Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0026987, Tue, 10 May 2016 12:39:53 +0300

janizary & music in Ada
My previous post (“mutes, etc., in Ada”) can be continued as follows:

According to Marina, at Van’s age she would have poisoned her governess, if
forbidden to read Turgenev's Smoke:

Puzzled Mlle Larivière would have consulted the Master of Ardis, but she
never discussed with him anything serious since the day (in January, 1876)
when he had made an unexpected (and rather halfhearted, really - let us be
fair) pass at her. As to dear, frivolous Marina, she only remarked, when
consulted, that at Van's age she would have poisoned her governess with
anti-roach borax if forbidden to read, for example, Turgenev's Smoke. (1.21)

Susanna, the main character of Turgenev’s story Neschastnaya (“An Unhappy
Girl,” 1868), took poison or, more likely, was poisoned by her relatives.
In the epilogue the narrator mentions Napoleon:

Прошло несколько лет. Тётушка моя скончал
ась; я из Москвы переселился в Петербург.
В Петербург переехал и Фустов. Он поступи
л в министерство финансов, но я виделся с
ним редко и не находил уже в нем ничего ос
обенного. Чиновник как и все, да и баста! Е
сли он ещё жив и не женат, то, вероятно, и д
оселе не изменился: точит и клеит, и гимна
стикой занимается, и сердца пожирает по-п
режнему, и Наполеона в лазоревом мундире
рисует в альбомы приятельниц.

Several years passed by. My aunt was dead; I had left Moscow and settled in
Petersburg. Fustov too had moved to Petersburg. He had entered the
department of the Ministry of Finance, but we rarely met and I saw nothing
much in him then. An official like everyone else, and nothing more! If he is
still living and not married, he is, most likely, unchanged to this day; he
carves and carpenters and uses dumb-bells, and is as much a lady-killer as
ever, and sketches Napoleon in a blue uniform in the albums of his lady
friends. (chapter XXVIII)

The characters of Ada include Kim Beauharnais, the kitchen boy and
photographer at Ardis whose surname hints at Napoleon’s first wife. As a
youth, Kim vaguely resembles a janizary in some exotic opera:

During her dreary stay at Ardis, a considerably changed and enlarged Kim
Beauharnais called upon her. He carried under his arm an album bound in
orange-brown cloth, a dirty hue she [Ada] had hated all her life. In the
last two or three years she had not seen him, the light-footed, lean lad
with the sallow complexion had become a dusky colossus, vaguely resembling a
janizary in some exotic opera, stomping in to announce an invasion or an
execution. (2.7)

In Turgenev’s story Mr. Ratsch (Susanna’s step-father) criticizes
Susanna’s playing of a Beethoven sonata and uses the phrase Janitscharen
Musik (Germ., the janizary music):

-- Я всех лучших виртуозов самолично слыша
л,-- продолжал г. Ратч, внезапно нахмуривши
сь,-- и все они перед покойным Фильдом -- ть
фу! Нуль! зеро!! Das war ein Keri! Und ein so reines Spiel! И к
омпозиции его -- самые прекрасные! А все эт
и новые "тлу-ту-ту" да "тра-та-та", это, я пол
агаю, больше для школяров писано. Da braucht man
keine Delicatesse! Хлопай по клавишам как попало...
Не беда! Что-нибудь выйдет! Janitscharen-Musik! Пхе!
(Иван Демьяныч утёр себе лоб платком.) Впр
очем, я это говорю не на ваш счёт, Сусанна
Ивановна; вы играли хорошо и моими замеча
ниями не должны обижаться.

-- У всякого свой вкус,-- тихим голосом заго
ворила Сусанна, и губы ее задрожали,-- а ва
ши замечанья, Иван Демьяныч, вы знаете, ме
ня обидеть не могут.

'I have heard all the best performers with my own ears,' pursued Mr. Ratsch,
suddenly frowning, 'and compared with the late Field they were all--pfau!
nil! zero!! Das war ein Kerl! Und ein so reines Spiel! And his own
compositions the finest things! But all those now "tloo-too-too," and
"tra-ta-ta," are written, I suppose, more for beginners. Da braucht man
keine Delicatesse! Bang the keys anyhow... no matter! It'll turn out some
how! Janitscharen Musik! Pugh!' (Ivan Demianych wiped his forehead with his
handkerchief.) 'But I don't say that for you, Susanna Ivanovna; you played
well, and oughtn't to be hurt by my remarks.'

