NABOKV-L post 0026440, Sat, 12 Sep 2015 19:44:57 +0300

kot or, green & red, solus rex in Pale Fire
From Kinbote's note to Line 143:

A handshake, a flash of lightning. As the King waded into the damp, dark
bracken, its odor, its lacy resilience, and the mixture of soft growth and
steep ground reminded him of the times he had picnicked hereabouts - in
another part of the forest but on the same mountainside, and higher up, as a
boy, on the boulderfield where Mr. Campbell had once twisted an ankle and
had to be carried down, smoking his pipe, by two husky attendants. Rather
full memories, on the whole. Wasn't there a hunting box nearby - just beyond
Silfhar Falls? Good capercaillie and woodcock shooting - a sport much
enjoyed by his late mother, Queen Blenda, a tweedy and horsy queen. Now as
then, the rain seethed in the black trees, and if you paused you heard your
heart thumping, and the distant roar of the torrent. What is the time, kot
or? He pressed his repeater and, undismayed, it hissed and tinkled out ten

Kot or ("what is the time" in Zemblan) seems to hint at the phrase kotoryi
chas ("what is the time" in Russian). Kinbote is mad. In Mandelshtam's poem
Net, ne luna, a svetlyi tsiferblat: (No, not the moon, but a light dial:"
1912) mad Batyushkov to the question kotoryi chas replies: vechnost'

Нет, не луна, а светлый циферблат
Сияет мне, - и чем я виноват,
Что слабых звёзд я осязаю млечность?

И Батюшкова мне противна спесь:
Который час, его спросили здесь,
А он ответил любопытным: вечность!

A chapter in G. Ivanov's (extremely unreliable) memoirs Peterburgskie zimy
("The St. Petersburg Winters," 1931) is dedicated to Mandelshtam (according
to Ivanov, he and Mandelshtam used to be inseparable and even had one
visiting card for both of them: "Osip Mandelshtam and Georgiy Ivanov"). In
G. Ivanov's memoir story Karmensita ("Carmencita," 1934) the semi-literate
proletarian lecturer (who was the narrator's roommate in a rest home)
exclaims: kotoraya gidra kontrrevolyutsii, tovarishchi! ("which is the hydra
of counterrevolution, comrades!"):

Так что, товарищи! Которая гидра контрреволюции, товарищи! Которая Антанта,
товарищи! - Стук кулака по столу. Емпериалисты, товарищи! Голос оратора
превращается в рёв. - Не допустим, товарищи!

In VN's story Drakon ("The Dragon," 1924) a reveler sees the dragon and
mentions "the hydra of couterrevo--":

Он выпроваживал из кабака пятерых старых рабочих, в лоск пьяных. Выйдя на
улицу, они, вероятно, увидели нечто весьма любопытное, ибо все рассмеялись.
- О-го-го, - загрохотал голос одного из них. - Я, должно быть, выпил
лишнего, если вижу наяву гидру контрр...

He was bundling off five thoroughly soused old laborers. They must have seen
something highly curious outdoors, for they all broke out
laughing--"Oh-ho-ho," rumbled one of the voices, "I must have had one glass
too many, if I see, big as life, the

hydra of counterrevo--"

Accrording to Kinbote, Charles the Beloved escaped from green Zembla in red
clothes. The dragon's mother in VN's story had green and red humps:

Но однажды, когда, проглотив жирного королевского повара, она уснула на
согретой солнцем скале, к ней подскакал сам великий Ганон в железных латах,
на вороном коне под серебряной сеткой. Бедняжка спросонья взвилась на дыбы,
вспыхнув кострами зелёных и красных горбов; - и рыцарь, налетев, вдвинул
стремительное копьё в её гладкую, белую грудь, она рухнула, и тотчас же из
розовой раны вылез боком толстый повар с ее огромным, дымящимся сердцем под

But once, when she had swallowed a plump royal chef and dozed off on a
sun-warmed rock, the great Ganon himself galloped up in iron armor, on a
black steed under silver netting. The poor sleepy thing went rearing up, her
green and red humps flashing like bonfires, and the charging knight thrust
his swift lance into her smooth white breast. She crashed to the ground,
and promptly, out of the pink wound, sidled the corpulent chef with her
enormous, steaming heart under his arm.

In Russian kot means "cat." Or is French for "gold." In his wonderful
introductory poem (written in 1824) to Ruslan and Lyudmila (1820) Pushkin
mentions uchyonyi kot (the learned cat) that day and night walks on the
golden chain round the green oak and sledy nevidannykh zverey (the
footprints of unseen animals on the unknown paths):

У лукоморья дуб зелёный;
Златая цепь на дубе том:
И днём и ночью кот учёный
Всё ходит по цепи кругом;
Идёт направо - песнь заводит,
Налево - сказку говорит.
Там чудеса: там леший бродит,
Русалка на ветвях сидит;
Там на неведомых дорожках
Следы невиданных зверей:

Lukomor'e ("fabled bay," the word used by Pushkin in the poem's opening
line) is mentioned by Sineusov in VN's story Ultima Thule (1942):

О, моя милая, как улыбнулось тобой с того лукоморья, - и никогда больше, и
кусаю себе руки, чтобы не затрястись, и вот не могу, съезжаю, плачу на
тормозах, на б и на у, и все это такая унизительная физическая чушь: горячее
мигание, чувство удушья, грязный платок, судорожная, вперемежку со слезами,
зевота, - ах не могу без тебя: и высморкавшись, переглотнув, вот опять
начинаю доказывать стулу, хватая его, столу, стуча по нему, что без тебя не

Oh, my love, how your presence smiles from that fabled bay - and nevermore!
- oh, I bite my knuckles so as not no start shaking with sobs, but there's
no holding them back; down I slide with locked brakes, making 'hoo' and
'boohoo' sounds, and it is all such humiliating physical nonsense: the hot
blinking, the feeling of suffocation, the dirty handkerchief, the convulsive
yawning alternating with the tears - I just can't, can't live without you.

In VN's story Solus Rex (1940) Sineusov becomes the king (and is referred to
K., as in a chess notation) of a distant northern insular land. In PF
Kinbote mentions a chess problem of the solus rex type:

In simple words I described the curious situation in which the King found
himself during the first months of the rebellion. He had the amusing feeling
of his being the only black piece in what a composer of chess problems might
term a king-in-the-corner waiter of the solus rex type. (note to Line 130)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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