Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0027504, Wed, 6 Sep 2017 14:00:18 +0300

Great Bear, Milky Way,
Crown Jewels & Ferz Bretwit in Pale Fire; Signy-Mondieu-Mondieu
in Ada
In Canto One of his poem Shade (the poet in VN’s novel Pale Fire, 1962) mentions the Great Bear and the Milky Way:

That's Dr. Sutton's light. That's the Great Bear.
A thousand years ago five minutes were
Equal to forty ounces of fine sand.
Outstare the stars. Infinite foretime and
Infinite aftertime: above your head
They close like giant wings, and you are dead.

The regular vulgarian, I daresay,
Is happier: He sees the Milky Way
Only when making water. (ll. 119-127)

Bol’shaya medveditsa (Kovsh) (“The Great Bear (Dipper),” 1906) is a story by Leo Tolstoy (who translated this legend from the English magazine Herald of Peace):

Была давно-давно на земле большая засуха: пересохли все реки, ручьи, колодцы, и засохли деревья, кусты и травы, и умирали от жажды люди и животные.

Раз ночью вышла девочка из дома с ковшиком поискать воды для больной матери. Нигде не нашла девочка воды и с усталости легла в поле на траву и заснула. Когда она проснулась и взялась за ковшик, она чуть не пролила из него воду. Он был полон чистой, свежей воды. Девочка обрадовалась и хотела было напиться, но потом подумала, что недостанет матери и побежала с ковшиком домой. Она так спешила, что не заметила под ногами собачки, споткнулась на неё и уронила ковшик. Собачка жалобно визжала. Девочка хватилась ковшика.

Она думала, что разлила его, но нет, он стоял прямо на своём дне, и вся вода была цела в нём. Девочка отлила в ладонь воды, и собачка всё вылакала и повеселела. Тогда девочка взялась опять за ковшик, он из деревянного стал серебряным. Девочка принесла ковшик домой и подала матери. Мать сказала: "Мне всё равно умирать, пей лучше сама", и отдала ковшик девочке. И в ту же минуту ковшик из серебряного стал золотой. Тогда девочка не могла уже больше удерживаться и только хотела приложиться к ковшику, как вдруг в дверь вошёл странник и попросил напиться. Девочка проглотила слюни и поднесла страннику ковшик. И вдруг на ковшике выскочило семь огромных брильянтов, и из него полилась большая струя чистой, свежей воды.

А семь брильянтов стали подниматься выше и выше и поднялись на небо и стали Большой Медведицей.

A LONG, long time ago there was a big drought on the earth. All the rivers dried up and the streams and wells, and the trees withered and the bushes and grass, and men and beasts died of thirst.

One night a little girl went out with a pitcher to find some water for her sick mother. She wandered and wandered everywhere, but could find no water, and she grew so tired that she lay down on the grass and fell asleep. When she awoke and took up the pitcher she nearly upset the water it contained. The pitcher was full of clear, fresh water. The little girl was glad and was about to put it to her lips, but she remembered her mother and ran home with the pitcher as fast as she could. She hurried so much that she did not notice a little dog in her path ; she stumbled over it and dropped the pitcher. The dog whined pitifully ; the little girl seized the pitcher.

She thought the water would have been upset, but the pitcher stood upright and the water was there as before. She poured a little into the palm of her hand and the dog lapped it and was comforted. When the little girl again took up the pitcher, it had turned from common wood to silver. She took the pitcher home and gave it to her mother.

The mother said, " I shall die just the same ; you had better drink it,' : and she handed the pitcher to the child. In that moment the pitcher turned from silver to gold. The little girl could no longer contain herself and was about to put the pitcher to her lips, when the door opened and a stranger entered who begged for a drink. The little girl swallowed her saliva and gave the pitcher to him. And suddenly seven large diamonds sprang out of the pitcher and a stream of clear, fresh water flowed from it. And the seven diamonds began to rise, and they rose higher and higher till they reached the sky and became the Great Bear. (Translated Rochelle S. Townsend)

VN’s poem Bol’shaya medveditsa (“The Great Bear”), written in 1918 in Yalta, ends in the line i ukazali put’ k zemle” (“and showed the way to the land”):

Был грозен волн полночный рёв...
Семь девушек на взморье ждали
невозвратившихся челнов
и, руки заломив, рыдали.