'Everyone has his own taste,' Susanna said in a low voice, and her lips were
trembling; 'but your remarks, Ivan Demianych, you know, cannot hurt me.'
(chapter XIII)

According to Mlle Larivière (Lucette’s governess), in his novel about a
certain Crimean Khan, 'A Great Good Man,' the British writer Richard Leonard
Churchill twice mistranslates a trite French phrase, chacun à son gout, as
'everyone has his own taste' (1.38).

According to Mr. Ratsch, he is a Bohemian:

Фустов назвал сперва меня, потом, указав н
а "ветерана двенадцатого года", промолвил:
"Иван Демьяныч Ратч, преподаватель... разн
ых предметов".

-- Именно, именно разных предметов,-- подхв
атил г. Ратч.-- Чему, подумаешь, я только не
учил, да и теперь не учу! И математике, и ге
ографии, и статистике, и италиянской бухг
алтерии, ха-ха-ха-ха! и музыке! Вы сомневае
тесь, милостивый государь? -- накинулся он
вдруг на меня.-- Спросите Александра Давыд
ыча, каково я на фаготе отличаюсь? Какой ж
е я был бы в противном случае богемец, чех
сиречь? Да, сударь, я чех, и родина моя -- др
евняя Прага! Кстати, Александр Давыдыч, чт
о вас давно не видать? Дуэтец бы разыграл
и... ха-ха! Право!

Fustov mentioned my name first, then, indicating the 'veteran of the year
twelve,' he pronounced: 'Ivan Demianych Ratsch, professor of... various

'Precisely so, various they are, precisely,' Mr. Ratsch chimed in. 'Come to
think of it, what is there I haven't taught, and that I'm not teaching now,
for that matter! Mathematics and geography and statistics and Italian
book-keeping, ha-ha ha-ha! and music! You doubt it, my dear sir?'--he
pounced suddenly upon me--'ask Aleksandr Davydych if I'm not first-rate on
the bassoon. I should be a poor sort of Bohemian--Czech, I should say--if I
weren't! Yes, sir, I'm a Czech, and my native place is ancient Prague! By
the way, Aleksandr Davydych, why haven't we seen you for so long! We ought
to have a little duet... ha-ha! Really!' (chapter IV)

It is a Bohemian lady who involuntarily helped Demon Veen (Van’s and Ada’s
father whose first name is a form of Demian or Dementius) to find out the
name of Marina’s lover:

Next day Demon was having tea at his favorite hotel with a Bohemian lady
whom he had never seen before and was never to see again (she desired his
recommendation for a job in the Glass Fish-and-Flower department in a Boston
museum) when she interrupted her voluble self to indicate Marina and Aqua,
blankly slinking across the hall in modish sullenness and bluish furs with
Dan Veen and a dackel behind, and said:

'Curious how that appalling actress resembles "Eve on the Clepsydrophone" in
Parmigianino's famous picture.'

'It is anything but famous,' said Demon quietly, 'and you can't have seen
it. I don't envy you,' he added; 'the naive stranger who realizes that he or
she has stepped into the mud of an alien life must experience a pretty
sickening feeling. Did you get that small-talk information directly from a
fellow named d'Onsky or through a friend of a friend of his?'

'Friend of his,' replied the hapless Bohemian lady. (1.2)

After the duel with Demon d’Onsky married the Bohemian lady:

The challenge was accepted; two native seconds were chosen; the Baron
plumped for swords; and after a certain amount of good blood (Polish and
Irish - a kind of American 'Gory Mary' in barroom parlance) had bespattered
two hairy torsoes, the whitewashed terrace, the flight of steps leading
backward to the walled garden in an amusing Douglas d'Artagnan arrangement,
the apron of a quite accidental milkmaid, and the shirtsleeves of both
seconds, charming Monsieur de Pastrouil and Colonel St Alin, a scoundrel,
the latter gentlemen separated the panting combatants, and Skonky died, not
'of his wounds' (as it was viciously rumored) but of a gangrenous
afterthought on the part of the least of them, possibly self-inflicted, a
sting in the groin, which caused circulatory trouble, notwithstanding quite
a few surgical interventions during two or three years of protracted stays
at the Aardvark Hospital in Boston - a city where, incidentally, he married
in 1869 our friend the Bohemian lady, now keeper of Glass Biota at the local
museum. (ibid.)

