Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0021971, Wed, 31 Aug 2011 21:58:46 +0300

After the publication of my article on VN's play "The Event" in Topos I noticed that I had overlooked an important allusion to the dramatic event in the life of Chekhov's friend, editor and long-time correspondent Alexey Suvorin (at the begining of my article I quote a long excerpt from one of Chekhov's letters to Suvorin).

Trying to predict what Barbashin who was just released from prison will do to her daughter and son-in-law, Antonina Pavlovna (the feminine version of Chekhov's name-cum-patronymic) suggests that he may commit suicide at Lyubov's feet:

Любовь. А как, по-твоему, развивается дальше? Будет стрельба?
Антонина Павловна. Ну, это ещё надобно подумать. Может быть, он покончит с собой у твоих ног. (Sobytie, Act Two)

In a letter of September 23, 1873, to Strakhov Tolstoy mentions the murder of Suvorin's first wife by her lover who then shot himself dead:

Нынче он мне рассказывал про убийство Сувориной. Какое знаменательное СОБЫТИЕ! (Today he [the painter Kramskoy who made Tolstoy's portrait] told me about the murder of Suvorina. What a significant EVENT!)

Like Kramskoy, Troshcheykin (the main character in VN's play) is a portraitist.

The name Strakhov (of Tolstoy's friend and correspondent) comes from strakh, "fear" (in his review of Sobytie Khodasevich pointed out that the title of VN's play could have been Strakh).

Bellevue (the hotel where the murder of Suvorina took place) was situated on the corner of the Nevsky avenue and the Karavannaya street (VN passed it by on his daily trip to the Tenishev school).

Soon after his first wife's death Suvorin married a schoolmate of his daughter. His second wife (whom Chekhov wanted to dedicate his play "The Seagull") survived Suvorin to twenty five years and died in emigration in 1936. In an obituary essay Amfiteatrov writes about her:

Прибавить надо, что была она урожденная Орфанова - из рода талантливого, темпераментного и беспокойного: родная сестра Михаила Ивановича Орфанова, литератора-народника, больше известного под своим псевдонимом "Мишла", человека оригинальнейшего. Славен он был не столько своим писательством, в коем был возмутительно ленив: оставил по себе всего одну книжку (правда, очень талантливую), сколько беспечно богемным образом жизни: продолжал в 80-х годах традиции Аполлона Григорьева, Павла Якушкина и других идеалистов-"вагабундов" годов 50 - 60-х.

The characters in "The Event" include Vagabundova (the old lady with apricot hair whose portrait Troshcheykin is anxious to finish and who speaks in verses).

In 1912 (if I'm not mistaken) it nearly came to a duel between VN's father and Suvorin's son Mikhail (whom VN confused with Alexey, Mikhail's brother, in Speak, Memory).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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