NABOKV-L post 0027425, Tue, 27 Jun 2017 16:04:41 +0300

collection of erotica, Bagration Island,
Barda Sea & Lolita's real surname in Lolita
In an attempt to save his life Quilty tries to seduce Humbert Humbert (the
narrator and main character in VN’s novel Lolita, 1955) with his collection
of erotica:

“Oh, another thing - you are going to like this. I have an absolutely
unique collection of erotica upstairs. Just to mention one item: the in
folio de-luxe Bagration Island by the explorer and psychoanalyst Melanie
Weiss, a remarkable lady, a remarkable work - drop that gun - with
photographs of eight hundred and something male organs she examined and
measured in 1932 on Bagration, in the Barda Sea, very illuminating graphs,
plotted with love under pleasant skies - drop that gun - and moreover I can
arrange for you to attend executions, not everybody knows that the chair is
painted yellow -” (2.35)

In his memoir essay Iz zapisnoy knizhki (o Chekhove), “From a Notebook. On
Chekhov” (1914), Amfiteatrov says that even before his journey to Sakhalin
Chekhov showed to Kurepin the obscene Japanese cartoons depicting an orgy of
sailors who found themselves in an island populated only by women:

Однажды, помню, ещё до поездки на Сахалин,
приносил он Курепину на погляденье японс
кие карикатуры весьма непристойного соде
ржания, изображавшие оргию моряков, заплы
вших на остров, заселённый одними женщина
ми. Но эти листы были столь высокой художе
ственной ценности, такого совершенства в
рисунке, красках, во всей технике исполне
ния, что если видеть в них "похабные карти
нки", то пришлось бы зачеркнуть для искусс
тва всего Фелисьена Ропса и школу его пос
ледователей. Вообще, "эротомана" и "сладос
трастника" не было в мещанской крови Чехо
ва ни капли. Он был больной человек, но - зд
оровая кровь.

In a letter of November 30, 1891, to Suvorin Chekhov says that he just
returned from Kurepin’s funeral:

Сегодня хоронили Курепина. Был венок от ?Н
ового времени?. Из шести венков это был са
мый большой, но не самый красивый. Как-то с
транно подумать, что пойдёшь на новую пье
су и не встретишь в театре завсегдатая Ку

In the same letter Chekhov says that he wants to write a feuilleton for
Novoe vremya (Suvorin’s newspaper):

Вы ничего не будете иметь против, если к б
удущей субботе я напишу московский фелье
тон? Хочется тряхнуть стариной.

Chekhov’s feuilleton V Moskve (“In Moscow,” 1891) begins as follows:

Я московский Гамлет.

I am a Moscow Hamlet.

In a letter of January 26, 1891, to A. F. Koni Chekhov says that in Sakhalin
he was at a funeral and compares himself to Hamlet:

Помнится, был я на Сахалине на похоронах.
Хоронили жену поселенца, уехавшего в Нико
лаевск. Около вырытой могилы стояли четыр
е каторжных носильщика ― ex officio, я и казнач
ей в качестве Гамлета и Горацио, бродивши
х по кладбищу, черкес ― жилец покойницы ―
от нечего делать, и баба каторжная; эта бы
ла тут из жалости: привела двух детей поко
йницы ― одного грудного и другого Алёшку,
мальчика лет 4 в бабьей кофте и в синих шта
нах с яркими латками на коленях. Холодно,
сыро, в могиле вода, каторжные смеются... В
идно море. Алешка с любопытством смотрит
в могилу; хочет вытереть озябший нос, но м
ешают длинные рукава кофты. Когда закапыв
ают могилу, я его спрашиваю:

― Алёшка, где мать?

Он машет рукой, как проигравшийся помещи
к, смеётся и говорит:

― Закопали!