Семь звёздочек в суровой мгле
над рыбаками чётко встали
и указали путь к земле...

Shade’s mad Commentator, Kinbote imagines that he is Charles the Beloved, the last self-exiled king of Zembla.

At the end of Anna Karenin (1875-77) Tolstoy mentions Mlechnyi put’ (the Milky Way):

Уже совсем стемнело, и на юге, куда он смотрел, не было туч. Тучи стояли с противной стороны. Оттуда вспыхивала молния и слышался дальний гром. Левин прислушивался к равномерно падающим с лип в саду каплям и смотрел на знакомый ему треугольник звёзд и на проходящий в середине его Млечный Путь с его разветвлением. При каждой вспышке молнии не только Млечный Путь, но и яркие звезды исчезали, но, как только потухала молния, опять, как будто брошенные какой-то меткой рукой, появлялись на тех же местах.

It was quite dark now, and in the south, where he was looking, there were no clouds. The storm had drifted on to the opposite side of the sky, and there were flashes of lightning and distant thunder from that quarter. Levin listened to the monotonous drip from the lime trees in the garden, and looked at the triangle of stars he knew so well, and the Milky Way with its branches that ran through its midst. At each flash of lightning the Milky Way, and even the bright stars, vanished, but as soon as the lightning died away, they reappeared in their places as though some hand had flung them back with careful aim. (Part Eight, chapter XIX)

In the English version of VN’s story Vesna v Fial’te (“Spring in Fialta,” 1936) the narrator learns of Nina’s death from a newspaper that he bought in Mlech:

But the stone was as warm as flesh, and suddenly I understood something I had been seeing without understanding—why a piece of tinfoil had sparkled so on the pavement, why the gleam of a glass had trembled on a tablecloth, why the sea was ashimmer: somehow, by imperceptible degrees, the white sky above Fialta had got saturated with sunshine, and now it was sun-pervaded throughout, and this brimming white radiance grew broader and broader, all dissolved in it, all vanished, all passed, and I stood on the station platform of Mlech with a freshly bought newspaper, which told me that the yellow car I had seen under the plane trees had suffered a crash beyond Fialta, having run at full speed into the truck of a traveling circus entering the town, a crash from which Ferdinand and his friend, those invulnerable rogues, those salamanders of fate, those basilisks of good fortune, had escaped with local and temporary injury to their scales, while Nina, in spite of her long-standing, faithful imitation of them, had turned out after all to be mortal.

Mlech rhymes with mech (sword), the last word in VN’s poem Gerb (“The Blazon,” 1925):

Лишь отошла земля родная,

в солёной тьме дохнул норд-ост,

как меч алмазный, обнажая

средь облаков стремнину звёзд.

Мою тоску, воспоминанья

клянусь я царственно беречь

с тех пор, как принял герб изгнанья:

на чёрном поле звёздный меч.

As soon as my native land had receded

in the briny dark the northeaster struck,

like a sword of diamond revealing

among the clouds a chasm of stars.

My yearning ache, my recollections

I swear to preserve with royal care

ever since I adopted the blazon of exile:

on a field of sable a starry sword.

In VN’s play Izobretenie Val’sa (“The Waltz Invention,” 1938) the name of one of the eleven generals is Gerb. The action in “The Waltz Invention” seems to take place in a dream that Lyubov’, Troshcheykin’s wife in VN’s play Sobytie (“The Event,” 1938), dreams in the “sleep of death” after committing suicide on her dead son’s fifth birthday (two days after her mother’s fiftieth birthday). The name of Lyubov’s mother (a lady writer), Antonina Pavlovna, hints at A. P. Chekhov (the writer who lived in Yalta). In Chekhov’s story Dama s sobachkoy (“The Lady with the Dog,” 1899) Gurov and Anna Sergeevna meet in Yalta. In “The Spring in Fialta” the narrator says that can hear the name Yalta echoed by Fialta’s viola:

I am fond of Fialta; I am fond of it because I feel in the hollow of those violaceous syllables the sweet dark dampness of the most rumpled of small flowers, and because the altolike name of a lovely Crimean town is echoed by its viola; and also because there is something in the very somnolence of its humid Lent that especially anoints one’s soul.

