NABOKV-L post 0023944, Wed, 17 Apr 2013 14:39:49 -0700

Re: Pierre Legrand's complaint
Dear Alexey,

Much as I do love Il'f i Petrov (the first story I read in Russian was their
'Peshexodov nado l'ubit'' or 'Ya gotta love pedestrians') their reference to
the Falconet statue is neither here nor there in relation to Ada or any other
work of Nabokov's. I find your tidbits interesting when I can take the time to
read them, but I wish you would prune for relevance. If you have something
relevant to say, please let us know why it is relevant. Don't make us guess.

Oh, and who is Pierre Legrand - I don't seem to see him ...


p.s. Now, if you had mentioned the theme of the Severed Head, you would really
have grabbed my interest. Iris Murdoch wrote a novel so entitled; the Wizard of
Oz (at least in the film) appears as a severed head. One is featured prominently
in Fifth Business, by the Canadian writer Robertson Davies, and there was an
Elizabethan that is somehow involved by the name of Bacon. Well, now perhaps I'm
getting to be a bit like you and running on. Forgive me, if so. Most Americans
will think of Ichabod Crane, in the comic Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington
Irving, a much underrated American author. The Werewolf too, is a favorite
Nabokovian theme of mine.


И царевич узнаёт в звериной морде лицо человечье - широкоскулое, пучеглазое, с
усами торчком, как у "Кота-котабрыса". (Merezhkovski, "Peter and Alexey", Book
Eight "The Werewolf", chapter III)

On Antiterra Pushkin's poem Mednyi vsadnik (The Bronze Horseman, 1833) is known
as Headless Horseman: He [Van] could solve an Euler-type problem or learn by
heart Pushkin's 'Headless Horseman' poem in less than twenty minutes. (1.28)

Falconet's equestrian statue of Peter I (mednyi vsadnik) is alluded to in Ilf
and Petrov's "The Golden Calf" (chapter 34 "Friendship with Youth"):

Дружба, подогреваемая шутками подобного рода, развивалась очень быстро, и
вскоре вся шайка-лейка под управлением Остапа уже распевала частушку:

У Петра Великого
близких нету никого.
Только лошадь и змея,
Вот и вся его семья.

Peter the Great
has no relatives at all.
Only a horse and a snake
are his whole family.

The statue's pedestal is the enormous Grom-kamen' (Thunder stone). Grom
(thunder) reminds one of Mr Gromwell, Van's lawyer. While Gromwell rhymes with
Cromwell, mednyi (copper; brazen) rhymes with bednyi (poor). Before shooting
him dead, an old Tartar compassionately calls Percy de Prey bednyi (poor

A smiling old Tartar, incongruously but somehow assuagingly wearing American
blue-jeans with his beshmet, was squatting by his side. 'Bednïy, bednïy' (you
poor, poor fellow), muttered the good soul, shaking his shaven head and
clucking: 'Bol'no (it hurts)?' Percy answered in his equally primitive Russian
that he did not feel too badly wounded: 'Karasho, karasho ne bol'no (good,
good),' said the kindly old man and, picking up the automatic pistol which
Percy had dropped, he examined it with naive pleasure and then shot him in the
temple. (One wonders, one always wonders, what had been the executed
individual's brief, rapid series of impressions, as preserved somewhere,
somehow, in some vast library of microfilmed last thoughts, between two moments:
between, in the present case, our friend's becoming aware of those nice,
quasi-Red Indian little wrinkles beaming at him out of a serene sky not much
different from Ladore's, and then feeling the mouth of steel violently push
through tender skin and exploding bone. (1.42)

"Those nice, quasi-Red Indian little wrinkles" bring to mind Captain Mayne
Reid, the author "The Headless Horseman" (1866).

Antilia Glems + Gerald + Ada + Sevan = Gitanilla + Esmeralda + navsegda

AntiliaGlems - a character in Van's novel Letters from Terra
Gerald - Moris Gerald, the hero of Mayne Reid's The Headless Horseman
Sevan - a lake in Armenia
Gitanilla - La Gitanilla, a novel (1613) by Cervantes; on Antiterra, a novel by
Esmeralda - a character in Victor Hugo's Notre Dame de Paris (1831); Van and
Ada call Lucette "our Esmeralda and mermaid" (2.8); the butterfly in VN's poem
"Lines Written in Oregon" (1953)
navsegda - Russ., for ever, for good; VN's "Lines Written in Oregon" end:
Esmeralda, immer, immer

Alexey Sklyarenko
Google Search the archive Contact the Editors Visit "Nabokov Online Journal"
Visit Zembla View Nabokv-L Policies Manage subscription options Visit AdaOnline
View NSJ Ada Annotations Temporary L-Soft Search the archive

All private editorial communications are read by both co-editors.

Search archive with Google:

Contact the Editors:,
Visit Zembla:
View Nabokv-L policies:
Visit "Nabokov Online Journal:"

Manage subscription options: