Index to Pale Fire (entry on Botkin, V.) Kinbote mentions botkin or bodkin, a Danish stiletto:


Botkin, V., American scholar of Russian descent, 894; king-bot, maggot of extinct fly that once bred in mammoths and is thought to have hastened their phylogenetic end, 247; bottekin-maker, 71; bot, plop, and boteliy, big-bellied (Russ.); botkin or bodkin, a Danish stiletto.


Just as Shade, Kinbote and Gradus seem to represent three different aspects of Botkins personality, Queen Disa (the wife of Charles the Beloved) and Sybil Shade (John Shades wife) are one and the same person. Her real name seems to be Sofia Botkin (born Lastochkin). According to Kinbote (the author of a book on surnames), Botkin is the one who makes bottekins (fancy footwear). As he speaks to Martin, Bubnov mentions his sweethearts worn-down slippers. According to Bubnov, the female beauty is terrifying.


In my previous post (Shade's, Kinbote's & Gradus' birthday in Pale Fire; Lolita's birthday in Lolita) I forgot to point out that Dostoevski died in 1881, a month before the assassination of Alexander II. The tsar Alexander II (1817-1881) was almost sixty-four at the moment of assassination. On July 5, 1979, Gradus (Shades murderer) and Kinbote would be sixty-four and Shade, eighty-one:


The Helman brothers said they had assisted in the negotiations for the placement of a sizable note: $11,000,000, Decker Glass Manufacturing Company, Inc., note due July 1, 1979, and Gradus, grown young again, reread this twice, with the background gray thought, perhaps, that he would be sixty-four four days after that (no comment). (note to Line 949)


The tsar Paul I was assassinated on March 11, 1801. The assassination took place in the Mikhaylovski Castle that later housed the Military Engineer School whose student Dostoevski was. Btw., Dostoevski somewhere (in The Adolescent?) quotes the famous first line of Lomonosovs Pismo o polze stekla (Letter on the Use of Glass, 1752), Nepravo o veshchakh te dumayut, Shuvalov... (Shuvalov, they think wrongly about things)


Alexey Sklyarenko

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