NABOKV-L post 0023873, Fri, 5 Apr 2013 09:18:00 -0700

Re: in vino veritas in Istambul
Dear Alexey and the List,

So Krolik (poor sod) was born in Turkey. Not sure, nor do I care, what
relevance, if any, this has. However, it does recall to my memory the scene in
Pnin where a young Pnin and a younger (?) young lady call to each other across
the small byway in a town I took to be Istambul. Aside from the bulbul
resonance, has anyone else assumed that this was a clue of some kind? I am
almost certain, that there is a later reference to this scene, which proves to
the curious reader that Pnin and someone (who?) had met before. My memory grows
dim at this point.


From: Alexey Sklyarenko <skylark1970@MAIL.RU>
Sent: Fri, April 5, 2013 5:53:52 AM
Subject: [NABOKV-L] in vino veritas

[Demon to Van:]'A propos, I have not been able to alert Lucette, who is
somewhere in Italy, but I've managed to trace Marina to Tsitsikar - flirting
there with the Bishop of Belokonsk - she will arrive in the late afternoon,
wearing, no doubt, pleureuses, very becoming, and we shall then travel à trois
to Ladore, because I don't think -'
Was he perhaps under the influence of some bright Chilean drug? (Ada, 2.10)

Tsitsikar (the Russian spelling of Qiqihar, a city in NE China) is mentioned by
Dr Chebutykin, a character in Chekhov's play The Three Sisters (1901):

ЧЕБУТЫКИН (читает газету). Цицикар. Здесь свирепствует оспа.
CHEBUTYKIN [reads from the newspaper]. Tsitsikar. Smallpox is raging here. (Act

Ospa (smallpox) brings to mind Dr Stella Ospenko and her ospedale: The alcohol
his vigorous system had already imbibed was instrumental, as usual, in
reopening what he [Demon] gallicistically called condemned doors, and now as he
gaped involuntarily as all men do while spreading a napkin, he considered
Marina's pretentious ciel-étoilé hairdress and tried to realize (in the rare
full sense of the word), tried to possess the reality of a fact by forcing it
into the sensuous center, that here was a woman whom he had intolerably loved,
who had loved him hysterically and skittishly, who insisted they make love on
rugs and cushions laid on the floor ('as respectable people do in the
Tigris-Euphrates valley'), who would woosh down fluffy slopes on a bobsleigh a
fortnight after parturition, or arrive by the Orient Express with five trunks,
Dack's grandsire, and a maid, to Dr Stella Ospenko's ospedale where he was
recovering from a scratch received in a sword duel (and still visible as a
white weal under his eighth rib after a lapse of nearly seventeen
years). (1.38)

Marina's pleureuses (widow's weeds) remind one of her words to Van in Ardis the
Second: 'And your costume, though very becoming, is, in a sense, traurnïy
(funerary). I'm spouting drivel. Forgive me these idiotic tears... Tell me, is
there anything I could do for you? Do think up something! Would you like a
beautiful, practically new Peruvian scarf, which he [Pedro] left behind, that
crazy boy? No? It's not your style? Now go. And remember - not a word to poor
Mlle Larivière, who means well!' (1.37)

Marina seems to have le vin triste again: The novelist [Mlle Larivière], who was
now quite restored, but still in flowery négligé, had just finished reading her
new story in its first fair copy (to be typed on the morrow) to Tokay-sipping
Marina, who had le vin triste and was much affected by the suicide of the
gentleman 'au cou rouge et puissant de veuf encore plein de sève' who,
frightened by his victim's fright, so to speak, had compressed too hard the
throat of the little girl he had raped in a moment of "gloutonnerie
impardonnable." (1.24)

When Dr Chebutykin gets drunk (The Three Sisters, Act Three), Kulygin (Masha's
husband, the teacher of classical languages) quotes a Latin saying:

KULYGIN [laughs]. You've been hitting the bottle, Ivan Romanych! [Slaps him on
the shoulder.] Bravo! In vino veritas, the ancients used to say.