When Kinbote visits Queen Disa at her Mediterranean villa, Disa asks her husband about the crown jewels and Kinbote asks Fleur de Fyler if she still plays the viola:

No such qualms disturbed him as he sat now on the terrace of her villa and recounted his lucky escape from the Palace. She enjoyed his description of the underground link with the theater and tried to visualize the jolly scramble across the mountains; but the part concerning Garh displeased her as if, paradoxically, she would have preferred him to have gone through a bit of wholesome houghmagandy with the wench. She told him sharply to skip such interludes, and he made her a droll little bow. But when he began to discuss the political situation (two Soviet generals had just been attached to the Extremist government as Foreign Advisers), a familiar vacant expression appeared in her eyes. Now that he was safely out of the country, the entire blue bulk of Zembla, from Embla Point to Emblem Bay, could sink in the sea for all she cared. That he had lost weight was of more concern to her than that he had lost a kingdom. Perfunctorily she inquired about the crown jewels; he revealed to her their unusual hiding place, and she melted in girlish mirth as she had not done for years and years. "I do have some business matters to discuss," he said. "And there are papers you have to sign." Up in the trellis a telephone climbed with the roses. One of her former ladies in waiting, the languid and elegant Fleur de Fyler (now fortyish and faded), still wearing pearls in her raven hair and the traditional white mantilla, brought certain documents from Disa's boudoir. Upon hearing the King's mellow voice behind the laurels, Fleur recognized it before she could be misled by his excellent disguise. Two footmen, handsome young strangers of a marked Latin type, appeared with the tea and caught Fleur in mid-curtsey. A sudden breeze groped among the glycines. Defiler of flowers. He asked Fleur as she turned to go with the Disa orchids if she still played the viola. She shook her head several times not wishing to speak without addressing him and not daring to do so while the servants might be within earshot. (note to Lines 433-434)

Viola is Sebastian’s twin sister in Shakespeare’s comedy Twelfth Night, or What You Will. VN’s first novel written in English was The Real Life of Sebastian Knight (1941). The name of Sebastian Knight’s mistress, Nina Rechnoy, hints at Nina Zarechnyi, a character in Chekhov’s play Chayka (“The Seagull,” 1896). At the end of Chekhov’s play Dyadya Vanya (“Uncle Vanya,” 1898) Sonya promises to uncle Vanya that they will see the whole sky swarming with diamonds.

Duchess of Payn, of Great Payn and Mone, Queen Disa seems to blend Leonardo’s Mona Lisa with Desdemona, Othello’s wife in Shakespeare’s Othello. Kinbote compares Gerald Emerald to a disciple in Leonardo's Last Supper:

In the meantime, at the other end of the room, young Emerald had been communing with the bookshelves. At this point he returned with the the T-Z volume of an illustrated encyclopedia.

"Well," said he, "here he is, that king. But look, he is young and handsome" ("Oh, that won't do," wailed the German visitor.) "Young, handsome, and wearing a fancy uniform," continued Emerald. "Quite the fancy pansy, in fact."

"And you," I said quietly, "are a foul-minded pup in a cheap green jacket."

