Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0021812, Thu, 14 Jul 2011 08:53:58 +0300

Mademoiselle Condor
L'arbre aux quarante ecus d'or, at least in the fall.

The French call ginkgo biloba "l'arbre aux quarante ecus." The number forty (quarante) reminds one of Pushkin's poem "Czar Nikita and his Forty Daughters," but also of Sorok muchenikov (Forty Martyrs), a character in Chekhov's story Strakh ("The Fear," 1892). The (otherwise charming) girls in Pushkin's poem have one little defect: they lack what women have between legs.* Apparently, it is not the case with Miss Condor (con d'or), as Lucette dubs the almost naked mulatto girl onboard the Tobakoff who resembles Ada (3.5). A couple of days earlier Van met Lucette in Paris, in a cafe at the rue des Jeunes Martyres (3.3). She invited him to her room:

"I'll stretch out upon the divan like a martyr, remember?"
"Are you still half-a-martyr - I mean half-a-virgin?" inquired Van.
"A quarter," answered Lucette. "Oh, try me, Van! My divan is black with yellow cushions."

*in a letter of November 25, 1892, to Suvorin Chekhov wrote: "lift up the hem of our Muse's skirt and you'll see there a flat spot"

Alexey Sklyarenko

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