Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0020677, Mon, 6 Sep 2010 17:01:48 +0400

Amphitheatricus, Uranograd
"Alfin the Vague... was given his cognomen by Amphitheatricus, a not unkindly writer of fugitive poetry in the liberal gazettes (who was also responsible for dubbing my capital Uranograd!)." (Pale Fire, Kinbote's note to Line 71)

In his story Tochka opory ("Point of Rest", 1923) Aleksandr Amfiteatrov (1862-1938) mentions the planet Uranus: Эйфелева башня кувыркалась где-то далеко, между Сатурном и Ураном, в перегонку с неистово визжавшей Айседорой Дункан. ("The Eifel tower went head over heels somewhere far away, between Saturn and Uranus, racing with furiously screaming Isadora Duncan.")

A play on uranography (the branch of astronomy concerned with the description and mapping of the heavens, and esp. of the fixed stars) and uranism (VN's word for homosexuality), "Uranograd" seems to hint at St. Petersburg, VN's home city. In 1914, when the war with Germany broke out, it was renamed Petrograd, and ten years later, after Lenin's death, Leningrad. Like a number of tsars (including the city's founder, Peter I, the drunk and maniac, who, they say, was somewhat left-handed sexually) before him, Lenin was tiran (a tyrant), therefore the city named after him can be renamed Tiranograd. Interestingly, the word "tyrant" also occurs in Amfiteatrov's story:

- Сударыня - сказал он жене - знаете ли вы, кто такое я?
- Знаю, - отвечала супруга - вы - дурак, тиран и изверг!
Слюзин смутился: к столь определённому ответу он не был подготовлен.
- Нет-с, неправда, - возразил он - я ни тиран, ни дурак, ни изверг, а великий гений, творец perpetuum mobile котораго искали Рожер Бэкон, Галилей, Кеплер, все учёные, до Эдисона включительно... (the hero's wife calls him a fool, tyrant and monster but Slyuzin retorts he is none of these but a great genius, creator of the perpetuum mobile that was looked for by all great scientists, including Galileo, Kepler, etc.)

Kinbote mockingly calls Gradus "Vinogradus" and "Leningradus": "Vinogradus should never, never provoke God. Leningradus should not aim his peashooter at people even in dreams" (note to Line 171).
Everything what happens in the Amfiteatrov story turns out to be the hero's dream.
Amfiteatrov is the author of the satirical article Gospoda Obmanovy ("The Obmanovs", 1902; the title is a play on Gospoda Golovlyovy, a novel by Saltykov-Shchedrin, and Romanov, the surname of Russian tsars), in which he dubs the tsar Nicolas II Nika Milusha and mentions Prince Meshchersky, the homosexual editor of Grazhdanin ("The Citizen", a newspaper).
In 1921 Amfiteatrov and his family escaped from Petrograd on a Finnish boat. Among VN's friends in Berlin was one of Amfiteatrov's four sons.
Note that Alfin = final = alin + f (cf. "she [Countess de Fyler] beat them [seven councilors] by one alin and spat out the news", n. to line 71; cf. colonel St. Alin in Ada); Odon = Nodo = odno ("one") = o + dno ("bottom")

Alexey Sklyarenko

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