"But what have I said?" the young instructor inquired of the company, spreading out his palms like a disciple in Leonardo's Last Supper. (note to Line 894)

At the beginning of “The Event” the portrait painter Troshcheykin marvels his almost finished portrait of the jeweler’s son and mentions Othello:

Трощейкин. Видишь ли, они должны гореть, бросать на него отблеск, но сперва я хочу закрепить отблеск, а потом приняться за его источники. Надо помнить, что искусство движется всегда против солнца. Ноги, видишь, уже совсем перламутровые. Нет, мальчик мне нравится! Волосы хороши: чуть-чуть с чёрной курчавинкой. Есть какая-то связь между драгоценными камнями и негритянской кровью. Шекспир это почувствовал в своём "Отелло". Ну, так. (Смотрит на другой портрет.) А мадам Вагабундова чрезвычайно довольна, что пишу её в белом платье на испанском фоне, и не понимает, какой это страшный кружевной гротеск... Все-таки, знаешь, я тебя очень прошу, Люба, раздобыть мои мячи, я не хочу, чтобы они были в бегах. (Act One)

According to Troshcheykin, there is some connection between precious stones and the Negro blood that Shakespeare has perceived in his Othello. At Antonina Pavlovna’s birthday party one of the guests, the famous writer, “quotes” Shakespeare:

Куприков. Из этого я заключил, что он замышляет недоброе дело, а потому обращаюсь снова к вам, Любовь Ивановна, и к тебе, дорогой Алёша, при свидетелях, с убедительной просьбой принять максимальные предосторожности.

Трощейкин. Да! Но какие, какие?

Писатель. "Зад, -- как сказал бы Шекспир, -- зад из зык вещан". (Репортёру.) А что вы имеете сказать, солнце моё? (Act Two)

As I pointed out in one of my previous posts, the name and patronymic of the famous writer, Pyotr Nikolaevich, hints at Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy. At the beginning of a letter of March 16, 1890, to Modest Tchaikovsky (the composer’s brother, librettist) Chekhov asks the permission to strike out the thirteenth lastochka (swallow) on the notepaper:

Позвольте зачеркнуть тринадцатую ласточку, дорогой Модест Ильич: несчастливое число.

“The Spring in Fialta” appeared in VN’s collection Nabokov’s Dozen (1958) that includes thirteen stories. The maiden name of Sofia Botkin (the “real” name of both Sybil Shade, the poet’s wife, and Queen Disa) was Sofia Lastochkin. The “real” name of Hazel Shade (Shade’s daughter who committed suicide) seems to be Nadezhda Botkin. At her birthday party Antonina Pavlovna tells Eleonora Shnap (Lyubov’s midwife) that she has two daughters, Lyubov’ and Vera, but, alas, no Nadezhda:

Элеонора Шнап. К сожаленью, об этом уже говорит вес, вес город.

Антонина Павловна. Именно, к сожалению! Очень хорошо. Я сама понимаю, что этим нечего гордиться: только ближе к могиле. Это моя дочь Вера. Любовь, вы, конечно, знаете, моего зятя тоже, а Надежды у меня нет.

Элеонора Шнап. Божмой! Неужели безнадежно?

Антонина Павловна. Да, ужасно безнадежная семья. (Смеётся.) А до чего мне хотелось иметь маленькую Надю с зелёными глазками. (Act Two)

Vera, Nadezhda and Lyubov’ (Faith, Hope, and Love) are the three daughters of Sophia (Wisdom). Eleonora Shnap misunderstands Antonina Pavlovna’s words and asks her if the situation is beznadezhna (hopeless). Eleonora Shnap’s exclamation Bozhmoy brings to mind Bozhe moy (“my God”), a Russian ejaculation used by Gradus (Shade’s murderer) at a moment of stress:

Gradus returned to the Main Desk.

"Too bad," said the girl, "I just saw him leave."

"Bozhe moy, Bozhe moy," muttered Gradus, who sometimes at moments of stress used Russian ejaculations.

"You'll find him in the directory," she said pushing it towards him, and dismissing the sick man's existence to attend to the wants of Mr. Gerald Emerald who was taking out a fat bestseller in a cellophane jacket.

Moaning and shifting from one foot to the other, Gradus started leafing through the college directory but when he found the address, he was faced with the problem of getting there.

"Dulwich Road," he cried to the girl. "Near? Far? Very far, probably?"

