Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027217, Thu, 10 Nov 2016 20:16:16 +0300

Hairy Alpine Rose & Desdemonia in Ada; Golconda in Pale Fire;
Mona Dahl in Lolita
As she speaks to her doctor, Aqua (Marina’s mad twin sister) mentions the Hairy Alpine Rose in Marina’s album:

‘You know, Doctor, I think I’ll need glasses soon, I don’t know’ (lofty laugh), ‘I just can’t make out what my wrist watch says... For heaven’s sake, tell me what it says! Ah! Half-past for — for what? Never mind, never mind, "never" and "mind" are twins, I have a twin sister and a twin son. I know you want to examine my pudendron, the Hairy Alpine Rose in her album, collected ten years ago’ (showing her ten fingers gleefully, proudly, ten is ten!). (1.3)

In her poem S morya (“From the Sea,” 1926) Marina Tsvetaev mentions roz al’piyskikh gorst’ (a handful of Alpine roses):

Я — без описки,
Я — без помарки.
Роз бы альпийских
Горсть, да хибарка

На́ море, да но
Волны добры.
Вот с Океана,
Горстка игры.

The first collection of Marina Tsvetaev’s poetry was entitled Vecherniy al’bom (“The Evening Album,” 1910). In Rasstavanie (“Separation”), a poem included in “The Evening Album,” Marina Tsvetaev mentions Golgotha (a site near Jerusalem where Jesus Christ was crucified):

О сыне Божьем эти строфы:
Он, вечно-светел, вечно-юн,
Купил бессмертье днём Голгофы,
Твоей Голгофой был Шенбрунн.

According to Marina Tsvetaev, Schönbrunn (the former imperial residence near Vienna) was the Golgotha of Napoleon II (1811-32). The son of Napoleon and his second wife, Empress Marie Louise, Napoleon II is the main character in Edmond Rostand’s play L’Aïglon (“The Eaglet,” 1900). Rostand is the author of La Princesse Lointaine (“The Princess Far-Away,” 1895). In her suicide note Aqua mentions the hands of a clock and calls herself “poor Princesse Lointaine:”

The hands of a clock, even when out of order, must know and let the dumbest little watch know where they stand, otherwise neither is a dial but only a white face with a trick mustache. Similarly, chelovek (human being) must know where he stands and let others know, otherwise he is not even a klok (piece) of a chelovek, neither a he, nor she, but ‘a tit of it’ as poor Ruby, my little Van, used to say of her scanty right breast. I, poor Princesse Lointaine, très lointaine by now, do not know where I stand. Hence I must fall. (1.3)

Golgotha + Gioconda = Golconda + Goth + Iago

Gioconda - La Gioconda (Mona Lisa), a painting by Leonardo da Vinci

Golconda - capital of a medieval sultanate in India famous for the diamonds that were produced there

Goth - one of a Teutonic people who in the 3rd to 5th centuries invaded and settled in parts of the Roman Empire

Iago - a character in Shakespeare’s Othello

In Poema kontsa (“The Poem of the End,” 1924) Marina Tsvetaev mentions Golkonda volosyanaya (the hairy Golconda):

Все заповеди Синая
Смывая — менады мех! —
Голконда волосяная,
Сокровищница утех —

(Для всех!) Не напрасно копит
Природа, не сплошь скупа! (chapter 6)

In VN’s novel Pale Fire (1962) Kinbote compares himself to an exiled prince who is unaware of the Golconda in his cuff links:

Imagine a soft, clumsy giant; imagine a historical personage whose knowledge of money is limited to the abstract billions of a national debt; imagine an exiled prince who is unaware of the Golconda in his cuff links! (Foreword)

The mad commentator of Shade’s poem, Kinbote imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla. The King’s wife Disa, Duchess of Payn, of Great Payn and Mone, seems to blend Leonardo’s Mona Lisa with Shakespeare’s Desdemona (Othello’s wife in Othello). Describing his ten secret trysts with Ada in Mont Roux, Van calls Demonia (aka Antiterra, Earth’s twin planet on which Ada is set) “Desdemonia:”

