NABOKV-L post 0026350, Tue, 11 Aug 2015 02:08:04 +0300

Brussels & Lavrentiy Ivanovich Kruzhevnitsyn in Lik's English
Как-то вечером, когда он полулежал в полотняном кресле на веранде, к нему пристал один из жителей пансиона, болтливый русский старик (уже успевший дважды ему рассказать свою биографию, сперва в одном направлении, из настоящего к прошлому, а потом в другом, против шерсти, причём получились две различные жизни, одна удачная, другая нет), -- и, удобно усевшись, теребя подбородок, сказал: "У меня тут отыскался знакомый, то есть знакомый -- c'est beaucoup dire, раза два встречал его в Брюсселе, теперь, увы, это совсем опустившийся тип. Вчера -- да, кажется, вчера, -- упоминаю вашу фамилию, а он говорит: как же, я его знаю, мы даже родственники".

One evening, as he was reclining in a canvas chair on the veranda, he was importuned by one of the pension guests, a loquacious old Russian (who had managed on two occasions already to recount to Lik the story of his life, first in one direction, from the present toward the past, and then in the other, against the grain, resulting in two different lives, one successful, the other not), who, settling himself comfortably and fingering his chin, said: “A friend of mine has turned up here; that is, a ‘friend,’ c’est beaucoup dire – I met him a couple of times in Brussels, that’s all. Now, alas, he’s a completely derelict character. Now, alas, he’s a completely derelict character. Yesterday – yes, I think it was yesterday – I happened to mention your name, and he says, ‘Why, of course I know him –in fact, we’re even relatives.’”

In the English version of Lik the protagonist’s real name is Lavrentiy Ivanovich Kruzhevnitsyn. The surname Kruzhevnitsyn comes from kruzhevnitsa (lace-maker) and seems to hint at Pesnya bryussel’skikh kruzhevnits (“The Song of the Brussels Lace-Makers,” 1915), a poem by Tatiana Shchepkin-Kupernik (a friend of Chekhov and great-granddaughter of Mikhail Shchepkin, a friend of Gogol and great actor who played the town mayor in The Inspecor). The poem consists of two parts, Prezhde (Before) and Teper’ (Now). Each part ends in the line Vot gordost’ Brabanta – Bryussel’ i Malin (Here is Brabant’s Pride: Brussels and Malines). In his heart-rending poem about exile, Die Libelle (“The Dragon-Fly,” 1854), Heinrich Heine mentions Brabant:

Gar mancher junge Käfertor
Sein biβchen Käferverstand verlor;
Die Buhlen sumsen von Lieb und Treu,
Versprechen Holland und Brabant dabei.

Die schöne Libelle lacht und spricht:
“Holland und Brabant brauch ich nicht,
Doch sputet Euch, Ihr Freier,
Und holt mir ein Fünkchen Feuer.

Die Köchin kam in Wochen,
Muβ selbst mein Süpplein kochen;
Die Kohlen des Herdes erloschen sind -
Holt mir ein Fünkchen Feuer geschwind.”

… O wehe dem Käfer, welchem verbrannt
Die Flügel sind! Im fremden Land
Muβ er wie ein Wurm am Boden kriechen,
Mit feuchten Insekten, die häβlich riechen.

Die schlechte Gesellschaft, hört man ihn klagen,
Ist im Exil die schlimmste der Plagen.
Wir müssen verkehren mit einer Schar
Von Ungeziefer, von Wanzen sogar,

Die uns behandeln als Kameraden,
Weil wir im selben Schmutze waten -
Drob klagte schon der Scühler Virgils,
Der Dichter der Hölle und des Exils.

Full many a beetle, to his cost,
His modicum small of reason lost;
Her wooers are humming of love and truth,
Brabant and Holland pledging forsooth.

The dragonfly smiled and thus spake she:
"Brabant and Holland are nought to me;
"But haste, if my charms you admire,
"And fetch me a sparklet of fire.

"The cook has just been brought to bed,
"And I my supper must cook instead;
"The coals on the hearth are burnt away, --
"So fetch me a sparklet of fire, I pray."

… O woe to the beetle, whose wings have been
Burnt off! In a foreign land, I ween,
He must crawl on the ground like vermin fell,
With humid insects that nastily smell.

One's bad companions -- he's heard to say, --
Are the worst of plagues, in exile's day.
We're forced to converse with every sort
Of noxious creatures, of bugs in short,

Who treat us as though their comrades were we,
Because in the selfsame mud we be.
Of this complain'd old Virgil's scholar,
The poet of exile and hell, with choler.

(anonymous translation)

In a letter of August 26, 1838, to Heine the poet’s friend and editor Julius Campe mentions heiligen Laurentius (St. Lawrence, Svyatoy Lavrentiy, the patron saint of cooks and comedians), the church martyr who was roasted (about 258 A. D.) on a great gridiron, with burning coals beneath it:

Mit G. [Gutzkow] kam Wihl. Den armen Schelm habe ich auf den Rost des heiligen Laurentius, bei gelindem Feuer, schmoren laßen.

In the story’s Russian original Lik’s first name is Aleksandr, not Lavrentiy (Koldunov addresses Lik “Sasha,” not “Lavrusha” as in the English version).

Therefore his surname (that Gavrilyuk mentioned in a conversation with Koldunov and that we can – or even should – guess) is also different.

Speaking of insects: as all Russians, Lik mistakes crickets for cicadas.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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