On Antiterra Chekhov's play is known as Four Sisters (2.1). In a Hollywood movie
based on it Marina has been cast as the deaf nun Varvara (who, in some ways, is
the most interesting of Chekhov's Four Sisters) As to Marina's
daughter,Ada played Irina on the modest stage of the Yakima Academy of Drama in
a somewhat abridged version which, for example, kept only the references to
Sister Varvara, the garrulous originalka ('odd female' - as Marsha calls her)
but eliminated her actual scenes, so that the title of the play might have
beenThe Three Sisters, as indeed it appeared in the wittier of the local
notices. (2.9)

Upset about Ada's coldness, Van recites Tuzenbakh's last words to Irina in The
Three Sisters: 'Tuzenbakh, not knowing what to say: "I have not had coffee
today. Tell them to make me some." Quickly walks away.' (1.37)

Just as Van imagines that he resembles Baron Tuzenbakh, Solyony (the bretteur
who in the last Act kills Tuzenbakh in a duel) imagines that he resembles
Lermontov (the author of Demon who died in a duel).

Solyonyi means "salty." Marina had a secret fondness for salty jokes:

'Incidentally,' observed Marina, 'I hope dear Ida [Mlle Larivière] will not
object to our making him not only a poet, but a ballet dancer. Pedro could do
that beautifully, but he can't be made to recite French poetry.'
'If she protests,' said Vronsky, 'she can go and stick a telegraph pole - where
it belongs.'
The indecent 'telegraph' caused Marina, who had a secret fondness for salty
jokes, to collapse in Ada-like ripples of rolling laughter (pokativshis' so
smehu vrode Adï): 'But let's be serious, I still don't see how and why his wife
- I mean the second guy's wife - accepts the situation (polozhenie).'
Vronsky spread his fingers and toes.
'Prichyom tut polozhenie (situation-shituation)?

In Russian, polozhenie (situation) also means "pregnancy." Marina arrived in
Nice a few days after the duel, and tracked Demon down in his villa Armina, and
in the ecstasy of reconciliation neither remembered to dupe procreation,
whereupon started the extremely interesnoe polozhenie ('interesting condition')
without which, in fact, these anguished notes could not have been strung. (1.2)

Van and Ada are the children of Demon and Marina. According to a Russian
saying, yabloko ot yabloni nedaleko padaet ("an apple falls near the apple
tree;" in other words: like mother, like child). Yabloko (apple) has Blok in it.
In Blok's poem Neznakomka (Incognita, 1906) p'yanitsy s glazami krolikov (drunks
with the eyes of rabbits) cry out: In vino veritas!

Dr Krolik is Ada's teacher of natural history (it seems that his brother,
Karol, or Karapars, Krolik, a doctor of philosophy, born in Turkey (2.8), was
Ada's first lover). At the family dinner (1.38) Demon mentions Dr Krolik and
chelovek (a servant) s glazami (with the eyes):

'Marina,' murmured Demon at the close of the first course. 'Marina,' he
repeated louder. 'Far from me' (a locution he favored) 'to criticize Dan's
taste in white wines or the manners de vos domestiques. You know me, I'm above
all that rot, I'm...' (gesture); 'but, my dear,' he continued, switching to
Russian, 'the chelovek who brought me the pirozhki - the new man, the plumpish
one with the eyes (s glazami) -'
'Everybody has eyes,' remarked Marina drily.
'Well, his look as if they were about to octopus the food he serves. But that's
not the point. He pants, Marina! He suffers from some kind of odïshka
(shortness of breath). He should see Dr Krolik. It's depressing. It's a
rhythmic pumping pant. It made my soup ripple.'
'Look, Dad,' said Van, 'Dr Krolik can't do much, because, as you know quite
well, he's dead, and Marina can't tell her servants not to breathe, because, as
you also know, they're alive.'

Chelovek is Russian for "human being." In her last note to Van poor mad Aqua
(Marina's twin sister who was made to believe that Van is her son) wrote:
Similarly, chelovek (human being) must know where he stands and let others know,
otherwise he is not even a klok (piece) of a chelovek, neither a he, nor she,
but 'a tit of it' as poor Ruby, my little Van, used to say of her scanty right
breast. (1.3)

Chtoby letela sherst' klokami (to make animal hair fly in flocks) is a line in
Kunyaev's poem Dobro dolzhno byt' s kulakami... ("Good should have fists..."
1959). In Turkic languages kulak (Russ., "fist") means "ear." The readers of
Ilf and Petrov know that uzun kulak ("long ear") is Kazakh for "telegraph." And
the readers of Jules Verneknow that Uzun Ada (a sea port on the Caspian) means
"long island." Ada, who at the age of ten or eleven had read Captain Grant's
Microgalaxies (known on Terra as Les Enfants du Capitaine Grant, by Jules
Verne), after a three-volume History of Prostitution and Hamlet (1.35), would
know it! In one of her letters to Van (2.1) Ada invites him to Captain's Grant
Horn, a Villa in Verna (in Russian, verna means "faithful"):

Take the fastest flying machine you can rent straight to El Paso, your Ada will
be waiting for you there, waving like mad, and we'll continue, by the New World
Express, in a suite I'll obtain, to the burning tip of Patagonia, Captain
Grant's Horn, a Villa in Verna, my jewel, my agony.

As he talks to Van before the family dinner (1.38), Demon makes an
unintentional pun:

He inserted his monocle and examined the bottles: 'By the way, son, do you
crave any of these aperitifs? My father allowed me Lilletovka and that Illinois
Brat - awful bilge, antranou svadi, as Marina would say. I suspect your uncle
has a cache behind the solanders in his study and keeps there a finer whisky
than this usque ad Russkum. Well, let us have the cognac, as planned, unless
you are a filius aquae?'
(No pun intended, but one gets carried away and goofs.)
'Oh, I prefer claret. I'll concentrate (nalyagu) on the Latour later on. No,
I'm certainly no T-totaler, and besides the Ardis tap water is not

In a letter of Nov. 25, 1892, to Suvorin Chekhov complains about the absense of
alcohol in the works of contemporary artists: "You are a hard drinker, and I
have regaled you with sweet lemonade [Chekhov's story "Ward No. 6"], and you,
after giving the lemonade its due, justly observe that there is no spirit in
it. That is just what is lacking in our productions—the alcohol which could
intoxicate and subjugate, and you state that very well... We lack "something,"
that is true, and that means that, lift the robe of our muse, and you will find
within an empty void. Let me remind you that the writers, who we say are for
all time or are simply good, and who intoxicate us, have one common and very
important characteristic; they are going towards something and are summoning
you towards it, too, and you feel not with your mind, but with your whole
being, that they have some object, just like the ghost of Hamlet's father, who
did not come and disturb the imagination for nothing. Some have more immediate
objects—the abolition of serfdom, the liberation of their country, politics,
beauty, or simply vodka, like Denis Davydov; others have remote objects—God,
life beyond the grave, the happiness of humanity, and so on. The best of them
are realists and paint life as it is, but, through every line's being soaked in
the consciousness of an object, you feel, besides life as it is, the life which
ought to be, and that captivates you..."

In a letter of July 24, 1891, to Suvorin Chekhov asks his correspondent if the
poet Merezhkovski (whom Chekhov and Suvorin had met in Venice) and his muse
(the poet Zinaida Hippius) are still abroad: И неужели поэт Мережковский и его
муза ещё за границею? Ах, ах!

In a letter of February 5, 1893, to Suvorin Chekhov criticizes Merezhkovski's
play Proshla groza (The Thuderstorm Passed), in which the situation in the
author's family is described: В январской книжке "Труда" напечатана пьеса
Мережковского "Гроза прошла". Если не хватит времени и охоты прочесть всю
пьесу, то вкусите один только конец, где Мережковский перещеголял даже Жана
Щеглова. Литературное ханжество самое скверное ханжество. According to Chekhov,
literary hypocrisy is the worst kind of hypocrisy.

Despite its "Permic" name, Tsitsikar is in China. In his essay Gryadushchiy
Kham (The Future Ham, 1906) Merezhkovski agrees with Herzen who agrees with J.
S. Mill that Europe can turn into China soon:

Герцен соглашается с Миллем: "Если в Европе не произойдёт какой-нибудь
неожиданный переворот, который возродит человеческую личность и даст ей силу
победить мещанство, то, несмотря на свои благородные антецеденты и своё
христианство, Европа сделается Китаем".

In another essay, Prorok russkoy revolyutsii (The Prophet of Russian
Revolution, on the 25th anniversary of Dostoevski's death), Merezhkovski speaks
of demonocracy (as opposed to theocracy):

В первом случае "государство" понимается как царство Божие, как теократия, то
есть безгранично свободная, любовная общественность, отрицающая всякую внешнюю
насильственную власть и, следовательно, как нечто не похожее ни на одну
из доныне существовавших в истории государственных форм; во втором
случае "государство" разумеется как внешняя насильственная власть, как царство
от мира сего, царство дьявола - демонократия.

Antiterra (Earth's twin planet on which Ada is set) is also known as Demonia.

Alexey Sklyarenko (who apologizes for his repetitiousness)
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