NABOKV-L post 0026380, Sat, 22 Aug 2015 13:08:50 +0300

euphorion, a precious metal,
rue Gounod in Nice & 'German' Mark Kennensie in Ada
He did not 'twinkle' long after that. Five or six years later, in Monte
Carlo, Van was passing by an open-air café when a hand grabbed him by the
elbow, and a radiant, ruddy, comparatively respectable Dick C. leaned toward
him over the petunias of the latticed balustrade:

'Van,' he cried, 'I've given up all that looking-glass dung, congratulate
me! Listen: the only safe way is to mark 'em! Wait, that's not all, can you
imagine, they've invented a microscopic - and I mean microscopic - point of
euphorion, a precious metal, to insert under your thumbnail, you can't see
it with the naked eye, but one minuscule section of your monocle is made to
magnify the mark you make with it, like killing a flea, on one card after
another, as they come along in the game, that's the beauty of it, no
preparations, no props, nothing! Mark 'em! Mark 'em!' good Dick was still
shouting, as Van walked away. (1.28)

In the Second Part of Goethe’s Faust Euphorion is the son of Faust and
Helen of Troy (see also Boyd’s Annotations). In Charles Gounod’s opera
Faust (1859) “people die for metal” (Mephistopheles’ aria). According to
Van (see also Chekhov’s letter of Oct. 31, 1897, to Aleksandra
Khotyaintsev), in Nice Chekhov (who occasionally went to gamble in Monte
Carlo) lived at the Pension Russe, 9, rue Gounod:

In the first edition of his play, which never quite manages to heave the
soft sigh of a masterpiece, Tchechoff (as he spelled his name when living
that year at the execrable Pension Russe, 9, rue Gounod, Nice) crammed into
the two pages of a ludicrous expository scene all the information he wished
to get rid of, great lumps of recollections and calendar dates - an
impossible burden to place on the fragile shoulders of three unhappy
Estotiwomen. (2.9)

On Antiterra Chekhov’s play Three Sisters (1901) is known as Four Sisters
(2.1, 2.9). The name of the fourth sister, Varvara (a garrulous originalka
played by Marina in a film version), seems to hint at Varvarka, a street in
Moscow. In Moscow Chekhov’s family lived at first in the Bolshaya
Yakimanka, a street whose name brings to mind Yakim Eskimossoff in Ada:

Van glanced through the list of players and D.P.'s and noticed two amusing
details: the role of Fedotik, an artillery officer (whose comedy organ
consists of a constantly clicking camera)', had been assigned to a 'Kim
(short for Yakim) Eskimossoff' and somebody called 'John Starling' had been
cast as Skvortsov (a sekundant in the rather amateurish duel of the last
act) whose name comes from skvorets, starling. (2.9)

For a couple of months Van practiced card tricks, then turned to other
recreations. He was an apprentice who learned fast, and kept his labeled
phials in a cool place. (1.28)

Goethe is the author of Wilhelm Meister’s Lehrjahre (“Wilhelm Meister's
Apprenticeship,” 1795-96), the novel whose characters include Mignon, a
girl who sings the famous song “Kennst du das Land…” (“Do you know the
land…”). At Chose (Van’s English University) Van tells Dick C. that he
always wondered “why the Russian for it - I think we have a Russian
ancestor in common - is the same as the German for "schoolboy," minus the
umlaut…” (1.28) As VN would know, shuler (Russ., cardsharp) comes from
Polish szuler. An old retired shuler appears in Mark Aldanov's novel
Chyortov most (“Devil’s Bridge,” 1924):

В ту самую минуту, когда певица стёрла улы
бку и перестала скалить зубы, дверь с шумо
м отворилась и в комнату не торопясь вошё
л грузный, старый, неряшливо одетый челов
ек. На него зашикали с лёгким смехом. Певи
ца сердито посмотрела на вошедшего и сдел
ала знак гитаристу, который с удовольстви
ем начал наново вступление. Старый челове
к принял виноватый вид, сел за первый своб
одный столик, рядом с игроками, и пробормо
тал довольно громко:

-- Не буду, не буду, красавица... Тсс!..

Игроки с неудовольствием переглянулись,
тотчас собрали веера карт и демонстратив
но положили их на стол. Один из них накрыл
даже свою игру пепельницей. Грузный госпо
дин укоризненно покачал головой и ещё раз
внушительно протянул:

-- Тсс...

Иванчук успел шёпотом объяснить Настеньк
е и Штаалю, что это старый шулер, когда-то
гремевший во всей России, но давно поконч
енный и отпетый. С ним решается играть оди
н Женя... (он назвал титулованную фамилию),
но и то лишь в комнате без зеркал, своими к
артами и с условием, чтобы партнёр был без
манжет и не имел в руках ни часов, ни табак
ерки, ни других предметов с блестящей отр
ажающей поверхностью. Настенька с ужасом
уставилась на шулера. (Part One, chapter XIII; see also my
post of Aug. 15, 2010)

Mark is a male given name, but also German for “county.” Mignon’s song
“Kennst du das Land…” brings to mind ‘German’ Mark Kennensie in Ada:

The unmentionable magnetic power denounced by evil lawmakers in this our
shabby country - oh, everywhere, in Estoty and Canady, in 'German' Mark
Kennensie, as well as in 'Swedish' Manitobogan, in the workshop of the
red-shirted Yukonets as well as in the kitchen of the red-kerchiefed
Lyaskanka, and in 'French' Estoty, from Bras d'Or to Ladore - and very soon
throughout both our Americas, and all over the other stunned continents -
was used on Terra as freely as water and air, as bibles and brooms. Two or
three centuries earlier she [Aqua] might have been just another consumable
witch. (1.3)

In Goethe’s and Gounod’s Faust Mephistopheles is the devil’s name. In
Aldanov’s Chyortov most (Devil’s Bridge) the action takes place at the end
of the 18th century (when Goethe’s Wilhelm Meister was written). Aldanov’s
real name was Landau, kennen Sie?

Alexey Sklyarenko

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