Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026874, Sat, 20 Feb 2016 15:58:42 +0300

Tent/Palatka in Ada
At the airport of the moonlit white town we call Tent, and Tobakov's
sailors, who built it, called Palatka, in northern Florida, where owing to
engine trouble he had to change planes, Demon made a long-distance call and
received a full account of Dan's death from the inordinately circumstantial
Dr Nikulin (grandson of the great rodentiologist Kunikulinov - we can't get
rid of the lettuce). (2.10)

There is a town in Florida called Palatka. In Russian, palatka means “tent,
marquee.” In the closing stanza of his poem Net, nikogda nichey ya ne byl
sovremennik… (“No, I never was anybody’s contemporary…” 1924)
Mandelshtam mentions palatka (a tent):

И в жаркой комнате, в кибитке и в палатке
Век умирает, ― а потом
Два сонных яблока на роговой облатке
Сияют перистым огнём.

On the other hand, one is reminded of shyolkovyi shatyor (the silk tent)
mentioned by Mandelshtam at the end of his “Ode to Beethoven” (1914):

О величавой жертвы пламя!

Полнеба охватил костёр ―

И царской скинии над нами

Разодран шёлковый шатёр.

И в промежутке воспалённом,

Где мы не видим ничего,―

Ты указал в чертоге тронном

На белой славы торжество!

Oh, flame of the majestic sacrifice!

Half of the sky is burning,

and above us the silk tent

of the King’s tabernacle is torn up.

And in an inflamed interval,

where we see nothing,

you pointed at the triumph

of white glory in the throne hall!

Palatka + Nikulin + Pulkovo = palata + Kunikulinov + polk/klop = plitka +
Nulin + Akapulkovo

Pulkovo \xa8C a village near St. Petersburg, the site of a famous observatory;
cf. Fyodor’s poem in The Gift: Love only what is fanciful and rare; what
from the distance of a dream steals through; what knaves condemn to death
and fools can't bear. To fiction be as to your country true. Now is our
time. Stray dogs and cripples are alone awake. Mild is the summer night. A
car speeds by: Forever that last car has taken the last banker out of sight.
Near that streetlight veined lime-leaves masquerade in chrysoprase with a
translucent gleam. Beyond that gate lies Baghdad's crooked shade, and yon
star sheds on Pulkovo its beam. Oh, swear to me- (Chapter Three)

palata \xa8C chamber; ward; in Kalugano Van gets wounded in a pistol duel with
Captain Tapper (a member of the Do-Re-La country club): For half a minute
Van was sure that he still lay in the car, whereas actually he was in the
general ward of Lakeview (Lakeview!) Hospital, between two series of
variously bandaged, snoring, raving and moaning men. When he understood
this, his first reaction was to demand indignantly that he be transferred to
the best private palata in the place and that his suitcase and alpenstock be
fetched from the Majestic. (1.42)

polk \xa8C regiment; cf. V kakom polku sluzhili? (“In what regiment did you
serve?”), a question Bender asks Charushnikov in Ilf and Petrov’s “Twelve
Chairs” (1928); obs., campaign; cf. Slovo o polku Igoreve (“The Song of
Igor’s Campaign”)

klop \xa8C bedbug; a comedy (1929) by Mayakovski; Turgenev, Grigorovich and
Tolstoy called Chernyshevski klopovonyayushchiy gospodin (the
bedbug-stinking gentleman); Demon complained that a birthmark on the back of
Marina’s left hand resembled a bedbug (1.17)

plitka \xa8C tile, (thin) slab; cf. plitka shokolada (a bar of chocolate)

Nulin \xa8C the main character in Pushkin’s poem Graf Nulin (“Count Null,”

Akapulkovo \xa8C the Antiterran name of Acapulco (a sea port and resort in
Mexico); cf. ‘I offered myself en effet a trip to Akapulkovo,’ answered
Demon, needlessly and unwillingly recollecting (with that special concussion
of instant detail that also plagued his children) a violet-and-black-striped
fish in a bowl, a similarly striped couch, the subtropical sun bringing out
the veins of an onyx ashtray on the stone floor, a batch of old,
orange-juice-stained Povesa (playboy) magazines, the jewels he had brought,
the phonograph singing in a dreamy girl’s voice’ Petit nègre, au champ
qui fleuronne,’ and the admirable abdomen of a very expensive, and very
faithless and altogether adorable young Créole. (1.38); cf. The
simultaneous association was immediate and complete: she [Mrs. Arfour] had
known both families for years and was now interested to learn from
chattering (rather than chatting) Ada that Van had happened to be in town
just when she, Ada, had happened to return from the West; that Marina was
fine; that Demon was in Mexico or Oxmice; and that Lenore Colline had a
similar adorable pet with a similar adorable parting along the middle of the
back. (2.10)

Alexey Sklyarenko

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