NABOKV-L post 0026677, Thu, 3 Dec 2015 23:44:47 +0300

Izumrudov in Pale Fire
He was a merry, perhaps overmerry fellow, in a green velvet jacket. Nobody
liked him, but he certainly had a keen mind. His name, Izumrudov, sounded
rather Russian but actually meant "of the Umruds," an Eskimo tribe sometimes
seen paddling their umyaks (hide-lined boats) on the emerald waters of our
northern shores. Grinning, he said friend Gradus must get together his
travel documents, including a health certificate, and take the earliest
available jet to New York. Bowing, he congratulated him on having indicated
with such phenomenal acumen the right place and the right way. Yes, after a
thorough perlustration of the loot that Andron and Niagarushka had obtained
from the Queen's rosewood writing desk (mostly bills, and treasured
snapshots, and those silly medals) a letter from the King did turn up giving
his address which was of all places-- Our man, who interrupted the herald of
success to say he had never--was bidden not to display so much modesty. A
slip of paper was now produced on which Izumudrov, shaking with laughter
(death is hilarious), wrote out for Gradus their client's alias, the name of
the university where he taught, and that of the town where it was situated.
No, the slip was not for keeps. He could keep it only while memorizing it.
This brand of paper (used by macaroon makers) was not only digestible but
delicious. The gay green vision withdrew--to resume his whoring no doubt.
How one hates such men! (Kinbote’s note to Line 741)

Izumrud being Russian for “emerald,” the name Izumrudov brings to mind not
only Gerald Emerald (a young instructor in New Wye), but also Samorodov
(from samorodok, which means “nugget” and “talented person without
education”), the counterfeiter in Chekhov’s story V ovrage (“In the Ravine,”
1900). Anisim’s letters to his family from the place of penal servitude are
written with Samorodov’s hand.

Chekhov must have met people like Anisim Tsybukin (the policeman whom
Samorodov drew into counterfeiting of coins) and Samorodov during the six
months in 1890 that the writer spent in Sakhalin, the place of Russian penal
servitude prior to 1905. During his long voyage to Sakhalin Chekhov wrote
letters to his family beginning them (see a letter of April 29, 1890, from
Ekaterinburg, and the two letters that precede it): Druz’ya moi tungusy!
(“My Tungus friends!") Nyne dikiy tungus (the now savage Tungus) is
mentioned, among other tribes populating Russia, by Pushkin in Exegi
Monumentum (1836). In his poem Pushkin says: Net, ves’ ya ne umru (No, I’ll
not wholly die).

According to Kinbote, “the Umruds” are an Eskimo tribe. A merchant's son
Eskimosov, “parvenu and mauvais genre, swine in a skull-cup and mauvais
ton," is the fiancé in Chekhov's story Tapyor (“The Ballroom Pianist,”
1885). In VN’s Ada (1969) Van notices that the role of Fedotik (a character
in Chekhov’s play “The Three Sisters,” 1901, known on Antiterra as Four
Sisters) had been assigned to a ‘Kim (short for Yakim) Eskimossoff’ (2.9).
The name Yakim hints Yakimanka, the street in Moscow where Chekhov’s family

Alexey Sklyarenko

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