NABOKV-L post 0026712, Sat, 19 Dec 2015 22:48:54 +0300

Great Beaver, motorboat, umyaks, bogtur, Tanagra dust,
great Starover Blue & Bera Range in Pale Fire; anagradusy
(anagrams with Gradus)
One day I happened to enter the English Literature office in quest of a
magazine with the picture of the Royal Palace in Onhava, which I wanted my
friend to see, when I overheard a young instructor in a green velvet jacket,
whom I shall mercifully call Gerald Emerald, carelessly saying in answer to
something the secretary had asked: "I guess Mr. Shade has already left with
the Great Beaver." Of course, I am quite tall, and my brown beard is of a
rather rich tint and texture; the silly cognomen evidently applied to me,
but was not worth noticing, and after calmly taking the magazine from a
pamphlet-cluttered table, I contented myself on my way out with pulling
Gerald Emerald's bow-tie loose with a deft jerk of my fingers as I passed by
him. (Kinbote's Foreword)

Bobyor (or bobr) being Russian for "beaver," Kinbote's silly cognomen can
also hint at baba Babarikha, in Pushkin's "Fairy Tale about the Tsar Saltan"
(1831) Saltan's svat'ya (the matchmaker or, more likely, the evil mother of
Saltan's envious sisters-in-law) who wants to exterminate Saltan's wife and
son Gvidon.

The King escapes from Zembla in a powerful motorboat. In his Commentary
Kinbote mentions the Umruds and their umyaks (hide-lined boats):

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. (note to Line 741)

In Pushkin's fairy tale Prince Gvidon and his mother cross the sea in a
tarred barrel. In the golden nuts that the squirrel cracks in the island of
Buyan (where Prince Gvidon lives and rules) the kernels are chistyi izumrud
(of pure emerald).

In "The Fairy Tale about the Tsar Saltan" Chernomor (a namesake of the
bearded dwarf in Pushkin's Ruslan and Lyudmila) is staryi dyad'ka (the old
uncle or tutor) of the thirty tree bogatyrya (knights) who appear from the
sea. In his Commentary Kinbote mentions the picture of a bogtur (ancient

Sometimes, upon returning to the comfortable old chair he [Charles Xavier]
would find her [Fleur de Fyler whose mother, Countess de Fyler, after Queen
Blenda's death told her daughter to seduce Prince Charles] in it
contemplating sorrowfully the picture of a bogtur (ancient warrior) in the
history book. (note to Line 80)

Kinbote compares Fleur to a cat and Charles Xavier, to a dog:

That was the end of Charles Xavier's chaste romance with Fleur, who was
pretty yet not repellent (as some cats are less repugnant than others to the
good-natured dog told to endure the bitter effluvium of an alien genus).

In Pushkin's Skazka o myortvoy tsarevne i semi bogatyryakh ("The Fairy Tale
about the Dead Princess and the Seven Knights," 1833) there is a dog Sokolko
that eats the poisoned apple in order to show to the knights how their
sister died.

He [Charles Xavier] awoke to find her [Fleur] standing with a comb in her
hand before his-or, rather, his grandfather's-cheval glass, a triptych of
bottomless light, a really fantastic mirror, signed with a diamond by its
maker, Sudarg of Bokay. She turned about before it: a secret device of
reflection gathered an infinite number of nudes in its depths, garlands of
girls in graceful and sorrowful groups, diminishing in the limpid distance,
or breaking into individual nymphs, some of whom, she murmured, must
resemble her ancestors when they were young-little peasant garlien combing
their hair in shallow water as far as the eye could reach, and then the
wistful mermaid from an old tale, and then nothing. (ibid.)

King Thurgus' miraculous mirror brings to mind the Queen's magical
looking-glass in "The Fairy Tale about the Dead Princess and the Seven
Knights." Sudarg of Bokay is the mirrored name of Jakob Gradus. Sokolko =
oskolok (splinter, shiver; fragment, piece) = kolosok (diminutive of kolos,
ear, spike). At the end of Pushkin's fairy tale the Dead Princess resurrects
and the Queen (the girl's evil step-mother) breaks her magical talking
looking-glass (that refuses to say a lie) to pieces. Kolosok rhymes with/is
almost homonym of golosok (little voice). In the last line of his poem Snova
more, snova pal'my ("Again the sea, again the palms:") G. Ivanov wonders if
the singing of a certain bird that he never saw and does not know what it
looks like could be iz ada golosok (a voice from hell):

Снова море, снова пальмы
И гвоздики, и песок,
Снова вкрадчиво-печальный
Этой птички голосок.

Никогда её не видел
И не знаю, какова.
Кто её навек обидел,
В чём, своем, она права?

Велика иль невеличка?
любит воду иль песок?
Может, и совсем не птичка,
А из ада голосок?

In "The Fairy Tale about the Tsar Saltan" tale Prince Gvidon kills the kite
(the evil sorcerer in disguise of a bird of prey) in order to save the swan
(the beautiful Swan Princess whom Gvidon marries). According to Shade, he
"was the shadow of the waxwing slain by the false azure in the windowpane"
(ll. 1-2). Shade, Kinbote and Gradus seem to represent three different
aspects of Professor Botkin's split personality. (An American scholar of
Russian descent, Vsevolod Botkin went mad after the suicide of his daughter

Borodino + slava + Tanagra dust = boroda + Saltan + vinograd + usta =
dobro/Bordo + son/nos + vina/niva/Ivan + talant + Gradus

Saltan + Borodino + zhena + Marksizm + raduga = Stalin + boroda + nozh +
izmena + marka/karma/Makar + Gradus

