NABOKV-L post 0027310, Fri, 24 Feb 2017 07:53:52 -0900

Re: Nina Lecerf & Monsieur Kegan in TRLSK; Dr Fitzbishop & Ward
Five in Ada
From Ward Five -- "Knight" <-> "Kniga"? I'm sure this has been mentioned
before if it has any use.

And a big thank you -- *bolshoi spasibo *-- for your wonderful postings,
always most informative.

On Fri, Feb 24, 2017 at 3:27 AM, Alexey Sklyarenko <>

> The characters of VN’s novel *The Real Life of Sebastian Knight* (1941)
> include Nina Lecerf (alias Mme de Rechnoy), the woman who plays a fatal
> role in Sebastian’s life. Her name hints at Nina Zarechnyi, a character in
> Chekhov’s play *Chayka* (“The Seagull,” 1896). On the other hand, *cerf*
> is French for “deer” and brings to mind a herd of deer that in Chekhov’s
> story *Palata № 6* (“Ward No. 6,” 1892) the hero sees before his death:
> Андрей Ефимыч понял, что ему пришёл конец, и вспомнил, что Иван Дмитрич,
> Михаил Аверьяныч и миллионы людей верят в бессмертие. А вдруг оно есть? Но
> бессмертия ему не хотелось, и он думал о нём только одно мгновение. Стадо
> оленей, необыкновенно красивых и грациозных, о которых он читал вчера,
> пробежало мимо него; потом баба протянула к нему руку с заказным письмом...
> Сказал что-то Михаил Аверьяныч. Потом всё исчезло, и Андрей Ефимыч забылся
> навеки.
> Andrey Efimych understood that his end had come, and remembered that Ivan
> Dmitrich, Mikhail Averyanych, and millions of people believed in
> immortality. And what if it really existed? But he did not want immortality
> -- and he thought of it only for one instant. A herd of deer,
> extraordinarily beautiful and graceful, of which he had been reading the
> day before, ran by him; then a peasant woman stretched out her hand to him
> with a registered letter. . . . Mikhail Averyanych said something, then it
> all vanished, and Andrey Efimych sank into oblivion forever. (chapter XIX)
> In his essay on Chekhov, *Tvorchestvo iz nichego* (“Creation from
> Nothing,” 1905), Shestov points out that the doctor in “Ward No. 6” dies
> beautifully: in his last minutes he sees a herd of deer, etc.:
> И, кажется, “Палату № 6” в своё время очень сочувственно приняли. Кстати
> прибавим, что доктор умирает очень красиво: в последние минуты видит стадо
> оленей и т. п. (VI)
> The penname Shestov comes from *shest’* (six). In the name Knight there
> are six letters. A man at the St. Damier hospital tells Sebastian’s
> half-brother V. (the narrator in TRLSK) that foreign names ought to be
> always replaced by numbers:
> 'What was the name?' he asked with a sigh.
> 'Knight,' I said. 'It begins with a "K". It is an English name.'
> 'Foreign names ought to be always replaced by numbers,' muttered the man,
> 'it would simplify matters. There was a patient who died last night, and he
> had a name....'
> I was struck by the horrible thought that he might be referring to
> Sebastian.... Was I too late after all?
> 'Do you mean to say....' I began, but he shook his head and turned the
> pages of a ledger on his desk.
> 'No,' he growled, 'the English Monsieur is not dead. K, K, K....'
> 'K, n, i, g...' I began once again.
> 'C'est bon, c'est bon,' he interrupted. 'K, n, K, g... n... I'm not an
> idiot, you know. Number thirty-six.' (Chapter 20)
> The patient in Ward No. 36 (who is asleep and to whose breathing V.
> listens thinking that it is his brother) turns out to be a Mr. Kegan (and
> the patient who died last night was Sebastian):
> 'You could see Doctor Guinet even now,' continued the nurse in her quiet
> pleasant voice. 'He lives next door. So you are the brother, are you? And
> tomorrow his mother is coming from England, n'est-ce pas?'
> 'Oh, no,' I said, 'his mother died years ago. And tell me, how is he
> during the day, does he talk? does he suffer?'
> She frowned and looked at me queerly.
> 'But...' she said. 'I don't understand.... What is your name, please?'
> 'Right,' I said. 'I haven't explained. We are half-brothers, really. My
> name is [I mentioned my name].'
> 'Oh-la-la!' she exclaimed getting very red in the face, 'Mon Dieu! The
> Russian gentleman died yesterday, and you've been visiting Monsieur
> Kegan.... (ibid.)
> In the name Kegan (as in Ragin, the doctor’s name in Chekhov’s “Ward No.
> 6”) there are five letters. According to Dr Fitzbishop (a character in
> VN’s novel *Ada*, 1969), in the Kalugano Hospital (where Van recovers
> from the wound received in a duel with Captain Tapper) hopeless cases are
