Vladimir Nabokov

NABOKV-L post 0002430, Mon, 6 Oct 1997 10:38:56 -0700

*Dark Ice* Notes lines 71-94 [Notes #2] (fwd)

Line 71
another continent

The curtain opens on an iron winter. Either
this is a vision of Russia, or the narrator has
taken an extremely long walk.

Line 78
Yellow Delicious

Not just an apple from an old Dutch still life
(pear, flies): this particular strain originated
as a genetic sport--by chance mutation.

Line 84
The complex genitalia of the blues

"The extremely complex genitalia of the blues,"
appears in Chapter 3 of Brian Boyd's biography
*Vladimir Nabokov: The American Years*--
"Blues" being a nickname for a subfamily of
North American butterfly. For a closer look at
the "two ambered hooks" of the male
*Lycædes*butterfly's "sculptured sex," see also
Vladimir Nabokov's English poem "A
Discovery," 1945.

Line 93
ghostly snow

Especially ghostly, since Moscow summers are
not cold; snow is a feature of the vision--a
common metaphor's literal-minded extension.
The narrator knows nothing about Russia.

Line 94
Three died (August, 1991).

The statement issued on August 19, 1991 by
the State Committee for the State of Emergency
in the U.S.S.R. included the following passages:

Compatriots, citizens of the Soviet
Union, we are addressing you at the
grave, critical hour for the destinies
of the Motherland and our peoples.
A mortal danger has come to loom
large over our great Motherland.
The policy reforms, launched at
Mikhail S. Gorbachev's initiative and
designed as a means to insure the
country's dynamic development and
the democratization of social life,
have entered for several reasons a
blind alley. Lack of faith, apathy and
despair have replaced the original
enthusiasm and hopes. Authorities at
all levels have lost the population's trust.
Politicking has replaced in public life
concern for the faith of the Motherland
and the citizen.
Malicious outrage against all state
institutes is being imposed. The
country has in fact become ungovernable.
Never before in national history has
the propaganda of sex and violence
assumed such a scale, threatening the
health and lives of future generations.
Millions of people are demanding
measures against the octopus of crime
and glaring immorality.
We intend to restore law and order
straight away, end bloodshed, declare
war without mercy to the criminal world,
eradicate shameful phenomena
discrediting our society and degrading
Soviet citizens.
We shall clean the streets of our cities
from criminal elements and put an end
to the arbitrariness of the squanderers of
the national wealth.
We are calling upon the workers,
peasants, working intelligentsia, all Soviet
people to restore, within the briefest period
of time, labor discipline and order, and
raise the level of production in order to
march ahead. Our life and the future of our
children and grandchildren, the fate of the
Motherland depend on this.
We are a peace-loving country and shall
undeviatingly honor all our commitments.
We have no claims to make against anybody.
We want to live in peace and friendship with
all. But we firmly declare that no one will
ever be allowed to encroach upon our
sovereignty, independence and territorial
integrity. All attempts to talk the language
of *diktat* to our country, no matter where
they may come from, will be resolutely
We call on all true patriots, people of good
will, to put an end to the present time of
We call on all citizens of the Soviet Union
to grow aware of their duty before the
country and render all possible assistance to
the State Committee for the State of
Emergency in the U.S.S.R. and efforts to pull
the country out of crisis.

The initial response to the coup by then-U.S.-
president George Herbert Walker Bush was to
enunciate his "gut instinct" that Gennadi I. Yanayev
(State Committee for the State of Emergency in the
U.S.S.R. member and selfappointed "acting
president" of the U.S.S.R.) had "a certain
commitment to reform." Mikhail Gorbachev,
held incommunicado at his Crimean *dacha*,
was said to be "undergoing treatment...very
tired after these many years! ...As soon as he
feels better, [Gorbachev] will again take up
his office."
Tuesday, August 20, 1991: hundreds of
thousands of Russians ignored a military
curfew to demonstrate in favor of a defiant
Boris Yeltsin ("You can erect a throne of
bayonets, but you cannot sit on it for long"),
and against the reactionary coup of August
19. Impromptu barricades included
bathtubs, sheet metal, logs, desks, and at
least one kitchen sink. Before dawn
on August 21, tanks and armored personnel
carriers came up against large crowds of
unyielding citizens--some armed with
Molotov cocktails. Three civilians were killed
in the confrontation, but the military of the
Soviet Union withdrew from the area.
This exchange took place before the
Supreme Soviet of the Russian Republic on
August 23, 1991, shortly after the coup failed:

"Now, for a bit of relaxation, let me sign a
decree banning the activity of the Russian
Communist Party."

"Boris Nikolayevich... I think you'll be--I
don't know what you're signing there."

"There, it's been signed!"