NABOKV-L post 0026509, Thu, 8 Oct 2015 13:40:45 +0000

Re: narstran, Odon & Nodo in Pale Fire
"Narstran" can also be easily read as abbreviated Nar[odnaya] Stran[a] ("People's Country", i.e. the USSR), if modeled after standard Soviet abbreviations of 1920-1930s -- such as Narkomat = Nar[odnyi] Kom[issariat], i.e. People's Commissariat, headed by a Narkom [People's Comissar].


A remarkable "Narobraz" meant the educational system [Nar[odnoe] obraz[ovanie]; note that "obraz" also means an icon.

Abbreviations of this kind were an important part of Soviet Newspeak.

Soviet Narkoms enjoyed ugly titles ranging from Narkomvoenmor ["People's Comissar of Army and Navy" = Trotsky] to Narkompros ["People's Comissar of Enlightenment" = Lunacharsky].

The latter was used by Vladimir Maiakovskii in his mockery of the famous last line of Alexander Blok's The Twelve:

V belom venchike iz roz

[In a white wreath of roses]

Lunacharsky - Narkompros

(Maiakovskii's version instead of Blok's

"Vperedi - Isus Khristos",

i.e. "Jesus Christ leading")

Victor Fet

From: Vladimir Nabokov Forum <NABOKV-L@LISTSERV.UCSB.EDU> on behalf of Alexey Sklyarenko <skylark1970@MAIL.RU>
Sent: Wednesday, October 7, 2015 3:03 PM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] narstran, Odon & Nodo in Pale Fire

In his Commentary Kinbote mentions narstran, a hellish hall in a Zemblan legend:

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 433-434)

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 this):

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
Google Search <>
the archive<> Contact<,>
the Editors<,> NOJ<> Zembla<> Nabokv-L <>
Policies<> Subscription options<> AdaOnline<> NSJ Ada Annotations<> L-Soft Search the archive<> VN Bibliography Blog<>
All private editorial communications are read by both co-editors.

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Nabokv-L policies:
Nabokov Online Journal:"
AdaOnline: "
The Nabokov Society of Japan's Annotations to Ada:
The VN Bibliography Blog:
Search the archive with L-Soft:

Manage subscription options :