I remember I was at a funeral in Sakhalin. Beside the newly dug grave stood
four convict bearers ex officio; the treasury clerk and I, in the capacity
of Hamlet and Horatio, wandering about the cemetery; the dead woman’s
lodger, a Circassian, who had come because he had nothing better to do; and
a convict woman who had come out of pity and had brought the dead woman’s
two children, one a baby, and the other, Alyoshka, a boy of four, wearing a
woman’s jacket and blue breeches with bright-colored patches on the knees.
It was cold and damp, there was water in the grave, the convicts were
laughing. The sea was in sight. Alyoshka looked into the grave with
curiosity; he tried to wipe his chilly nose, but the long sleeve of his
jacket got into his way. When they began to fill in the grave I asked him:
“Alyoshka, where is your mother?” He waved his hand with the air of a
gentleman who has lost at cards, laughed, and said: “They have buried

In the same letter Chekhov describes the children whom he met in Sakhalin:

Положение сахалинских детей и подростков
я постараюсь описать подробно. Оно необыч
айно. Я видел голодных детей, видел тринад
цатилетних содержанок, пятнадцатилетних
беременных. Проституцией начинают занима
ться девочки с 12 лет, иногда до наступлени
я менструаций.

I will try and describe minutely the position of the children and young
people in Sakhalin. It is exceptional. I saw starving children, I saw girls
of thirteen prostitutes, girls of fifteen with child. Girls begin to live by
prostitution from twelve years old, sometimes before menstruation has begun.

Dolores Haze is twelve when Humbert Humbert meets her. At Beardsley Lolita
(who was not at Charlotte’s funeral) asks HH where is her mother’s grave:

Lolita, who had been reading near the fire, stretched herself, and then
inquired, her elbow up, with a grunt: "Where is she buried anyway?" "Who?"
"Oh, you know, my murdered mummy." "And you know where her grave is," I said
controlling myself, whereupon I named the cemetery - just outside Ramsdale,
between the railway tracks and Lakeview Hill. "Moreover," I added, "the
tragedy of such an accident is somewhat cheapened by the epithet you saw fit
to apply to it. If you really wish to triumph in your mind over the idea of
death -" "Ray," said Lo for hurrah, and languidly left the room, and for a
long while I stared with smarting eyes into the fire. (2.32)

“Ray” brings to mind John Ray, Jr., the author of the Foreword to HH’s
manuscript. In his Foreword John Ray mentions Dr. Blanche Schwarzmann, whose
name is a negative, so to speak, of Melanie Weiss (the author of Bagration

The cynic may say that commercial pornography makes the same claim; the
learned may counter by asserting that "H.H." 's impassioned confession is a
tempest in a test tube; that at least 12% of American adult males - a
"conservative" estimate according to Dr. Blanche Schwarzmann (verbal
communication) - enjoy yearly, in one way or another, the special experience
"H.H." describes with such despair- that had our demented diarist gone, in
the fatal summer of 1947, to a competent psychopathologist, there would have
been no disaster; but then, neither would there have been this book.

A. F. Koni (whose Finnish surname means in Russian “horses”) was a friend
of Leo Tolstoy (who used for his novel “Resurrection” one of Koni’s
stories). Tolstoy’s last novel appeared in 1899, the year of VN’s birth.
The characters in Tolstoy’s Voyna i mir (“War and Peace,” 1869) include
Prince Bagration. In a letter of February 28, 1867, to Bashilov (the author
of illustrations for “War and Peace”) Tolstoy criticizes Bashilov’s
drawing of Bagration on horseback:

Багратион совсем не хорош. Черты должны б
ыть грубее гораздо, потом не шапка, а карт
уз со смушками ― это исторический костюм.
Бурка всегда носится на боку ― так что про
реха над правым плечом. Посадка его, как г
рузина, должна быть непринуждённая ― немн
ожко на боку с неупёртыми в стремена нога
ми. Лошадь попроще и поспокойнее. Впрочем,
это последнее о лошади я не знаю; но то, чт
о я говорю о нём, на этом я настаиваю.

General Bagration was felled in the battle of Borodino. Borodino (1837) is a
poem by Lermontov. In his essay on Mayakovski, Dekoltirovannaya loshad’
(“The Horse in a Décolleté Dress,” 1927), Khodasevich says that one of
Mayakovski’s anti-German poems (written after the outbreak of World War I)
is an unintentional parody of Lermontov’s Borodino:

Маяковский -- поэт рабочего класса". Вздор.
Был и остался поэтом подонков, бездельник
ов, босяков просто и "босяков духовных". Бы
л таким перед войной, когда восхищал и "пу
жал" подонки интеллигенции и буржуазии, в
ыкрикивая брань и похабщину с эстрады Пол
итехнического музея. И когда, в начале вой
ны, сочинял подписи к немцеедским лубкам,
вроде знаменитого:

С криком: "Дейчланд юбер аллес!" -

Немцы с поля убирались.