Stalin/nastil + Gradus = Stalingrad + us = list + as + dragun

Saltan + Gradus + Nabokov = satana + drug + slovo/volos + bank

Saltan + Gradus + marka/karma/Makar = strana + sluga + dar + mak

strana + Gradus + dar + vino/ovin/voin + slava + satana + krot = narstran +
raduga + dva + Saltan + krasota

vino + Gradus = vinograd + us = Vinogradus

vino + spasitel' + zhena + Marksizm + raduga = svinopas + zhitel' + izmena +
marka/karma/Makar + Gradus

Borodino - site of the greatest battle in the Patriotic war of 1812; a poem
(1837) by Lermontov

slava - glory; fame; Slava ("Fame," 1942) is a poem by VN

boroda - beard

vinograd - vine; grapes

usta - obs., lips

dobro - good (noun, as opposed to zlo, evil)

Bordo - Bordeaux in Russian spelling; in Eugene Onegin Pushkin praises the
Bordeaux (claret) and calls it his friend

son - sleep; dream

nos - nose; a story (1835) by Gogol

vina - guilt

niva - corn-field; the name of a popular magazine prior to 1917

Ivan - male given name; cf. Pushkin's poem Svat Ivan, kak pit' my stanem:
("Dear Ivan, when we will drink:" 1833); svat'ya (cf. svat'ya baba
Babarikha) is a feminine form of svat (matchmaker; son-in-law's or
daughter-in-law's father)

zhena - wife; according to Pushkin's Swan Princess, zhena ne rukavichka, s
beloy ruchki ne stryakhnyosh' (a wife is not a glove, you cannot shake off
it from your hand)

Marksizm - Marxism in Russian spelling (Marx, who is mentioned in Shade's
poem and in Kinbote's Commentary, had a grand beard)

raduga - rainbow

nozh - knife

izmena - treason; according to Kinbote, he can pardon everything, save

marka - stamp

Makar - male given name; cf. the saying kuda Makar telyat ne gonyal ("far,
far away," onhava-onhava in Zemblan); Telema and Makar (1826) is a poem by

nastil - flooring; planking

Stalingrad - in 1925-1961 the name of Tsaritsyn (now Volgograd), the city on
the Volga

us - whisker; Stalin wore usy (mustache); cf. po usam teklo, v rot ne
popalo; da usy lish' obmochil (it all flew down my whiskers, but I got
nothing into my mouth), the usual endings of Pushkin's fairy tales

list - leaf

as - (air) ace

dragun - dragoon

satana - Satan

drug - friend (Izumrudov calls Gradus "friend Gradus")

slovo - word

volos - a hair

strana - land, country

sluga - servant

dar - gift; a novel (1937) by VN

mak - poppy

vino - wine

ovin - barn

voin - warrior, soldier

krot - mole

narstran - in Zemblan legends, a hellish hall where the souls of murderers
were tortured under a constant drizzle of drake venom coming down from the
foggy vault

dva - 2

krasota - beauty

Vinogradus - Kinbote mockingly calls Gradus "Vinogradus" and "Leningradus"

spasitel' - savior; in his sonnet Madona (1830) Pushkin mentions nash
bozhestvennyi Spasitel' (our heavenly Savior)

svinopas - swineherd

zhitel' - inhabitant

According to Kinbote, in a discarded variant Shade mentions the "Tanagra

We all know those dreams in which something Stygian soaks through and Lethe
leaks in the dreary terms of defective plumbing. Following this line, there
is a false start preserved in the draft-and I hope the reader will feel
something of the chill that ran down my long and supple spine when I
discovered this variant:

Should the dead murderer try to embrace
His outraged victim whom he now must face?
Do objects have a soul? Or perish must
Alike great temples and Tanagra dust?

The last syllable of "Tanagra" and the first three letters of "dust" form
the name of the murderer whose shargar (puny ghost) the radiant spirit of
our poet was soon to face. "Simple chance!" the pedestrian reader may cry.
But let him try to see, as I have tried to see, how many such combinations
are possible and plausible. "Leningrad used to be Petrograd?" "A prig rad
(obs. past tense of read) us?"

This variant is so prodigious that only scholarly discipline and a
scrupulous regard for the truth prevented me from inserting it here, and
deleting four lines elsewhere (for example, the weak lines 627-630) so as to
preserve the length of the poem. (note to Line 596)

In the "weak" lines 627-630 Shade mentions the great Starover Blue:

The great Starover Blue reviewed the role

Planets had played as landfalls of the soul.
The fate of beasts was pondered. A Chinese
Discanted on the etiquette at teas
With ancestors, and how far up to go. (ll. 627-31)

"The Great Beaver" seems also to hint at the constellation of the Great
Bear. Bol'shaya Medveditsa ("The Great Bear," 1918) is a poem by VN composed
in the Crimea:

Был грозен волн полночный рёв...

Семь девушек на взморье ждали

невозвратившихся челнов

и, руки заломив, рыдали.

Семь звёздочек в суровой мгле

над рыбаками чётко встали

и указали путь к земле...

Sem' zvyozdochek (seven tiny stars) that rose in the sky and showed to the
fishermen the way to land correspond to the poem's seven lines (half of a
sonnet). The poem's last word is zemle (Dat. of zemlya, land). Bear = Bera
(the Bera range, "a two-hundred-mile-long chain of rugged mountains, not
quite reaching the northern end of the Zemblan peninsula," that the King has
to cross in order to reach the sea and escape form Zembla). Bera rhymes with
Vera (the name of VN's wife that means "faith"). In line 626 (immediately
preceding the one in which Starover Blue is mentioned) of his poem Shade

We all avoided criticizing faiths.

Alexey Sklyarenko (who hopes that everybody enjoyed his anagradusy that
intoxicated him a little)

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 :