Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027353, Wed, 12 Apr 2017 23:06:37 +0300

Greater Dog in TRLSK
In VN’s novel The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941) the narrator
mentions Alexis Pan, a futurist poet who appeared on the stage with a
constellation (the Greater Dog) painted on his bald brow:

Alexis Pan generally appeared on the stage dressed in a morning coat,
perfectly correct but for its being embroidered with huge lotus flowers. A
constellation (the Greater Dog) was painted on his bald brow. (Chapter 3)

In Nauka i svobodnoe issledovanie (“Science and Free Inquiry”), a Foreword
to his book Na vesakh Iova (“In Job’s Balances,” 1929), Shestov quotes
Spinoza, a philosopher who mentioned the constellation called the Dog:

Или, как выразился, со свойственным ему за
гадочным и зловещим спокойствием, всё тот
же Спиноза: разум и воля Бога имеет стольк
о же общего с разумом и волей человека, ск
олько созвездие Пса с псом, лающим животн
ым. Всякая попытка вырваться из власти ве
ками создававшегося убеждения разбивает
ся о целый ряд заранее подготовленных, то
же "самоочевидных" и непреодолимых в свое
й самоочевидности pudet, ineptum, impossibile.

Or, as the same Spinoza expressed it with the enigmatic and disquieting calm
peculiar to him: God's reason and will have as little in common with man's
reason and will as the constellation called the Dog with the dog, the
barking animal. Any attempt to escape the power of this conviction, which
has grown up through centuries, shipwrecks on a whole series of pudet,
ineptum, and impossibile which are ready thought out, equally
"self-evident", and invincible by virtue of their self-evidence. (IV)

Part One of “In Job’s Balances” is entitled Otkroveniya smerti
(“Revelations of Death”). According to V. (Sebastian’s half-brother who
begins to write his book soon after Sebastian’s death), there is an occult
resemblance between a man and the date of his death:

I have managed to reconstruct more or less the last year of Sebastian's
life: 1935. He died in the very beginning of 1936, and as I look at this
figure I cannot help thinking that there is an occult resemblance between a
man and the date of his death. Sebastian Knight d. 1936.... This date to me
seems the reflection of that name in a pool of rippling water. There is
something about the curves of the last three numerals that recalls the
sinuous outlines of Sebastian's personality.... (Chapter 19)

Lev Shestov died on November 19, 1938. VN began writing TRLSK in December of

Sebastian Knight was born on the thirty-first of December, 1899. In
Chekhov’s story Strashnaya noch’ (“A Terrible Night,” 1884) the action
takes place on Christmas Eve in 1883. Having returned from a séance at
which the spirit of Spinoza predicted to him that he will die on that very
night, Ivan Panikhidin finds a coffin in his room. The name Panikhidin
begins with Pan- and comes from panikhida (office for the dead). In his poem
Zabludivshiysya tramvay (“The Lost Tram,” 1921) Gumilyov mentions
panikhida (a requiem mass):

Верной твердынею православья

Врезан Исакий в вышине,

Там отслужу молебен о здравьи

Машеньки и панихиду по мне.

That faithful stronghold of Orthodoxy,

Isaac's, is etched upon the sky,

There I will hold a service for Mashenka's health

And a requiem mass for myself.

Mashenka (“Mary,” 1926) is VN’s first novel. The name of Alexis Pan’s
wife, Larissa, seems to hint at Larisa Reisner, Gumilyov’s mistress who
married Fyodor Raskolnikov (the commander of Red fleets on the Caspian and
the Baltic during the Russian Civil War). Rodion Raskolnikov is the main
character in Fyodor Dostoevski’s Prestuplenie i nakazanie (“Crime and
Punishment,” 1866). The first essay in “Revelations of Death” (Part One
of Shestov’s “In Job’s Balances”), Preodolenie samoochevidnostey (“The
Conquest of the Self-Evident”), is subtitled K stoletiyu rozhdeniya F. M.
Dostoevskogo (“To the Hundredth Anniversary of F. M. Dostoevski’s
Birth”). Dostoevski was born in 1821. Gumilyov was executed in 1921 (soon
after Alexander Blok’s death). In his poem Osenniy vecher byl… (“It was
an autumnal evening...” 1912) Blok mentions lokhmatyi pyos (“a shaggy
dog”). Blok is the author of Dvenadtsat’ (“The Twelve,” 1918). Shestov
(whose pseudonym comes from shest’, “six”) died at the age of
seventy-two. 72 = 12 × 6 = 36 × 2. Sebastian Knight died in the very
beginning of 1936, at the age of thirty-six.

