Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026331, Sat, 1 Aug 2015 00:30:34 +0300

idiotic tea in The Event; idiotic end in Lik
At the end of VN's play Sobytie (The Event, 1938) Troshcheykin, the portrait painter who fears assassination, compares a late tea after Antonina Pavlovna's birthday party to pir vo vremya chumy (feast in the time of the plague) and asks Barboshin (the private detective whom Troshcheykin hired to protect himself from Barbashin) to finish, for Christ’s sake, his duratskiy chay (idiotic tea):

Трощейкин. О, если бы вы могли предсказать, что с нами будет! Вот мы здесь сидим, балагурим, пир во время чумы, а у меня такое чувство, что можем в любую минуту взлететь на воздух. (Барбошину.) Ради Христа, кончайте ваш дурацкий чай!

Барбошин. Он не дурацкий. (Act Three)

According to Barboshin, the tea he was offered by Lyubov’ (Troshcheykin’s wife whose name means “love”) is not idiotic.

At the end of VN’s story Lik (1939) the protagonist suffers a heart attack and thinks of his duratskiy konets (idiotic end):

"Так неужели это конец, -- подумал Лик, -- такой дурацкий конец... Мне всё хуже и хуже... Что это... Боже мой!"

Can this be the end? Such an idiotic end. …I feel worse and worse. …What’s happening to me? …Oh my God!

Lik is an actor who plays Igor, a young Russian in Suire’s play L'Abîme (The Abyss). In his Gimn v chest’ chumy ("A Hymn in Honor of the Plague") Walsingham, the feast's chairman in Pushkin's little tragedy Pir vo vremya chumy ("Feast in the Time of the Plague," 1830), mentions mrachnaya bezdna (a dire abyss):

Есть упоение в бою,
И бездны мрачной на краю…

There is ecstasy in a fight

And on the brink of a dire abyss…

The name Suire seems to hint at the French phrase à suivre (to be continued). The story told in The Event is to be continued in VN’s play Izobretenie Val’sa (The Waltz Invention, 1938). There is Вальс (Waltz) in Вальсингам (Walsingham). Сальватор Вальс (Salvator Waltz), the main character in VN’s play “Изобретение Вальса” (The Waltz Invention, 1938) seems to be Leonid Barbashin (the killer of whom Troshcheykin is mortally afraid and who never appears in The Event) as imagined by Lyubov’, Troshcheykin’s wife who commits suicide after learning (in the play’s last scene) that Barbashin left the city and went abroad forever.

The name Salvator means “savior.” In Lik Koldunov calls Lik “spasitel’” (savior):

Собственно, я готовил тебе этот рассказец ещё в прошлый раз, когда думал... Видишь ли, мне показалось сперва, что судьба -- я старый фаталист -- вложила известный смысл в нашу встречу, что ты явился вроде, скажем, спасителя.

“Actually, I had this little tale all ready for you last time, when it occurred to me that fate – I’m an old fatalist – had given a certain meaning to our meeting, that you had come as a savior, so to speak.”

On the other hand, in Pushkin’s Feast in the Time of the Plague the Priest mentions svyataya krov’ Spasitelya raspyatogo za nas (“the sacred blood of the Savior who was crucified for us”):

Я заклинаю вас святою кровью
Спасителя, распятого за нас:
Прервите пир чудовищный, когда
Желаете вы встретить в небесах
Утраченных возлюбленные души.
Ступайте по своим домам!

Now I beseech you by the sacred blood

Of the Savior who was crucified for us:

Break up your monstrous feast if you do hope

To meet in heaven beloved souls that you

Have lost on earth. Go to your homes!

The Savior who was crucified for us is Jesus Christ. Troshcheykin asks Barboshin to finish, for Christ’s sake, his idiotic tea. Terrible Barbashin and ridiculous Barboshin seem to be two incarnations of one and the same character: the devil. The name Koldunov (of Lik’s nightmarish schoolmate and distant relative) comes from koldun (sorcerer). Koldun-kamen’ (“The Stone Sorcerer,” 1894) is a poem by V. Solovyov (who uses the phrase à suivre at the end of another poem). In his humorous poems Solovyov often mentions cherti (the devils).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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