NABOKV-L post 0026374, Thu, 20 Aug 2015 03:00:39 +0300

parachuting in PF
In Pale Fire Kinbote arrives in America descending by parachute from a
chartered plane (note to Line 691). As we say in Russian of someone's
unexpected appearance, he upal s neba (fell from the sky). In VN's
University Poem (1927) the author upal iz russkikh oblakov (fell from
Russian clouds; cf. Fr. tomber des nues) in an English University town:

И снова -- улочки кривые,

ворот громады вековые,--

а в самом сердце городка

цирюльня есть, где брился Ньютон,

и древней тайною окутан

трактирчик "Синего Быка".

А там, за речкой, за домами,

дёрн, утрамбованный веками,

темно-зелёные ковры

для человеческой игры,

и звук удара деревянный

в холодном воздухе. Таков

был мир, в который я нежданно

упал из русских облаков.

And, once again, the crooked alleys,
the gigantic age-old gates -
right in the centre of the town,
a barber shop where they shaved Newton,
in ancient mystery enveloped,
the tavern known as the Blue Bull.
There, beyond the stream, the houses,
the century-old turf tramped down
into a dark-green, even carpet
to suit the needs of human games,
the wood-like sound of soccer kicks
in the cold air. Such was the world
where I from Russian clouds was hurled. (7)

(transl. by DN)

The University Poem is written in the reversed Onegin stanza. In Pushkin's
novel in verse Onegin is compared to Chatski, the hero of Griboedov's play
in verse Gore ot uma ("Woe from Wit," 1824) who finds himself come from boat
to ball:

Он возвратился и попал,
Как Чацкий, с корабля на бал.

He returned and found himself,

Like Chatski, come from boat to ball. (Eight: XIII: 13-14)

In Griboedov's play Famusov, as he speaks to Chatski (who suddenly arrived
in Moscow after a three-year absence), uses the phrases vykinul shtuku
(played a trick) and gryanul vdrug kak s oblakov (suddenly arrived as if
falling from the clouds):

Ну выкинул ты штуку!

Три года не писал двух слов!

И грянул вдруг как с облаков. (Part Two, scene 9)

Shtuka (thing; trick, etc.) is an anagram of shutka (joke). Kinbote calls
the parachute rejected by a suicide shootka (i. e. a joke):

The ideal drop is from an aircraft, your muscles relaxed, your pilot
puzzled, your packed parachute shuffled off, cast off, shrugged
off-farewell, shootka (little chute)! (note to Line 493)

In VN's Ada (1969) Ada in her old age "amused herself by translating (for
the Oranger editions en regard) Griboedov into French and English,
Baudelaire into English and Russian, and John Shade into Russian and French"

The phrase s neba upalo (fate's unexpected gift) was favored by Chekhov who
uses it in several letters, for instance in a letter of Jan. 23, 1900, to

Как бы ни было, я рад, что меня избрали. Теперь в заграничном паспорте будут
писать, что я академик. И доктора московские обрадовались. Это мне с неба

The Moscow doctors rejoiced when Chekhov was elected a honorary member of
the Academy.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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