That meeting, and the nine that followed, constituted the highest ridge of their twenty-one-year-old love: its complicated, dangerous, ineffably radiant coming of age. The somewhat Italianate style of the apartment, its elaborate wall lamps with ornaments of pale caramel glass, its white knobbles that produced indiscriminately light or maids, the slat-eyes, veiled, heavily curtained windows which made the morning as difficult to disrobe as a crinolined prude, the convex sliding doors of the huge white 'Nuremberg Virgin'-like closet in the hallway of their suite, and even the tinted engraving by Randon of a rather stark three-mast ship on the zigzag green waves of Marseilles Harbor - in a word, the alberghian atmosphere of those new trysts added a novelistic touch (Aleksey and Anna may have asterisked here!) which Ada welcomed as a frame, as a form, something supporting and guarding life, otherwise unprovidenced on Desdemonia, where artists are the only gods. (3.8)

Aqua’s “pudendron” blends pudenda (female genitalia) with rhododendron. Rododendron (1855) is a poem by Fet. In his poem 1 marta 1881 goda (“March 1, 1881”) Fet mentions Golgofa (Golgotha) and krest (the cross):

День искупительного чуда,
Час освящения креста:
Голгофе передал Иуда
Окровавленного Христа.

Но сердцеведец безмятежный
Давно, смиряяся, постиг,
Что не простит любви безбрежной
Ему коварный ученик.

Перед безмолвной жертвой злобы,
Завидя праведную кровь,
Померкло солнце, вскрылись гробы,
Но разгорелася любовь.

Она сияет правдой новой.
Благословив её зарю,
Он крест и свой венец терновый
Земному передал царю.

Бессильны козни фарисейства:
Что было кровь, то стало храм,
И место страшного злодейства
Святыней вековечной нам.

On March 1, 1881, the tsar Alexander II was assassinated. Afanasiy Fet was married to Maria Botkin (whose brother Sergey was the tsar’s physician). Shade’s, Kinbote’s 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 her father’s poem). Fet’s sister Nadezhda Shenshin (who married Tolstoy’s, Fet’s and Turgenev’s friend Borisov) went mad. The “real” name of Sybil Shade (Shade’s wife) seems to be Sofia Botkin (born Lastochkin). In Chapter Four of his novel Dar (“The Gift,” 1937), “The Life of Chernyshevski,” VN mentions Sofia Perovski, one of the terrorists who assassinated Alexander II and who was executed (in spite of her pregnancy) with her comrades.

As she speaks to Van, Lucette mentions her and Ada’s krestik:

‘She taught me practices I had never imagined,’ confessed Lucette in rerun wonder. ‘We interweaved like serpents and sobbed like pumas. We were Mongolian tumblers, monograms, anagrams, adalucindas. She kissed my krestik while I kissed hers, our heads clamped in such odd combinations that Brigitte, a little chambermaid who blundered in with her candle, thought for a moment, though naughty herself, that we were giving birth simultaneously to baby girls, your Ada bringing out une rousse and no one’s Lucette, une brune. Fancy that.’ (2.5)

A diminutive of krest (cross), krestik is Ada’s “tender-turret word” for female genitalia. Without knowing this, Van offers Lucette to kiss her on her krestik:

‘Actually,’ observed Lucette, wiping the long envelope which a drop of soda had stained, ‘Bergson is only for very young people or very unhappy people, such as this available rousse.’

‘Spotting Bergson,’ said the assistant lecher, ‘rates a B minus dans ton petit cas, hardly more. Or shall I reward you with a kiss on your krestik — whatever that is?’ (ibid.)

As she speaks to Van, Cordula de Prey mentions la Rouse (the red-haired girl) in her and Ada’s dormitory:

‘How could I get in touch with you?’ he asked. ‘Would you come to Riverlane? Are you a virgin?’