According to Winston Churchill, Stalin was “a great good man.”

The characters of Ada include Philip Rack, Lucette’s teacher of music who
dies in the Kalugano hospital (where Van recovers from the wound received in
a pistol with Captain Tapper). According to Dr Fitzbishop, Rack was poisoned
by his jealous wife:

The poor guy had always had a bad liver and a very indifferent heart, but on
top of that a poison had seeped into his system; the local 'lab' could not
identify it and they were now waiting for a report, on those curiously
frog-green faeces, from the Luga people. If Rack had administered it to
himself by his own hand, he kept 'mum'; it was more likely the work of his
wife who dabbled in Hindu-Andean voodoo stuff and had just had a complicated
miscarriage in the maternity ward. Yes, triplets - how did he guess? (1.42).

It was Dr Ecksreher (X-rayer) who predicted that Elsie would soon present
her husband with “driplets:”

The melancholy young German was in a philosophical mood shading into the
suicidal. He had to return to Kalugano with his Elsie, who Doc Ecksreher
thought 'would present him with driplets in dry weeks.' (1.32)

As she speaks to Van, Lucette mentions driblets:

'I only meant,' she continued, 'that he was a handsome Hispano-Irish boy,
dark and pale, and people mistook them for twins. I did not say they were
really twins. Or "driblets."

Driblets? Driblets? Now who pronounced it that way? Who? Who? A dripping
ewes-dropper in a dream? Did the orphans live?' But we must listen to
Lucette. (2.5)

Van’s, Ada’s and Lucette’s mother Marina had the twin sister Aqua who
went mad and committed suicide (1.3). The name Aqua means “water.” In
Turgenev’s poem in prose Bliznetsy (“The Twins,” 1878) the twins are as
identical “as two drops of water” and hate each other relentlessly:

Я видел спор двух близнецов. Как две капли
воды походили они друг на друга всем: черт
ами лица, их выражением, цветом волос, рос
том, складом тела и ненавидели друг друга

On the other hand, Bliznetsy (“Twins,” 1852) is a poem by Tyutchev. It was
Turgenev who looked after the publication of Tyutchev's only lifetime book
of poetry. In his poem “To Mikhail Petrovich Pogodin” (1868) Tyutchev says
that in our days verses do not live long and mentions ruka zabven’ya (the
hand of oblivion) that will do its proof-reading work:

Стихов моих вот список безобразный, \xa8C
Не заглянув в него, дарю им вас,
Не совладал с моею ленью праздной,
Чтобы она хоть вскользь им занялась...

В наш век стихи живут два-три мгновенья,
Родились утром, к вечеру умрут...
О чём же хлопотать? Рука забвенья
Как раз свершит свой корректурный труд.

Tyutchev spent almost quarter of a century abroad. In June of 1822 his
relative, Count Osterman-Tolstoy (a hero of the anti-Napoleon war who lost
his arm in the battle of Kulm, 1813), took Tyutchev to Munich where he
became a diplomat at the Russian legation. In Fyodor Ivanovich Tyutchev
(1874) Ivan Aksakov (Tyutchev’s son-in-law and first biographer) quotes the
poet’s words from a letter (written in 1867) to his brother:

Судьбе угодно было вооружиться последней
рукой Толстого (вспоминает Фёдор Иванови
ч в одном из писем своих к брату лет 45 спус
тя), чтоб переселить меня на чужбину.

“Fate equipped itself with Tolstoy’s last arm [in Russian, ruka means
“arm” and “hand”] in order to resettle me to a foreign land.”

Kulm (Chlumec) is a town in northern Bohemia. The son of d’Onsky and the
Bohemian lady is a person with only one arm. According to Ada, at Marina’s
funeral “d'Onsky's son, a person with only one arm, threw his remaining one
around Demon and both wept comme des fontaines” (3.8). Fontan (“The
Fountain,” 1836) is a poem by Tyutchev.

Alexey Sklyarenko

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