Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0021901, Fri, 5 Aug 2011 02:11:33 +0300

gloves and mittens
"There is a story to the effect that a passenger who inadvertantly dropped his glove out of a train window promptly threw out its mate so that at least the person who found them should have a pair." (The Gift, Chapter Five)

Russian for "glove" (one is reminded of Schiller's Handschuh) is perchatka (which comes from perst, obs., "finger"); while the word used by the Swan Princess in Pushkin's fairy tale is rukavitsa (which comes from rukav, "sleeve," because the ribbon tying a pair of rukavitsy is passed through the sleeves of a fur coat). The idiom derzhat' v ezhovykh rukavitsakh ("to rule with an iron rod") occurs in Pushkin's novella "A Captain's Daughter".

As to the happy lost glove, I thought VN was making fun of proverbs and their often obscure meaning. Inventing bits of Zemblan folklore helped him to make Zembla more real.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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