И когда, бия себя в грудь, патриотически о
раторствовал у памятника Скобелеву, пере
д генерал-губернаторским домом, там, где т
еперь памятник Октябрю и московский совд
еп! И когда читал кровожадные стихи:

О панталоны венских кокоток

Вытрем наши штыки! --

эту позорную нечаянную пародию на Лермон

Не смеют, что ли, командиры

Чужие изорвать мундиры

О русские штыки?

И певцом погромщиков был он, когда водил о
рду хулиганов героическим приступом брат
ь немецкие магазины. И остался им, когда, п
осле Октября, писал знаменитый марш: "Лево
й, левой!" (музыка А. Лурье).

Пафос погрома и мордобоя -- вот истинный п
афос Маяковского. А на что обрушивается п
огром, ему было и есть всё равно: венская л
и кокотка, витрина ли немецкого магазина
в Москве, схваченный ли за горло буржуй --
только бы тот, кого надо громить.

In his poem Prochti i katay v Parizh i v Kitay (“Read and Go to Paris and
to China,” 1927) Mayakovski says that if we are like horses, the natives of
Japan are like ponies (btw., “pony” rhymes with Koni):

Легко представить можете

жителя Японии:

если мы ― как лошади,

то они ―

как пони.

Like Prince Bagration and Stalin, Mayakovski was born in Georgia. In one of
his salacious poems VN’s “late namesake” mentions bardak (brothel):

Все люди бляди,
Весь мир бардак!
Один мой дядя
И тот мудак.

All people are whores,

The whole world is a brothel!

Only my uncle…

But even he is a cretin.

There is Barda in bardak and Bard in Barda. Shakespeare (the Bard) said:
“All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.”

In his salacious poem Mayakovski calls his uncle mudak (vulg., “idiot”).
In Lolita Humbert Humbert finds out Clare Quilty’s address from his uncle
Ivor (the Ramsdale dentist):

A white-smocked, grey-haired man, with a crew cut and the big flat cheeks of
a politician, Dr. Quilty perched on the corner of his desk, one foot
dreamily and seductively rocking as he launched on a glorious long-range
plan. He would first provide me with provisional plates until the gums
settled. Then he would make me a permanent set. He would like to have a look
at that mouth of mine. He wore perforated pied shoes. He had not visited
with the rascal since 1946, but supposed he could be found at his ancestral
home, Grimm Road, not far from Parkington. It was a noble dream. His foot
rocked, his gaze was inspired. It would cost me around six hundred. He
suggested he take measurements right away, and make the first set before
starting operations. My mouth was to him a splendid cave full of priceless
treasures, but I denied him entrance.

“No,” I said. “On second thoughts, I shall have it all done by Dr.
Molnar. His price is higher, but he is of course a much better dentist than
you.” (2.33)

According to John Ray, Jr., “Haze” only rhymes with Lolita’s real

While "Haze" only rhymes with the heroine's real surname, her first name is
too closely interwound with the inmost fiber of the book to allow one to
alter it; nor (as the reader will perceive for himself) is there any
practical necessity to do so.

In Chekhov’s story Loshadinaya familiya (“A Horsey Name,” 1885) the main
character suffers from toothache. A witch-doctor’s “horsey name” that
general Buldeev’s steward cannot remember turns out to be Ovsov. Ovyos
being Russian for “oats,” in the English version the surname Ovsov becomes
Hayes. Dolores Haze’s “real” surname is most likely Hayes.

The name of Quilty’s uncle brings to mind slonovaya kost’ (ivory)
mentioned by Mayakovski in his poem “Спросили раз меня: ?В
ы любите ли НЭП?? - ?Люблю, - ответил я, - когд
а он не нелеп?” (“I was once asked: ‘Do you love NEP?’ \xa8C ‘I
do,’ I replied, ‘when it is not absurd’,” 1922):

А теперь буржуазия!

Что делает она?

Ни тебе сапог,

ни ситец,

ни гвоздь!

