Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027253, Wed, 28 Dec 2016 10:54:25 +0300

Cossack pony of Klass vodka in Ada
Before jumping to her death in the Atlantic, Lucette (a character in VN’s
novel Ada, 1969) drinks three ‘Cossack ponies’ of Klass vodka:

She drank a 'Cossack pony' of Klass vodka - hateful, vulgar, but potent
stuff; had another; and was hardly able to down a third because her head had
started to swim like hell. Swim like hell from sharks, Tobakovich! (3.5)

In his poem Sergeyu Eseninu (“To Sergey Esenin,” 1926) Mayakovski says
that to die of vodka is better than to die of skuka (boredom):

Лучше уж
от водки умереть,
чем от скуки!

In the same poem (written on Esenin’s suicide) Mayakovski mentions Klass
(i. e., the working class) and says that Klass \xa8C on tozhe vypit’ ne durak
(also loves to drink):

Ну, а класс-то
заливает квасом?
Класс - он тоже
выпить не дурак.

Van’s and Ada’s half-sister, Lucette is the daughter Daniel Veen and
Marina Durmanov (Van’s and Ada’s mother, poor mad Aqua’s twin sister).
Lucette’s father is known in society as Durak Walter or simply Red Veen:

On April 23, 1869, in drizzly and warm, gauzy and green Kaluga, Aqua, aged
twenty-five and afflicted with her usual vernal migraine, married Walter D.
Veen, a Manhattan banker of ancient Anglo-Irish ancestry who had long
conducted, and was soon to resume intermittently, a passionate affair with
Marina. The latter, some time in 1871, married her first lover’s first
cousin, also Walter D. Veen, a quite as opulent, but much duller, chap.

The ‘D’ in the name of Aqua’s husband stood for Demon (a form of Demian
or Dementius), and thus was he called by his kin. In society he was
generally known as Raven Veen or simply Dark Walter to distinguish him from
Marina’s husband, Durak Walter or simply Red Veen. Demon’s twofold hobby
was collecting old masters and young mistresses. He also liked middle-aged
puns. (1.1)

Esenin is the author of Pugachyov (1921), a drama in verse. The son of a Don
Cossack who led a great Cossack insurrection during the reign of Catherine
II, Pugachyov is a character in Pushkin’s short novel Kapitanskaya dochka
(“A Captain’s Daughter,” 1836). On the other hand, Pushkin is the author
of Istoriya Pugachyova (“The History of Pugachyov,” 1834). Sending this
book to Denis Davydov (a fellow poet and hero of the Patriotic War of 1812),
Pushkin accompanied it with a poem To D. V. Davydov (“To you, the bard, to
you, the hero!..” 1836) in which he says that his Pugach (i. e. Pugachyov)
is kazak pryamoy (a true Cossack):

Тебе, певцу, тебе, герою!

Не удалось мне за тобою
При громе пушечном, в огне
Скакать на бешеном коне.
Наездник смирного Пегаса,
Носил я старого Парнаса
Из моды вышедший мундир:
Но и по этой службе трудной,
И тут, о мой наездник чудный,

Ты мой отец и командир.
Вот мой Пугач: при первом взгляде
Он виден ― плут, казак прямой!
В передовом твоем отряде
Урядник был бы он лихой.

In a letter of Nov. 25, 1892, to Suvorin Chekhov complains that modern art,
and literature in particular, lacks the alcohol that would intoxicate the
reader and mentions Denis Davydov:

Вас нетрудно понять, и Вы напрасно бранит
е себя за то, что неясно выражаетесь. Вы го
рький пьяница, а я угостил Вас сладким лим
онадом, и Вы, отдавая должное лимонаду, сп
раведливо замечаете, что в нем нет спирта.
В наших произведениях нет именно алкогол
я, который бы пьянил и порабощал, и это Вы
хорошо даете попять. Отчего нет? Оставляя
в стороне "Палату No 6" и меня самого, будем
говорить вообще, ибо это интересней. Буде
м говорить об общих причинах, коли Вам не
скучно, и давайте захватим целую эпоху. Ск
ажите по совести, кто из моих сверстников,
т. е. людей в возрасте 30--45 лет, дал миру хот
я одну каплю алкоголя? Разве Короленко, На
дсон и все нынешние драматурги не лимона
д? Разве картины Репина или Шишкина кружи
ли Вам голову? Мило, талантливо, Вы восхищ
аетесь и в то же время никак не можете заб
ыть, что Вам хочется курить. Наука и техни
ка переживают теперь великое время, для н
ашего же брата это время рыхлое, кислое, с
кучное, сами мы кислы и скучны, умеем рожд
ать только гуттаперчевых мальчиков, и не
видит этого только Стасов, которому приро
да дала редкую способность пьянеть даже о
т помоев. Причины тут не в глупости нашей,
не в бездарности и не в наглости, как дума
ет Бурении, а в болезни, которая для худож
ника хуже сифилиса и полового истощения.
У нас нет "чего-то", это справедливо, и это
значит, что поднимите подол нашей музе, и
Вы увидите там плоское место. Вспомните, ч
то писатели, которых мы называем вечными
или просто хорошими и которые пьянят нас,
имеют один общий и весьма важный признак:
они куда-то идут и Вас зовут туда же, и Вы ч
увствуете не умом, а всем своим существом,
что у них есть какая-то цель, как у тени от
ца Гамлета, которая недаром приходила и т
ревожила воображение. У одних, смотря по к
алибру, цели ближайшие -- крепостное прав
о, освобождение родины, политика, красота
или просто водка, как у Дениса Давыдова, у
других цели отдалённые -- бог, загробная ж
изнь, счастье человечества и т. п. Лучшие и
з них реальны и пишут жизнь такою, какая о
на есть, но оттого, что каждая строчка про
питана, как соком, сознанием цели, Вы, кром
е жизни, какая есть, чувствуете еще ту жиз
нь, какая должна быть, и это пленяет Вас.