‘I don’t date hoodlums,’ she replied calmly, ‘but you can always "contact" me through Ada. We are not in the same class, in more ways than one’ (laughing); ‘she’s a little genius, I’m a plain American ambivert, but we are enrolled in the same Advanced French group, and the Advanced French group is assigned the same dormitory so that a dozen blondes, three brunettes and one redhead, la Rousse, can whisper French in their sleep’ (laughing alone).

‘What fun. Okay, thanks. The even number means bunks, I guess. Well, I’ll be seeing you, as the hoods say.’

In his next coded letter to Ada Van inquired if Cordula might not be the lezbianochka mentioned by Ada with such unnecessary guilt. I would as soon be jealous of your own little hand. Ada replied, ‘What rot, leave what’s-her-name out of it’; but even though Van did not yet know how fiercely untruthful Ada could be when shielding an accomplice, Van remained unconvinced. (1.27)

Dortuar vesnoy (“The Dormitory in Spring”) is a poem by Marina Tsvetaev included in “The Evening Album.” La Rousse mentioned by Cordula is Grace Erminin (Greg’s twin sister). According to Ada, Vanda Broom (Ada’s lesbian schoolmate at Brownhill) was in love with Grace:

And, by the way, Grace — yes, Grace — was Vanda’s real favorite, pas petite moi and my little crest. (2.6)

Ada calls Cordula's graduation album left open on Vanda’s portrait “Brown Hill Alma Mater of Almehs:”

Would she like to stay in this apartment till Spring Term (he thought in terms of Terms now) and then accompany him to Kingston, or would she prefer to go abroad for a couple of months — anywhere, Patagonia, Angola, Gululu in the New Zealand mountains? Stay in this apartment? So, she liked it? Except some of Cordula’s stuff which should be ejected — as, for example, that conspicuous Brown Hill Alma Mater of Almehs left open on poor Vanda’s portrait. (ibid.)

In his poem Dal’nie ruki ("The Distant Hands", 1909) Innokentiy Annensky (who published his stuff under the penname Nik. T-o) mentions nezhnye desyat’ (the tender ten), pyat’ roz, obruchyonnykh steblyu (five roses betrothed to a stem) and almeya (the almeh):

Зажим был так сладостно сужен,
Что пурпур дремоты поблёк,—
Я розовых, узких жемчужин
Губами узнал холодок.

О сёстры, о нежные десять,
Две ласково дружных семьи,
Вас пологом ночи завесить
Так рады желанья мои.

Вы — гейши фонарных свечений,
Пять роз, обручённых стеблю,
Но нет у Киприды священней
Не сказанных вами люблю.

Как мускус мучительный мумий,
Как душный тайник тубероз,
И я только стеблем раздумий
К пугающей сказке прирос…

Мои вы, о дальние руки,
Ваш сладостно-сильный зажим
Я выносил в холоде скуки,
Я счастьем обвеял чужим.

Но знаю… дремотно хмелея,
Я брошу волшебную нить,
И мне будут сниться, алмея,
Слова, чтоб тебя оскорбить.

…and I will dream, the almeh,

of the words that would insult you.

Incidentally, in the Venetian dialect mona means “pussy.” The characters in VN’s novel Lolita (1955) include Mona Dahl, Lolita’s schoolmate at the Beardsley college.

Alexey Sklyarenko

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors: mailto:nabokv-l@utk.edu,dana.dragunoiu@gmail.com,shvabrin@humnet.ucla.edu
Zembla: http://www.libraries.psu.edu/nabokov/zembla.htm
Nabokv-L policies: http://web.utk.edu/~sblackwe/EDNote.htm
Nabokov Online Journal:" http://www.nabokovonline.com
AdaOnline: "http://www.ada.auckland.ac.nz/
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada: http://vnjapan.org/main/ada/index.html
The VN Bibliography Blog: http://vnbiblio.com/
Search the archive with L-Soft: https://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?A0=NABOKV-L

Manage subscription options :http://listserv.ucsb.edu/lsv-cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=NABOKV-L