"Are you by any chance Professor Pnin's new assistant?" asked Emerald.

"No," said the girl. "This man is looking for Dr. Kinbote, I think. You are looking for Dr. Kinbote, aren't you?"

"Yes, and I can't any more," said Gradus.

"I thought so," said the girl. "Doesn't he live somewhere near Mr. Shade, Gerry?"

"Oh, definitely," said Gerry, and turned to the killer: "I can drive you there if you like. It is on my way."

Did they talk in the car, these two characters, the man in green and the man in brown? Who can say? They did not. After all, the drive took only a few minutes (it took me, at the wheel of my powerful Kramler, four and a half).

"I think I'll drop you here," said Mr. Emerald. "It's that house up there."

One finds it hard to decide what Gradus alias Grey wanted more at that minute: discharge his gun or rid himself of the inexhaustible lava in his bowels. As he began hurriedly fumbling at the car door, unfastidious Emerald leaned, close to him, across him almost merging with him, to help him open it--and then, slamming it shut again, whizzed on to some tryst in the valley. My reader will, I hope, appreciate all the minute particulars I have taken such trouble to present to him after a long talk I had with the killer; he will appreciate them even more if I tell him that, according to the legend spread later by the police, Jack Grey had been given a lift, all the way from Roanoke, or somewhere, by a lonesome trucker! One can only hope that an impartial search will turn up the trilby forgotten in the Library--or in Mr. Emerald's car. (note to Line 949)

According to Kinbote, he once overheard Gerald Emerald calling him “the great beaver:”

One day I happened to enter the English Literature office in quest of a magazine with the picture of the Royal Palace in Onhava, which I wanted my friend to see, when I overheard a young instructor in a green velvet jacket, whom I shall mercifully call Gerald Emerald, carelessly saying in answer to something the secretary had asked: "I guess My Shade has already left with the great beaver." Of course, I am quite tall, and my brown beard is of a rather rich tint and texture; the silly cognomen evidently applied to me, but was not worth noticing, and after calmly taking the magazine from a pamphlet-cluttered table, I contented myself on my way out with pulling Gerald Emerald's bow-tie loose with a deft jerk of my fingers as I passed by him. (Foreword)

bear + Vera + Geld + Esmeralda + drug = beaver + Gerald Emerald + Gradus

Geld – Germ., money

Esmeralda – the gypsy girl in Victor Hugo’s novel Notre Dame de Paris (1831); Chloroselas esmeralda, a butterfly in the Lycaenidae family; VN’s poem Lines Written in Oregon (1953) ends in the line: “Esmeralda, immer, immer!” Immer is German for “always;” in Ilf and Petrov’s novel Dvenadtsat’ stuliev (“The Twelve Chairs,” 1928) Polesov’s political credo is vsegda (always); with Polesov’s help Ostap Bender organizes in Stargorod Soyuz mecha i orala (“The Union of Sword and Plaugh”); the novel’s three main characters, Bender, Vorobyaninov and Father Fyodor, look for the diamonds that Mme Petukhov (Vorobyaninov’s mother-in-law) concealed in a Hambs chair; after his wife had left him with a gypsy lover, Gradus lived in sin with his mother-in-law:

At his hotel the beaming proprietress handed him a telegram. It chided him in Danish for leaving Geneva and told him to undertake nothing until further notice. It also advised him to forget his work and amuse himself. But what (save dreams of blood) could be his amusements? He was not interested in sightseeing or seasiding. He had long stopped drinking. He did not go to concerts. He did not gamble. Sexual impulses had greatly bothered him at one time but that was over. After his wife, a beader in Radugovitra, had left him (with a gypsy lover), he had lived in sin with his mother-in-law until she was removed, blind and dropsical, to an asylum for decayed widows. Since then he had tried several times to castrate himself, had been laid up at the Glassman Hospital with a severe infection, and now, at forty-four, was quite cured of the lust that Nature, the grand cheat, puts into us to inveigle us into propagation. No wonder the advice to amuse himself infuriated him. I think I shall break this note here. (note to Line 697)