You are a hard drinker, and I have regaled you with sweet lemonade, and you,
after giving the lemonade its due, justly observe that there is no spirit in
it. That is just what is lacking in our productions―the alcohol which could
intoxicate and subjugate, and you state that very well. Why not? Putting
aside "Ward No. 6" and myself, let us discuss the matter in general, for
that is more interesting. Let ms discuss the general causes, if that won't
bore you, and let us include the whole age. Tell me honestly, who of my
contemporaries―that is, men between thirty and forty-five―have given the
world one single drop of alcohol? Are not Korolenko, Nadson, and all the
playwrights of to-day, lemonade? Have Repin's or Shishkin's pictures turned
your head? Charming, talented, you are enthusiastic; but at the same time
you can't forget that you want to smoke. Science and technical knowledge are
passing through a great period now, but for our sort it is a flabby, stale,
and dull time. We are stale and dull ourselves, we can only beget
gutta-percha boys, and the only person who does not see that is Stasov, to
whom nature has given a rare faculty for getting drunk on slops. The causes
of this are not to be found in our stupidity, our lack of talent, or our
insolence, as Burenin imagines, but in a disease which for the artist is
worse than syphilis or sexual exhaustion. We lack "something," that is true,
and that means that, lift the robe of our muse, and you will find within an
empty void. Let me remind you that the writers, who we say are for all time
or are simply good, and who intoxicate us, have one common and very
important characteristic; they are going towards something and are summoning
you towards it, too, and you feel not with your mind, but with your whole
being, that they have some object, just like the ghost of Hamlet's father,
who did not come and disturb the imagination for nothing. Some have more
immediate objects―the abolition of serfdom, the liberation of their
country, politics, beauty, or simply vodka, like Denis Davydov; others have
remote objects―God, life beyond the grave, the happiness of humanity, and
so on. The best of them are realists and paint life as it is, but, through
every line's being soaked in the consciousness of an object, you feel,
besides life as it is, the life which ought to be, and that captivates you.

Lucette is twenty-five when she commits suicide. In his essay on Chekhov,
Tvorchestvo iz nichego (“Creation from Nothing,” 1905), Lev Shestov (the
philosopher whose pseudonym comes from shest’, “six”) speaks of Chekhov’
s almost twenty-five-year-long literary work:

Чтобы в двух словах определить его тенден
цию, я скажу: Чехов был певцом безнадежнос
ти. Упорно, уныло, однообразно в течение в
сей своей почти 25-летней литературной дея
тельности Чехов только одно и делал: теми
или иными способами убивал человеческие
надежды. В этом, на мой взгляд, сущность ег
о творчества.

According to Shestov, in the course of his almost twenty-five-year-long
literary work Chekhov was stubbornly and methodically killing human hopes.

skuka + voda = suka + vodka = vkus + Oka + ad/da = sad + bukovka + Van + oko
- Nabokov

Denis Davydov + nom = syn Davidov + Demon = dym + end + son/nos + Avivov

skuka \xa8C boredom

voda \xa8C water

suka \xa8C bitch

vkus \xa8C taste

Oka \xa8C a river in the central Russia, the Volga’s tributary

ad \xa8C hell

da \xa8C yes

sad \xa8C garden

bukovka \xa8C very small letter (a diminutive of bukva)

oko \xa8C obs., eye

nom \xa8C Fr., name

syn Davidov \xa8C son of David (Jesus Christ)

dym \xa8C smoke

son \xa8C sleep; dream

nos - nose

Avidov \xa8C Baron Klim Avidov (anagram of Vladimir Nabokov), Marina’s former
lover who gave her children a set of Flavita (the Russian Scrabble, 1.36)

In her French “transversion” of Marvell’s poem The Garden Ada mentions

'On the other hand,' said Van, 'one can well imagine a similarly bilingual
Miss Rivers checking a French version of, say, Marvell's Garden -'

'Oh,' cried Ada, 'I can recite "Le jardin" in my own transversion - let me
see -

En vain on s'amuse à gagner

L'Oka, la Baie du Palmier...'

'...to win the Palm, the Oke, or Bayes!' shouted Van. (1.10)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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