In his book “In Job’s Balances” Shestov compares Kant to Nietzsche:

Кант жил до 80 лет. Ницше только до 44. Но нас
колько Ницше опытнее Канта!

Kant lived to eighty, Nietzsche only to forty-four. But how much more
experienced was Nietzsche than Kant! (23)

Like Nietzsche, Chekhov lived only to forty-four. In Chekhov’s one-act play
Svad’ba (“The Wedding,” 1889) Aplombov says that he is not a Spinoza or
anybody of that sort:

А п л о м б о в. Я не Спиноза какой-нибудь, ч
тоб выделывать ногами кренделя. Я челове
к положительный и с характером и не вижу
никакого развлечения в пустых удовольств
иях. Но дело не в танцах. Простите, maman, но я
многого не понимаю в ваших поступках. Нап
ример, кроме предметов домашней необход
имости, вы обещали также дать мне за ваше
й дочерью два выигрышных билета. Где он

Aplombov. I’m not a Spinoza or anybody of that sort, to go making
figures-of-eight with my legs. I am a serious man, and I have a character,
and I see no amusement in empty pleasures. But it isn’t just a matter of
dances. You must excuse me, maman, but there is a good deal in your behavior
which I am unable to understand. For instance, in addition to objects of
domestic importance, you promised also to give me, with your daughter, two
lottery tickets. Where are they?

Spinoza mentioned by Aplombov is not the Dutch philosopher, but the Spanish
dancer Léon Espinosa (1825-1903) who worked in Moscow with Marius Petipa.
Chekhov (1860-1904) outlived Espinosa (who was born in the year of the
Decembrist uprising) only by a year. According to Pushkin, he wrote his
Count Nulin in Mikhaylovskoe in two days, on December 13-14, 1825 (the
Decembrist uprising took place in St. Petersburg on December 14, 1825). The
name Nulin comes from nul’ (zero). Shestov’s essay on Chekhov is entitled
Tvorchestvo iz nichego (“Creation from Nothing,” 1905). In his memoir
essay on Chekhov Ivan Bunin says that one of the best articles on Chekhov
was written by Shestov. One of Bunin’s best poems is Sirius (1922):

Где ты, звезда моя заветная,

Венец небесной красоты?

Очарованье безответное

Снегов и лунной высоты?

Где вы, скитания полночные

В равнинах светлых и нагих,

Надежды, думы непорочные

Далёких юных лет моих?

Пылай, играй стоцветной силою,

Неугасимая звезда,

Над дальнею моей могилою,

Забытой Богом навсегда!

…Shine, play with a hundred-colored strength,

the inextinguishable star,

above my distant grave

forgotten by God forever!

The brightest star in the constellation the Greater Dog (in fact, the
brightest star in the sky), Sirius brings to mind Sirin, VN’s Russian nom
de plume.

Sirius + Vladimir Nabokov + Pan + Eva = Sirin + bukva + slovo/volos +
piramida + Neva/vena/Vena

Eva \xa8C Eve

bukva \xa8C letter (character)

slovo \xa8C word

volos \xa8C hair

piramida \xa8C pyramid

vena \xa8C vein

Vena \xa8C Russian name of Vienna

VN (who was born in 1899, a hundred years after Pushkin’s birth) married
Vera Slonim in April of 1925.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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