Она -

из мухи делает слона

и после

продаёт слоновую кость.

In the above lines Mayakovski quotes the saying delat’ iz mukhi slona (“to
make a mountain out of a mole-hill;” literally: “to make an elephant out
of a fly”). Describing Quilty’s agony, Humbert Humbert mentions two flies:

The whole sad business had taken more than an hour. He was quiet at last.
Far from feeling any relief, a burden even weightier than the one I had
hoped to get rid of was with me, upon me, over me. I could not bring myself
to touch him in order to make sure he was really dead. He looked it: a
quarter of his face gone, and two flies beside themselves with a dawning
sense of unbelievable luck. (1.35)

In a letter of September 11, 1890, to Suvorin Chekhov, sailing on the Gulf
of Tartary from the north of Sakhalin to the south, quotes the punch line of
Krylov’s fable Lyubopytnyi (“The Sightseer,” 1814): Slona-to ya i ne
primetil (the elephant I did not notice):

Не знаю, что у меня выйдет, но сделано мною
немало. Хватило бы на три диссертации. Я в
ставал каждый день в 5 часов утра, ложился
поздно и все дни был в сильном напряжении
от мысли, что мною многое ещё не сделано, а
теперь, когда уже я покончил с каторгою, у
меня такое чувство, как будто я видел всё,
но слона-то и не приметил.

I don’t know what will come of it, but I have done a good deal. I have got
enough material for three dissertations. I got up every morning at five o’
clock and went to bed late; and all day long was on the strain from the
thought that there was still so much I hadn’t done; and now that I have
done with the convict system, I have the feeling that I have seen everything
but have not noticed the elephant.

In a letter of December 10, 1890, to Leontiev-Shcheglov Chekhov compares
Sakhalin to hell and Ceylon (the island in the Indian Ocean visited by
Chekhov on his way back) to paradise:

Я был и в аду, каким представляется Сахали
н, и в раю, т. е. на острове Цейлоне. Какие б
абочки, букашки, какие мушки, таракашки!

In a letter of December 9, 1890, to Suvorin Chekhov describes Ceylon as

Затем следует Цейлон ― место, где был рай.
Здесь в раю я сделал больше 100 верст по жел
езной дороге и по самое горло насытился п
альмовыми лесами и бронзовыми женщинами.
"Когда у меня будут дети, то я не без гордо
сти скажу им: "Сукины дети, я на своём веку
имел сношение с черноглазой индуской... и
где же? В кокосовом лесу в лунную ночь!"

Next after it comes Ceylon ― an earthly Paradise. There in that Paradise I
went more than a hundred versts on the railway and gazed at palm forests and
bronze women to my heart’s content. . . .

(Constance Garnett’s translation is incomplete and all wrong)

In the already quoted letter of November 30, 1891, to Suvorin Chekhov
mentions a story in which the action takes place in India:

Возвращаю Вам две присланные Вами чрез ко
нтрагентство рукописи. Один рассказ ― инд
ийская легенда. Цветок лотоса, лавровые в
енки, летняя ночь, колибри ― это в Индии-т
о! Начинает с Фауста, жаждущего младости,
и кончает ?благом истинной жизни? во вкусе
Толстого. Я выкинул кое-что, выгладил и по
лучилась сказка, хотя и неважная, но легка
я и которая прочтётся с интересом.

I return you the two manuscripts you sent me. One story is an Indian Legend
― The Lotus Flower, Wreaths of Laurel, A Summer Night, The Humming Bird ―
that in India! He begins with Faust thirsting for youth and ends with “the
bliss of the true life,” in the style of Tolstoy. I have cut out parts,
polished it up, and the result is a legend of no great value, indeed, but
light, and it may be read with interest.

In Lolita Humbert Humbert mentions a hummingbird that was shot by Farlow:

I was now glad I had it with me - and even more glad that I had learned to
use it two years before, in the pine forest around my and Charlotte’s glass
lake. Farlow, with whom I had roamed those remote woods, was an admirable
marksman, and with his .38 actually managed to hit a hummingbird, though I
must say not much of it could be retrieved for proof - only a little
iridescent fluff. (2.17)

Farlow rhymes with Marlowe. Christopher Marlowe (1564-93) is the author of
The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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