NABOKV-L post 0026561, Sat, 24 Oct 2015 13:36:21 +0300

narstran, Leningradus & his peashooter in Pale Fire
From Abdella Bouazza:

Just a remark regarding the etymology of "narstran". I believe "nár" is the
Persian (actually Arabic, but the Arabic words in Russian entered the
language via Persian, like zumurrud, almaas, emerald and diamond,
respectively) for fire or hell. In all Arabic countries naar refers equally
to fire or hell.

Many thanks for this! It seems that VN was aware of the Persian meaning of
nar. The Russian envoy in Persia, Griboedov (the author of “Woe from Wit”)
was assassinated in Teheran. On the other hand, in Andrey Bely’s novel
Peterburg (1914) there is a Persian man named Shishnarfne whom mad Dudkin’s
imagination transforms into Enfranshish. Dudkin is a terrorist whose name
comes from dudka (pipe, fife) and brings to mind Dudyshkin (in Chapter Four
of VN’s novel “The Gift” the critic who aimed his trostnikovaya dudochka,
dudeen, at Chernyshevski). In 1924 Petrograd (St. Petersburg’s name in
1914-1924) was renamed Leningrad. According to Kinbote, “Leningradus [as
Kinbote mockingly calls the killer Gradus] should not aim his peashooter at
people even in dreams, because if he does, a pair of colossally thick,
abnormally hairy arms will hug him from behind and squeeze, squeeze,
squeeze” (note to Line 171). Gradus’ peashooter brings to mind gorokhovoe
pal’to (agent of secret police; literally: “a pea overcoat”) in Chapter
Four of “The Gift:”

На панихиде по нём в Петербурге приведённ
ые для парада друзьями покойного несколь
ко рабочих в партикулярном платье были пр
иняты студентами за сыщиков, одному даже
пустили гороховое пальто, что восстанови
ло некое равновесие: не отцы ли этих рабоч
их ругали коленопреклоненного Чернышевс
кого через забор?

At the requiem held for him in St. Petersburg the workmen in town clothes,
whom the dead man's friends had brought for the sake of atmosphere, were
taken by a group of students for plainclothesmen and insulted \xa8C which
restored a certain equilibrium: was it not the fathers of these workmen who
had abused the kneeling Chernyshevski from over the fence?

By a charming coincidence, the Griboedov monument in St. Petersburg faces
the Gorokhovaya street (in the Soviet era renamed, after the head of the
Cheka, the Dzerzhinski street). The headquarters of the Petrograd Cheka
(Lenin’s secret police) was at Gorokhovaya 4, Gorokhovaya 64 was Rasputin’
s address. Rasputin was assassinated in the Yusupov Palace on the Moyka
Canal, not too far from the Nabokovs’ house in the Bolshaya Morskaya
street. The name of one of the murderers, Felix Yusupov, brings to mind
Hermann’s double in VN’s Otchayanie (Despair, 1934).

Btw., belyi means “white” and Chernyshevski comes from chyornyi (black).

Alexey Sklyarenko

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