NABOKV-L post 0026508, Wed, 7 Oct 2015 22:03:51 +0300

narstran, Odon & Nodo in Pale Fire
In his Commentary Kinbote mentions narstran, a hellish hall in a Zemblan

They were alone again. Disa quickly found the papers he needed. Having
finished with that, they talked for a while about nice trivial things, such
as the motion picture, based on a Zemblan legend, that Odon hoped to make in
Paris or Rome. How would he represent, they wondered, the narstran, a
hellish hall where the souls of murderers were tortured under a constant
drizzle of drake venom coming down from the foggy vault? (note to Lines

Narstran seems to combine nár (Old Norse, “corpse; deceased man”) with
strana (Russ., “land”). On the other hand, it brings to mind Chatski’s
words to Sofia in Griboedov’s play in verse Gore ot uma (“Woe from Wit,”
1824): Ya stranen; a ne stranen kto zh? / Tot, kto na vsekh gluptsov pokhozh
(I’m strange; and who is not strange? / He who looks like all fools) (Act
III, scene 1).

According to Kinbote, Odon (pseudonym of Donald O'Donnell, b. 1915,
world-famous actor and Zemblan patriot) has a half-brother Nodo (b. 1916,
son of Leopold O'Donnell and of a Zemblan boy impersonator; a cardsharp and
despicable traitor; Index to PF). Odon = Nodo = odno (neut. of odin,
“one”). In “Woe from Wit” (Act Two, scene 1) Famusov, calculating the
pregnancy of a lady friend, uses the phrase odno uzh k odnomu (and on top of

Пиши: в четверг, одно уж к одному,

А может в пятницу, а может и в субботу,

Я должен у вдовы, у докторши, крестить.

Она не родила, но по расчету

По моему: должна родить...

Write down: Thursday, on top of this,

Or perhaps on Friday, or on Saturday,

I must attend a christening day.

The widow hasn't given birth as yet,

But, by my reckoning, she must do...

According to Famusov, on the same day he is invited to the funeral:

В четверг я зван на погребенье.

Ох, род людской! пришло в забвенье,

Что всякий сам туда же должен лезть,

В тот ларчик, где ни стать, ни сесть.

On Thursday I’m invited to the funeral.

Oh, the human race! They all forget

That some day all of them shall get

Into the box, so small and tight!


Larchik (diminutive of larets, “casket, small chest”) mentioned by Famusov
brings to mind I. Annenski’s collection Kiparisovyi larets (“The Cypress
Box,” 1910). Like Famusov, Annenski (who wrote under the penname Nik. T-o)
uses the word euphemistically in the sense “coffin.”

Odon’s half-brother Nodo is a cardsharp and despicable traitor. In
Griboedov’s play (Act Three, scene 9) Gorich asks Chatski to beware of
Zagoretski who is indiscreet and cheats at cards:

Человек он светский,

Отъявленный мошенник, плут -

Антон Антоныч Загорецкий,

При нём остерегись: переносить горазд!

И в карты не садись: продаст.

He’s a man of the world,

An outrageous swindler and a rascal,

Anton Antonych Zagoretski is his name.

Beware of him, he's indiscreet,

And don't play cards with him - he'll cheat.

(transl. A. Vagapov)

“Drake venom” coming down from the narstran’s foggy vault brings to mind
Sofia’s words about Chatski in “Woe from Wit” (Act One, scene 7): Ne
chelovek, zmeya (A snake, not man).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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