> kept in Ward Five:
> Dr Fitzbishop congratulated him on having escaped with a superficial
> muscle wound, the bullet having lightly grooved or, if he might say so,
> grazed the greater *serratus. *Doc Fitz commented on Van’s wonderful
> recuperational power which was already in evidence, and promised to have
> him out of disinfectants and bandages in ten days or so if for the first
> three he remained as motionless as a felled tree-trunk. Did Van like
> music? Sportsmen usually did, didn't they? Would he care to have a Sonorola
> by his bed? No, he disliked music, but did the doctor, being a
> concert-goer, know perhaps where a musician called Rack could be found?
> 'Ward Five,' answered the doctor promptly. Van misunderstood this as the
> title of some piece of music and repeated his question. Would he find
> Rack's address at Harper's music shop? Well, they used to rent a cottage
> way down Dorofey Road, near the forest, but now some other people had moved
> in. Ward Five was where hopeless cases were kept. (1.42)
> In his essay on Chekhov Shestov calls Chekhov *pevets beznadyozhnosti*
> (the bard of hopelessness):
> Чтобы в двух словах определить его тенденцию, я скажу: Чехов был *певцом
> безнадежности*. Упорно, уныло, однообразно в течение всей своей почти
> 25-летней литературной деятельности Чехов только одно и делал: теми или
> иными способами убивал человеческие надежды. В этом, на мой взгляд, сущность
> его творчества. (I)
> The name of the Kalugano surgeon, Fitzbishop, brings to mind Clare Bishop,
> in TRLSK Sebastian’s girlfriend whom he left for Nina Lecerf. Knight and
> bishop are chessmen, *damier* is French for “chess board:”
> Who were those idle idiots who wrote on the wall 'Death to the Jews' or *'Vive
> le front populaire'*, or left obscene drawings? Some anonymous artist had
> begun blacking squares — a chess board, *ein Schachbrett, un damier....*
> There was a flash in my brain and the word settled on my tongue: St Damier!
> (Chapter 20)
> Before leaving Ardis forever, Philip Rack (Lucette’s music teacher and
> composer who was poisoned by his jealous wife) asks Ada if there is no
> hope for him any more:
> The melancholy young German was in a philosophical mood shading into the
> suicidal. He had to return to Kalugano with his Elsie, who Doc Ecksreher
> thought ‘would present him with drip lets in dry weeks.’ He hated Kalugano,
> his and her home town, where in a moment of ‘mutual aberration’ stupid
> Elsie had given him her all on a park bench after a wonderful office party
> at Muzakovski’s Organs where the oversexed pitiful oaf had a good job.
> 'When are you leaving?' asked Ada.
> 'Forestday - after tomorrow.'
> 'Fine. That's fine. Adieu, Mr Rack.'
> Poor Philip drooped, fingerpainting sad nothings on wet stone, shaking his
> heavy head, gulping visibly.
> 'One feels... One feels,' he said, 'that one is merely playing a role and
> has forgotten the next speech.'
> 'I'm told many feel that,' said Ada; 'it must be a *furchtbar* feeling.'
> 'Cannot be helped? No hope any more at all? I am dying, yes?'
> 'You are dead, Mr Rack,' said Ada. (1.32)
> Lev Shestov (1866-1938) was a celebrated philosopher (cf. Rack’s
> philosophical mood). “Sad nothings” fingerpainted by Rack bring to mind
> the title of Shestov’s essay on Chekhov. “Forestday” (Thursday in Rack’s
> mispronunciation) seems to foreshadow Van’s duel with Tapper in the
> Kalugano forest. Chekhov is the author of *Duel’* (“The Duel,” 1891), a
> story discussed by Shestov in his essay. The main character in “The Duel,”
> Laevski is a good example of *poshlost’ *(vulgarity). According to Van,
> Dr Fitzbishop is a *poshlyak*:
> On Monday around noon he was allowed to sit in a deckchair, on the lawn,
> which he had avidly gazed at for some days from his window. Dr Fitzbishop
> had said, rubbing his hands, that the Luga laboratory said it was the not
> always lethal 'arethusoides' but it had no practical importance now,
> because the unfortunate music teacher, and composer, was not expected to
> spend another night on Demonia, and would be on Terra, ha-ha, in time for
> evensong. Doc Fitz was what Russians call a *poshlyak* ('pretentious
> vulgarian') and in some obscure counter-fashion Van was relieved not to be
> able to gloat over the wretched Rack's martyrdom. (1.42)
> Alexey Sklyarenko
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