According to Kinbote, in a conversation with him Shade mentioned “those joint authors of genius Ilf and Petrov:”

Speaking of the Head of the bloated Russian Department, Prof. Pnin, a regular martinet in regard to his underlings (happily, Prof. Botkin, who taught in another department, was not subordinated to that grotesque "perfectionist"): "How odd that Russian intellectuals should lack all sense of humor when they have such marvelous humorists as Gogol, Dostoevski, Chekhov, Zoshchenko, and those joint authors of genius Ilf and Petrov." (note to Line 172)

drug – Russ., friend; in the Russian Lolita (1967) Gumbert Gumbert calls his pistol (“chum” in the original) druzhok (a diminutive of drug); according to Humbert Humbert, “a pistol is the Freudian symbol of the Urfather’s central forelimb” (2.17); on Antiterra (aka Demonia, Earth’s twin planet on which VN’s novel Ada, 1969, is set) Sigmund Freud is known as Dr Froit of Signy-Mondieu-Mondieu in the Ardennes (1.3); in E. A. Poe’s story The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether (1845) a dozen of voices cry Mon dieu (“my God”) when Mlle Salsafette begins to undress:

"Oh, Madame Joyeuse was a fool!" she exclaimed, "but there was really much sound sense, after all, in the opinion of Eugenie Salsafette. She was a very beautiful and painfully modest young lady, who thought the ordinary mode of habiliment indecent, and wished to dress herself, always, by getting outside instead of inside of her clothes. It is a thing very easily done, after all. You have only to do so -- and then so -- so -- so -- and then so -- so -- so -- and then so -- so -- and then-
"Mon dieu! Ma'm'selle Salsafette!" here cried a dozen voices at once. "What are you about? -- forbear! -- that is sufficient! -- we see, very plainly, how it is done! -- hold! hold!" and several persons were already leaping from their seats to withhold Ma'm'selle Salsafette from putting herself upon a par with the Medicean Venus, when the point was very effectually and suddenly accomplished by a series of loud screams, or yells, from some portion of the main body of the chateau.

In the Völsunga saga Signy, the daughter of the king Völsung, has an incestuous affair with her brother Sigmund. In Ada Van Veen (the narrator and main character) and Ada Veen are brother and sister and happy lovers. According to Van, Ada is a poor chess player:

Van, a first-rate chess player — he was to win in 1887 a match at Chose when he beat the Minsk-born Pat Rishin (champion of Underhill and Wilson, N.C.) — had been puzzled by Ada’s inability of raising the standard of her, so to speak, damsel-errant game above that of a young lady in an old novel or in one of those anti-dandruff color-photo ads that show a beautiful model (made for other games than chess) staring at the shoulder of her otherwise impeccably groomed antagonist across a preposterous traffic jam of white and scarlet, elaborately and unrecognizably carved, Lalla Rookh chessmen, which not even cretins would want to play with — even if royally paid for the degradation of the simplest thought under the itchiest scalp.

Ada did manage, now and then, to conjure up a combinational sacrifice, offering, say, her queen — with a subtle win after two or three moves if the piece were taken; but she saw only one side of the question, preferring to ignore, in the queer lassitude of clogged cogitation, the obvious counter combination that would lead inevitably to her defeat if the grand sacrifice were not accepted. On the Scrabble board, however, this same wild and weak Ada was transformed into a sort of graceful computing machine, endowed, moreover, with phenomenal luck, and would greatly surpass baffled Van in acumen, foresight and exploitation of chance, when shaping appetizing long words from the most unpromising scraps and collops. (1.36)

In VN’s novel Zashchita Luzhina (“The Luzhin Defense,” 1930) the main character is a chess wunderkind who becomes a grandmaster but then goes mad and commits suicide. In TRLSK Sebastian Knight dies in a sanatorium in St. Damier. Damier is French for “chess board.” In “The Twelve Chairs” Ostap Bender plays simultaneous chess in Vasyuki (“The Interplanetary Chess Tournament”). The first part of Ilf and Petrov’s novel is entitled Stargorodskiy lev (“The Lion of Stargorod”). In “The Event” the famous writer is star (old) and l’vist (lion-like). Troshcheykin asks his mother-in-law why she invited the famous writer to her birthday party and compares him to ferz’ (chess queen) and all other guests to peshki (pawns):

Трощейкин. А вот почему вы, Антонина Павловна, пригласили нашего маститого? Всё ломаю себе голову над этим вопросом. На что он вам? И потом, нельзя так: один ферзь, а все остальные -- пешки. (Act One)

In his Commentary Kinbote mentions Ferz Bretwit, Mayor of Aros:

The scripta in question were two hundred and thirteen long letters which had passed some seventy years ago between Zule Bretwit, Oswin's grand-uncle, Mayor of Odevalla, and a cousin of his Ferz Bretwit, Mayor of Aros. This correspondence, a dismal exchange of bureaucratic platitudes and fustian jokes, was devoid of even such parochial interest as letters of this sort may possess in the eyes of a local historian--but of course there is no way of telling what will repel or attract a sentimental ancestralist--and this was what Oswin Bretwit had always been known to be by his former staff. I would like to take time out here to interrupt this dry commentary and pay a brief tribute to Oswin Bretwit. (note to Line 297)

As Kinbote points out, the name Bretwit means “Chess Intelligence.” In Drugie berega (“Other Shores,” 1954), the Russian version of his autobiography Speak, Memory, VN describes his best chess problem and mentions a photograph depicting Leo Tolstoy and A. B. Goldenweiser over a chessboard:

За такой же доской, как раз уместившейся на низком столике, сидели Лев Толстой и А. Б. Гольденвейзер 6-го ноября 1904-го года по старому стилю (рисунок Морозова, ныне в Толстовском Музее в Москве), и рядом с ними, на круглом столе под лампой, виден не только открытый ящик для фигур, но и бумажный ярлычок (с подписью Staunton), приклеенный к внутренней стороне крышки. (Chapter Thirteen, 4)

Alexander Goldenweiser (1875-1961) was a Russian pianist, teacher and composer. In Pushkin's little tragedy "Mozart and Salieri" (1830) Salieri says that he cut up music like a corpse and Mozart uses the phrase nikto b (none would). Nikto b is Botkin (Shade’s, Kinbote’s and Gradus’ “real” name) backwards. An American scholar of Russian descent, Professor Vsevolod Botkin went mad and became Shade, Kinbote and Gradus after the tragic death of his daughter Nadezhda. There is a hope that, when Kinbote completes his work on Shade’s poem and commits suicide, Botkin will be "full" again. In Speak, Memory VN says that he left Russia on a Greek ship Nadezhda and mentions a game of chess that he played with his father:

In March of 1919, the Reds broke through in northern Crimea, and from various ports a tumultuous evacuation of anti-Bolshevik groups began. Over a glassy sea in the bay of Sebastopol, under wild machine-gun fire from the shore (the Bolshevik troops had just taken the port), my family and I set out for Constantinople and Piraeus on a small and shoddy Greek ship Nadezhda (Hope) carrying a cargo of dried fruit. I remember trying to concentrate, as we were zigzagging out of the bay, on a game of chess with my father—one of the knights had lost its head, and a poker chip replaced a missing rook—and the sense of leaving Russia was totally eclipsed by the agonizing thought that Reds or no Reds, letters from Tamara would be still coming, miraculously and needlessly, to southern Crimea, and would search there for a fugitive addressee, and weakly flap about like bewildered butterflies set loose in an alien zone, at the wrong altitude, among an unfamiliar flora. (Chapter Twelve, 5)

According to Kinbote, John Shade and Sybil Swallow were married in 1919:

John Shade and Sybil Swallow (see <http://www.shannonrchamberlain.com/commentary.html#comline247> note to line 247) were married in 1919, exactly three decades before King Charles wed Disa, Duchess of Payn. (note to Line 275)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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